Year in Review

Howdy,

Well. I’ve burned through a year in the UK. Does it feel like I’ve been here that long? Yes and no. Maybe? Honestly, my ability to perceive the passage of time feels non-existent nowadays.

This is one of those blog posts that I don’t really feel equipped to write. I’d like to explain in striking and moving language how this year has changed my life. How it has led to amazing experiences I thought I would never have. That I am a better man for it and that I’ll never be the same again. All of the above is true and perhaps it’s best to just leave my reflection at that. I may try later to distil some further insight into my year.

I feel that from now on I will consider a year as running from October 22 – October 21. So, welcome to 2017! Here is a photo collage year in review.

 

 

Okay, I guess I shouldn’t completely cop out with pictures. I often think about how easy it would have been to not make the jump over here. There is a fair amount of inertia that needs to be overcome with any change. It can be pretty easy to accept comfort as a substitute for confronting challenge. People do it all the time and I’ve done it over a lot of stretches of my life. Sometimes we are unsure of what our next move is. What the right thing is. It is easy for noise to get in the way of the signal when making life decisions. It isn’t easy to cut through it. There was one quote that really resonated with me when I made the choice to head across the Atlantic. Ironically enough, it comes from the British actor High Laurie.

” It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

I think that one will remain an all time favourite of mine for awhile.

I definitely want to keep the blog going. I’ll admit I have found this surprisingly difficult to write it. Those who know me well know that I typically have no issue with being open and communicating my thoughts. But there is something about writing it down that makes me nervous. It’s inexplicable to me. I haven’t been able to figure it out! But I have at least another year to go in the UK and I already have a fair amount penciled in already  that I would love to share with everyone.

Stay tuned.

Matt

A Kid from Canada Becomes a London Marathoner

Hey There!

Let me tell you about the highlight of my year. And I don’t mean the highlight of my year up until now. The London Marathon is the highlight of my entire year which includes the 8 months that have not happened yet. Maybe a couple weeks into 2017 as well. No more than 3. But probably just 2016. Certainly no later than March 2017.

To be frank, the prospect of writing about my London Marathon experience is daunting. My vastly limited capacity to express myself in general, but especially with words, means that this entry will inevitably fall short of conveying what being a part of this incredible event truly meant to me.

Many of you probably don’t know this but the London Marathon is the largest single day fundraising event in the World. Since the race started in 1981, it has raised over £700 million! That is an INSANE amount isn’t it? I was honoured to do my small part for this effort by raising money for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation (there is still time to donate here). To up the ante a lot of folks run the race in a costume (because I guess running the race alone isn’t enough). This really adds to the entertainment of the event. The best costume I saw was a guy dressed up as a storm trooper! I paced myself off a lobster for a couple of kms and was passed in the final stretch by someone dressed in a heart costume! And I am not talking about a gradual over taking, the dude whizzed past me like I was standing still! There was also a guy who ran with a fridge on his back! I’ve been inspired with a lot of costume ideas of my own, most of which involve dressing up like wrestlers from the 90s. My favourite is the Warriorathon. This involves dressing up as the Ultimate Warrior and sprinting the entire marathon. Estimated finish time is around 45 minutes. Maybe add a few minutes for the occasional Gorilla Press during the race.

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On to my race experience. I am going to start with the crowds. They were bananas! Wall to wall the entire race. The support was unreal. And I don’t want to treat that as a throw away statement. I genuinely mean that the support was UNREAL . It is an incredible feeling to have an entire city (of 8 million!) rooting for you. Blokes with pints yelling “Come on Matt! You got this!”. Mothers supportively telling you “Good work Matt. Keep going!”. Fathers nodding with approval when you catch their eye as you run by. Kids sticking their hands out desperately seeking a high five (of which countless were delivered!). That really is an unreal thing to experience over the course of a marathon. Normal life unfortunately never offers you that much support and encouragement. Now I am not so delicate that I need constant encouragement but I think it is important to always remember that some positive words can go a long way. Don’t be stingy with them.

