It Doesn’t Have To Be Fun To Be Fun

By Andy Mouncey, May 9, 2017

So – apparently – said the great Killian Jornet currently girding his loins for a speed attempt on Everest Now I get where he was going with this – really I do – but here’s the footnote:

‘But If It Really Really Isn’t Fun – You’re F***ed.’

Last weekend was supposed to be Redemption. 

After a third aborted Spine Race back in January I’d picked out a 110 mile jaunt on The North Yorkshire Moorsas a chance to reset the dial. (film of Hardmooors 110)

Now if at this point you are expecting me to regale you with a warts and all take-it-right-to-the-wire account where our hero digs into his soul to drag his sorry ass once more over a finish line and Salvation…


It wasn’t even close.

‘Cos I binned it at 21 miles.

Family Mouncey had done the camping thing the night before rolling to the tune of the end-of-week-going-on-a-trip formula that goes something like:

Wrestle camping stuff and bikes into/onto car

Collect boys from school and throw into car

Employ tried and tested tactics to keep boys entertained and fed in car

Arrive and employ tried and tested Establish Camp / Keep Boys Busy tactics

Feed everyone

Do first phase exploring till boys ready to drop

Drop boys into sleeping bags – mum and dad follow soon after.

Rock & roll, huh?

And early Saturday morning was very pleasant and very faff-free.

‘There’s not much faffing this time’ observed Mrs Mouncey.

Now as a rule I don’t do faffing. Never really have. But I recall that the most recent pre-race witnessing she has done was before The Spine Race – and the prospect of that week-long suffer-fest had me in a week-long world-class panic-induced faff before we even got close to the start line.

I point out that this time it’s only 24 hours of effort and most of that is in daylight – and ahem, I have done this before you know and have done it quite well…

Just not very recently.

Still, everything was all happy-smiley on the surface and our focus inevitably was around Small Boys Continuing To Have Camp-Induced Fun.

Then: ‘6-5-4-3-2-1-1.5…GO!’ shouted Race Director Jon Steel at 8am on a very windy clifftop above Filey.

I jog past Family Mouncey and almost instantly the shutters slam: Darkness descends.

I put up some token resistance for a while but it becomes very clear very quickly that it’s gonna take more than a few cute Jedi mind tricks to break out of this one. I’m running how I feel and I feel like sh** . So rather than smooth and light it’s like dragging lead boots along – and as this is the North Yorkshire coast that also means full goth regalia as well 

The Joy Of Running?

F*** . Right. Off.

But more to the point is coming up with a credible answer to this one:

What the F*** am I doing here?

Three hours later I still haven’t come up with anything worth repeating as I trudge along stunning cliff-tops.

Three and a half miserable hours later I arrive at the checkpoint without Joy, Reason or any Point At All.

I unwrap the tracker, sign my name and add another DNF to my recent tally.

It barely registers. Because as I sit quietly out of the way in a busy checkpoint the millstone that I’ve been carrying round my neck all morning lifts – and it’s an utterly blessed RELIEF.

Of course, the boys just think I’ve ruined their camping weekend.

I do my best to explain as this one’s important – I mean, as a parent you are what you role-model, right?

‘It’s OK for new stuff, challenging stuff to be hard – that’s why it feels so good after you’ve done it – and it needs to be fun as well…at least some of it does anyway. And I’ve been doing this stuff for a LONG time now – about three and a half times your age, Tom - and nobody pays me… I do it ‘cos I want to – and it should make me happy. Be fun. Not sad…’

‘You should run with me, Daddy’ our youngest, Joe pipes up.’ I’d make it fun!’

We all smile at that one.

When you’re 7 the world is very simple and you only need one motivation: If it’s fun – you do it, if it ain’t – you don’t. 

How and why do we un-learn that as we grow old is beyond me sometimes.

Inevitably, Mrs Mouncey and I compare notes without overtly dwelling. We are both well aware that nobody died and nobody really cares – and I’m happy now so what’s the problem?

Still, it’s a sore that’s worth some scratching.

I describe a brooding sense of morbid obligation – like a need to prove I’ve still got it.

‘But that’s ridiculous!’ she says. We know you can do it – you’ve done it: Look at all the success you’ve had. No one round here has any doubts anyway…’

We drill down some more:

‘I am abit concerned that we don’t help though’ she says.’ It’s all about the family now – getting everyone packed, sorted, entertaining – it’s not really about you anymore and it’s hardly arriving in state with music blaring and ready to rock is it?’

‘Well…no…But it’s different now, isn’t it? We do have a family and priorities are different. We’re different. And anyway, if I’m relying on the last 24 hours to get ‘in state’ then I’m lost already – that stuff should be embedded weeks ago.’

Another poke.

‘How much of a surprise is this – really? I know you’ve missed some of the planned long sessions and that work is tough…’

Of course there were clues now I think back. I’m not unfit and I have put some consistently hard sessions in – but one thing has been missing and Charlotte is right AND she is being kind ‘cos I’ve not done any long extended time-on-feet sessions.

I’ve gone for shorter multi-session quality days instead. And while the theory behind that is sound enough – and they are great when time-poor - clearly this was only a part solution for me in this instance. There’s also been the unwelcome return of my foot problem symptoms. Nothing major but enough to have a few warning lights flashing: I’ve out more hard running miles in these last three months than anytime post the 2014-15 injury. And somebody’s complaining.

Part of the reason for the Wham-Bam-Thankyou-Mam approach that is an almost complete change of direction work-wise over the last few months - a brand new business and all the fun and games that go with it. I’ve tied myself in knots periodically (and Charlotte knows it ‘cos we’ve shared some wobbly Is This Really Gonna Work? moments) but the end result has been the same: I’ve never come up with a good enough reason to justify time away from the project to go play on the hills and be really ready for this race. My energy and priorities have simply been elsewhere.

Nope – now I really look I can’t really spot much joy in the process either. Lots of good workouts and even personal bests – but it all had the feeling of A Job To Be Done – and I have a list of those anyway thank you very much.

Chasing our boys round forest mountain bike trails later really does put the whole thing to bed while the lessons are quietly logged and filed For Further Action. I do a pinky-promise with the boys of an extra night camping and I book my first session with Coach Joe. This turns out to be stair-sprints while blasting away with a Nerf Gun N-Strike Elite Hyperfire Blaster. 

It’s an unorthodox but deeply satisfying first appointment.

So I book a block of ten.

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