I am very happy with the race I ran. Things were running pretty smooth until 28km (roughly two-thirds the way through). Up until then I felt like a million bucks: headphones out, smile plastered on my face, chatting with other runners, high-fiving everything in sight. The whole nine. After 28km the legs started to feel a tad heavy. Runners call this “hitting the wall”. This is when the lactic acid build in your legs starts to diminish their interest in functioning properly. Definitely was a bit early to start struggling but I did manage to keep things relatively on track although with a complete change of attitude: headphones in, pain etched over my face, head down, and numerous hands left untouched. I ended up doing the 2nd half 8 minutes slower than the first and came in at 3:18:31 overall. I was hoping for under 3:15 but I am pretty damn satisfied with 3:18!

After I ran my first marathon six years ago I said that “I will never run another marathon”. It took 6 and a half months to convince myself to run another. After the London Marathon it took about 18 hours. I have a rough blueprint around running the remaining five major marathons: New York, Boston, Chicago, Tokyo, and Berlin!

Perhaps the biggest highlight of the whole weekend was having a little bit of home waiting for me at the finish line.
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As you may know, right after the marathon I shipped off to the Netherlands and Belgium for a 10 day run around. So for those of you who have grown weary of me writing about running, stay tuned!

Take care.

Matt

Cardiff – Man vs. Machine

Hey There!

I feel like I’ve been letting this slide a bit but 11 entries in 6 months is probably a reasonable amount of production. Perhaps my feeling comes from the fact that I have so much I want to write about! April was a tad bananas in terms of busyness. (I attempted to spell this as business and realized how wrong that looked! But with the English language who the fuck knows right?). In any case, it is doubtful that things are going to slow down anytime soon so I am hoping to get caught up to date with this over the next week!

First up is my epic one on one race against Mo Farah in Cardiff. Well…. I thought it was supposed to be a one on one race. I mean, that was my understanding but a bunch of other assholes showed up for it as well. Word must have gotten out or something. It’s not too often that these folks would have an opportunity to run with me so I guess I can’t blame them. I think Mo was a bit disappointed by it though.

In all seriousness, the race was an incredible experience. The event was a World Championship so it brought out some of the best in the World. It was pretty exciting to be “competing” in that kind of field. So no one is confused about my running ability, any Tom, Dick, or Harry can entry this race! It just so happens that a bunch of folks that really know what they are doing show up as well!

The race went very well despite the weather conditions being completely rubbish. We had a very nice complete down pour at about the half way point that lasted for 3 minutes. I guess it was actually sort of refreshing! I was cruising along until the last 5km when my legs started to get a bit heavy. I need to work on pacing myself better! It takes some serious discipline (which I don’t have) to not get really excited and burn it out of the gate. Regardless, I did manage to knock a bit over a minute off my PB. Mo Farah ended up doing okay as well. He finished 3rd and clocked in at around 28 minutes faster than me. It was actually my goal not to lose to him by more than 30 minutes so I consider the event a complete success! The highlight of the race for me was screaming at and then high-fiving two Canadian flags!

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This trip was actually my first trip over to Wales despite it being only an hour away on the train and me living 3 minutes from the train station. To recap for my Canadian friends, the United Kingdom is made up of 4 countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Wales is of course English speaking but they also have the Welsh language which I reckon came into existence before vowels were created.

It may have been the positive vibes from the race atmosphere but I felt very at home in Cardiff. The Welsh are a top rate group of folks by any measure. Very welcoming and friendly! And they give a fuck about hockey! I saw stores SELLING hockey equipment. Real hockey not field hockey! And I was chatting to a girl in a queue for coffee and her favourite hockey team was the Toronto Maple Leafs! Certainly a shitty choice on her part but I was infinitely tickled by the revelation.

All in all, a perfect 10 of a weekend. Wales, I will certainly be back!

Take care.

Matt

Northumberland

Hey There!

I’ve been wanting to tell you guys about my weekend in Northumberland last month but I haven’t been able to find the time. And now I have my weekend in Cardiff I really want to talk about! First things first. Cardiff will have to wait. Spoiler – it was fucking great!

Northumberland was the destination of my first race of the year. It was also my first race with the Coastal Trail Series which I have written about previously (www.endurancelife.com). Northumberland, as the name suggests, is located in Northern England about 100K or so outside of Edinburgh. Getting there was an adventure in and of itself. It marked my first time driving over here and as most of you know the folks here drive on the left! I managed to get there and back unscathed (though not without incident). I did experience a mild case of driving on the wrong side of the road which almost resulted in my death! Don’t worry Mom, I’m just kidding. No, actually that did happen.

What will be amusing to my Canadian friends is the drive essentially took me all the way across England (I live in the south west and my destination was in the north east) and it only took me five and a half hours! That gets me from Halifax to Fredericton back home! So in other words, it gets me fucking nowhere! By way of comparison, according to Google Maps, it takes 57 hours to drive across Canada. Blimey!

Onto the race. I was really impressed with the Coastal Trail Series. Well organized and so much fun! The course was absolutely stunning. About 50% running across fields and 50% running along the beach. I even had the opportunity to run with sheep! I raced fairly well but I was really dehydrated. I managed to slug it out but I was suffering over the last couple of K. With about 3K left I had someone cruise past me like I was a statue. I don’t like being passed over the last couple K of a race but I was in no position to do anything about it.

There was one guy that went out and absolutely crushed it! I always like to try to pick out the winner at the start line. They are typically fairly easy to spot: sleeveless running jersey, sprinting back and forth, dynamic stretching. Oh and they generally look like a doctor’s poster of what the muscles in the human body are. The Brits generally don’t have a high view of such outward behavior so they took several shots at the eventual winners routine.

Racing in Britain really isn’t any different than racing back in Canada. Same inspiring atmosphere though perhaps this exchange only happens in England:

Guy 1: So what are you going to do after the race?

Guy 2: Have a smoke and a pint.

I can’t say he didn’t earn it.

Usually official race pictures have a way of making you look like a melted candle but the good folks at endurancelife seem to be able to catch you in the rare moments when you don’t look like utter shit.

CTS15-16 Northumberland - 27.2.16 - www.endurancelife.com


 

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On my way back from Northumberland I stopped in to check out Hadrians Wall. The wall was built about 2000 years ago by the Roman Emperor Hadrian and effectively served as the northern limit of the Roman Empire. There was still plenty more to be conquered further north (like Scotland) but I figure Hadrian just got tired. “Ahhhh fuck it. This is far enough. Build a big ass wall and name it after me. I am going back to Rome to get drunk and fuck bitches.” I think he was right to stop when he did. At the end of the day, what is the value of endlessly pursuing greatness if we lose touch with what really matters in life.

Enough with the history lesson. Here are a few pictures I took while at Hadrians Wall.

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That wraps up most of what I have to say about this weekend. I had so much fun. After a slow start to 2016, Northumberland was a much welcomed jolt of excitement and served as the jumping off point for everything else I have planned for 2016.

Talk soon.

Matt

The Matt vs. Mo Challenge

Hey There!

My big face off against Mo Farah at the Cardiff Half Marathon is less than a week away. The race also serves as a tune up race for the London Marathon which is a bit more than a month away. The training has been going quite well and I am certain that I won’t make a complete mess of it like I did when I ran the Bluenose 6 years ago. I reckon I may even be able to walk after it! Possibly.

As most of you know I am fundraising for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation as a part of my London Marathon entry. To help generate some fundraising activity I would like to introduce The Matt vs. Mo Challenge. Here’s how it works! Below I have set out a series of benchmarks for my performance relative to Mo. For each benchmark you will pledge to make a donation of your choosing to my London Marathon effort. For each benchmark that I exceed you will honour your pledge (which you can do by donating to my justgiving page). There will be 5 benchmarks in total. I am going to participate in the challenge myself. The values that I set should help you guys figure out what reasonable donations should look like. No amount is too  small and I am eternally grateful for any assistance you can provide. This will also give me a bit more fire for next weekend! Without further ado!

The Matt vs. Mo Challenge

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Benchmark 1: Mo beats Matt by less than 40 minutes

If Mo beats Matt by less than 40 minutes then I will denote £25 to my London Marathon effort.

Benchmark 2: Mo beats Matt by less than 30 minutes

If Mo beats Matt by less than 30 minutes then I will denote £50 to my London Marathon effort.

Benchmark 3: Mo beats Matt by less than 20 minutes

If Mo beats Matt by less than 20 minutes then I will denote £5,000 to my London Marathon effort.

Benchmark 4: Mo beats Matt by less than 10 minutes

If Mo beats Matt by less than 10 minutes then I will denote £300,000,000 to my London Marathon effort.

Benchmark 5: Matt beats Mo

If Matt beats Mo then I will denote 3 Fully Operational Death Stars to my London Marathon effort.

To remove any level of ambiguity Benchmark 1 is a slam dunk, Benchmark 2 would involve a personal best but is well within the realm of possibility while Benchmarks 3-5 are fucking impossible. Feel free to post your pledges on Facebook or you can send them to me directly if you prefer.

One final thing! To encourage participation I will mail a gift to the individual whose Benchmark 5 pledge gives me the biggest chuckle!

As a reminder donations can be made to my justgiving page at:  www.justgiving.com/Matt-Hurshman

 

I would love to have you guys participate!

Matt

Running Britain

Hello there.

Thought I would check in as it has been awhile since I’ve given an account of my goings on. Truthfully I have not been up to much so far in 2016. Nothing worth sharing that is. Unless you are all interested in the mundane details of my existence. Like this week I did a mediocre job opening up a bag of granola so it spills every time I take it out. If it just gets on the counter its no big deal but sometimes some of it falls on the floor and I have to get out the broom and sweep it up. I am tempted to just toss the whole bag and try again. Pretty boring stuff right? Actually I just made that up. None of that happened. I only wish my life had that type of action in it.

All joking aside, in spite of the quiet (or likely because of it) I am doing well. Really well actually. I can attest to the fact that there can be a lot of value in changing the scenery in life. Switching the setting. Changing the context. Shaking the dust.

With all this downtime I have been putting a lot of thought into what I want to do with my year. I have lots of ideas swirling around but I thought it would be nice to share with you what I already have lined up. This entry can suitably be read as a Table of Contents for things I will be writing about over the next 6 months!

You may notice that every thing I am about to tell you involves running (hence the entry title). I’ve always enjoyed running but I’ll admit that I have started to drift into the obsessed category since I moved here. It helps that there is apparently no such thing as winter in the UK. The abundance of spare time doesn’t hurt either.

Here is a peek at my race calendar for the first half of 2016.

Coastal Trail Series

As an island Britain has an abundance of beautiful coast line. Living close to the coast my whole life I knew that it was something that I wanted to see a lot of when I moved here. Fortunately the good folks at Endurancelife (www.endurancelife.com) put on a series of races that run along the coast.  The absolute perfect way to see them in my opinion. The distances range from 10K to ultra marathon and there are about 10 throughout the year. I have two coming up over the next several weeks: one in Northumberland at the end of this month and another in Sussex in mid March. Both half marathons.  Excellent opportunities for a weekend getaway to the coast. My trip to Northumberland will be my first time driving in Britain. I am sure that will generate a fair number of “Travelling with Matt” stories. Prepare yourself for an account of how a 5 hour drive turned into an 8 hour drive half of which was spent on the wrong side of the road.

Cardiff Half Marathon

I am making the Cardiff Half Marathon the centerpiece of a long weekend in Wales. The race takes place over Easter weekend (which is a 4 day weekend here). Pretty excited about this one because Mo Farah is running it as well! Don’t know who Mo Farah is? Yeah, I didn’t know who he was 3 weeks ago either. Now he is my favourite person on Earth. He is one of the best runners in the World right now (and British). Defending Olympic and World Champion in the 5000 and 10,000. An absolute machine! I am looking forward to “competing against” him… Probably punch out a couple of beers with him after the race as well. Maybe help him chat up some babes and give him some pointers for Rio.We’ll see. I don’t want to commit to anything.

London Marathon

After running the Bluenose in Halifax 6 years ago I told myself that I was one and done with marathons. Well it turns out I am a fucking liar. At the start of the year I registered to run the Edinburgh marathon at the end of May. A couple weeks later the opportunity to run this came along. How could I decline!? Want to run a race in one of Earth’s greatest and most historic cities? Fuck yes.This came my way through work after someone had to drop out. Fortunately I was the first one to put their hand up as a replacement! An extra cool thing about this is that the 1 millionth finisher is going to cross the line this year.

This is a charity entry which means I have to fund raise for a specific charity as part of my participation. Like most people I don’t really like asking for money but I am hoping you guys can chuck me a few bucks to help out the good folks at the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. They support research and provide assistance to patients with lung cancer. If you want to help out you can donate here:

www.justgiving.com/matt-hurshman

Classic Quarter

Now this is where I really start to wade into the “biting off more than I can chew” territory. This is another race through the Coastal Trail Series which runs along the South West Coast Path from Lizard Point to Land’s End (the western most point in England). Definitely a site worth seeing and a nice way to make it happen. The daunting thing about this race is that it is an ultra marathon (70ish K). The race is June 11th which is about 6 weeks after London so I am thinking I’ll be fresh for it. I actually cancelled my Edinburgh entry so that I would be ready for this. I should be fine but it is possible that my legs will give out and I’ll tumble into the Atlantic. Wouldn’t be the worst way to go… I would ensure my Mother that I am joking but that isn’t necessary because she doesn’t know what “an internet” is.

JLL Property Triathlon

Pretty excited about this one as well! This will be my first triathlon. It is a Sprint so the distances are somewhat reasonable (0.75K swim / 20K bike/ 5K run). This is another opportunity that came about through work so I figured I’d take part. It’s in London and  on Canada Day! A pretty stellar way to celebrate the occasion. This won’t actually be my first Canada Day in London as I was there in 2011 when I went to the British Combinatorial Conference. I came across a public festival for Canada Day complete with Sleemans! Hopefully I can stumble upon that again.

A few other things I have on tap include a trip over to Munich to visit Rory and Nadine in March and a trip to the Netherlands/Belgium for a holiday at the end April. Plus my friends Jen, Darin, and Natalie are all due to make a visit at some point in the summer.

That’s it for now. The key takeaways here are that I am doing well and that I’ll have more to write about very soon!

Shake the dust.

Matt

Happy Christmas!

Hey All,

As I am very much missing everyone back home I thought I would share a Christmas Story with you. Note that the story has nothing to do with Christmas but it is classic tale of the sort of misadventures I tend to find myself in.

I fly out to Helsinki tomorrow morning. Given that it can be difficult to get around over Christmas I booked a two night stay outside the Gatwick  Airport to make sure everything goes smoothly tomorrow morning. Yesterday I took the train from Cheltenham to the Gatwick Airport arriving at around 8pm. I take out my phone to see where the Holiday Inn (my destination) is in relation to the Gatwick Airport (my location). Note that it would have been foolish to investigate this ahead of time. Fortunately my elaborate research indicated that it was about 2 kms away. Walking distance! Why spend 20 quid on a cab when I can walk? I might as well burn my money! So I set off. After getting turned around for awhile I finally make it out of the airport and find myself tramping down the highway towards my location. Maybe I should have realized that airports tend to be surrounded by highways and perhaps aren’t the best places to be walking from. Don’t worry Mom, there was plenty of sidewalk for me to walk on… In any case, after getting turned around a few times more I finally make it to my “destination”.

Matt: Howdy! There should be a reservation under Matt Hurshman. That’s H U R S…
HI Eee: Just a moment sir.

While he checks the system I take in the surroundings. My oh my this was some fancy hotel. Merry Christmas indeed!

HI Eee: I can’t seem to find you sir.
Matt: Are there any other Holiday Inns in the area?
HI Eee: There are 3.
Matt: Oh.
HI Eee: Shall I call you a taxi?
Matt: … Yes.

20 quid later I find myself at the correct Holiday Inn and safely checked in for a unique Christmas experience. Note that I have chosen not to divulge how long my journey took.

Hopefully this doesn’t stand as one of the greatest stories written in this Blog. I just really wanted to talk to everyone and it does really capture what me travelling alone looks like.

I’ve had a fairly nice quiet Christmas drinking tea and taking in British Christmas cartoons. Quite therapeutic really. My next entry will be post Finland so there will be plenty to report back on!

Happy Christmas.
Matt