Throughout most of my life I’ve tried to live a reasonably healthy lifestyle. As a kid growing up in the UK I took part in all of the usual team sports like soccer, rugby and so on. Then it was gymnastics, swimming and Judo. Other than a good excuse to hang out with friends I was never particularly great at organized sport, in part I figure it was a lack of interest. It wasn’t until I discovered rock climbing that I really felt as if I had found my calling. I am tall, slim and light footed so climbing suited me well and I was good at it. For most of my teenage years and early twenties I was obsessed with climbing. For me, climbing was not only my sport of choice but also a lifestyle. Of course as a young adult, especially a young male adult we are often consumed with nothing else other than ourselves and I was convinced that my life would revolve around climbing until the day I died.
Of course things in our lives change and mine has been no different. I married, had two children and for the most part my life as a climber changed. Luckily though my desire to spend time in the mountains and the natural world continued to be a constant and wasn’t something that I was willing to compromise on, it continues to be a very important part of my life. On my bio page I mention that nature photography is an excuse for me to spend time in the outdoors. For the most part this continues to hold true. Nature photography is an extension of the outdoor experience just as rock climbing was, scrambling is, mountaineering is, skiing, mt. biking and all of that good stuff continues to be. For me all of these activities are the carrot that I need to get me out there and I suspect for many other adventurers as well.
At the end of 2012 my life hit a bit of a low point. Several years prior to 2012 much of my life had been consumed by what seemed a never ending divorce from my ex wife. Nothing is ever as simple as we hope for and when children are involved the choices we make are often difficult ones. To cut a long story short the resulting stress from dealing with a (deranged) teenage daughter and an uncompromising (psycho) ex-wife was overwhelming. I had reached my breaking point and I needed a valve to release the pressure. I decided to start running.
In the past I had dabbled in running, if there is such a thing. Now and then I would be inspired to run around the block but the desire to continue running was often short lived. Another aspect of running that didn’t really appeal to me was the prospect of suffering from some kind of life long running related injury. When ever I talk to someone about running inevitably the conversation seems to revolve around the injuries associated with running. Usually bad knees, bad joints, bad heart, running is not good for you. I convinced myself that the risk of injury was not worth the physical benefits.
Up until late 2012 I had been diligently going to the gym every morning. For the most part this worked great and when it came to hiking up those steep alpine slopes it payed off tenfold. The problem with the gym is, well, it’s a gym. I don’t particularly like going to the gym and going to the gym just for the sake of exercise is not terribly exciting. Running on a treadmill is okay but it sure feels like there is no end or point to the exercise other than maintaining some sort of fitness level. Still as I continued to go to the gym my attention slowly focused on running. I was really starting to enjoy the benefits from running.
Okay so running can be a source for injuries especially if you over do it but that can be said about most sports (that’s what I keep telling myself anyway). An aspect of running that I hadn’t considered so much was the immense positive mental health side of the activity. For those of you that do get regular exercise you will undoubtedly know about the tremendous benefits of exercise for mental health. It’s no secret that if you want to release a bucket load of tension then exercise is a great start. The difference that I found with running as apposed to say something like climbing is that plain old running doesn’t take an awful lot of concentration and it gives me an opportunity to get lost in my own thoughts and on many occasions work through some of the days problems. I’ll often find myself having a deep conversation with myself while I run. Sometimes it’s great to just run and listen to some tunes. Within the last year running has been a great help in keeping my sanity.
Photography and Running
As with nature photography I’ve now put running on my list as one of the activities that I like to do to get me outside. Running has proven to be a great way for me to keep in shape, it has motivated me to reach some personal goals and most importantly kept me somewhat sane. Throughout the past year I ran a few road races, mostly for my own personal curiosity to see if I could do them than anything. My first race was the Fort Langley Half Marathon that I ran in 1hr:47min, then the Vancouver Marathon that I decided to register for two weeks prior (probably not the smartest move but I did finish) in 3hr:47min. The team ORCA 10km run in Parksville 44min and the Scotiabank half marathon in 1hr:38min (A PB, knocking off 9minutes from the Fort Langley run). I had signed up for the Mt. Robson marathon that climbs to the base of Robson but had to bail at the last minute due to? you guessed it injury. It would seem that my new found enthusiasm for running was a bit too enthusiastic and I ended up with shin splints.
Over September and October I spent some time photographing in the Rockies and decided to do a few trail runs in between my photography. My shin had healed so I hit a few short trails in Jasper before attempting some longer ones. A couple of trails that I thoroughly enjoyed running were the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park and an in and out run to Mt. Assiniboine. Luckily I had hiked the Iceline before because I lost the trail a few times due to fresh snow. Still the route itself is straightforward enough and is a wonderful way to see some of the most impressive scenery in the Canadian Rockies. Mt. Assiniboine I had visited and photographed several times before although embarrassingly had never actually hiked in always opting for the quick ten minute chopper ride from Mt. Shark. I had planned to spend a few days in Assiniboine so I had all of my gear flown in while I ran in. On the way in I encountered quite a bit of snow especially up at Wonder Pass that added some excitement. On the way out I ran Assiniboine Pass. There are a number of other trails in the Rockies that I would love to run so hopefully next year I’ll be giving some new territory a try.
Over the years I’ve done a ton of hiking and backpacking but had never really considered trail running as a means to taking photographs. I guess the main reason for not using trail running as a means for photography is that logistically carrying camping and camera gear on an extended photo trip was not really conducive to running light. In the past I had attempted to carry both 4×5 camera equipment and climbing gear into areas but carrying a 60-70lb pack is not fun. I love camping and spending time in the woods but I’m also starting to think that perhaps trail running would be a great way to get into areas fast, take the images that I need and then run out again without investing more time than I need to stay in certain areas. Digital cameras continue to get lighter and the quality also continues to improve in leaps and bounds. With cameras such as the Canon G16, Gx1, Nikon N1 and Sony RX100m the quality and weight are fantastic. I’m also excited about the newer mirror less cameras as a possible alternative to packing in the big guns.
Some goals for the coming year. Well I am excited to try and incorporate my photography with trail running. I’m in the market for a lightweight camera that I can slip in to a pack or running vest and carry on the trails with me. While I enjoyed entering a few road races I am starting to look at perhaps entering a few trail races as well. I must admit that running trails appeals to me a lot more than running on pavement. There seems to be an abundance of trail races and trails in Vancouver so perhaps I’ll give one or two a try next year. Who knows maybe an ultra marathon might be in my future.
Lastly and somewhat related to running is a piece of equipment that I have been using to record my running progress and outdoor activities. For the last several months I have been using the Suunto Ambit GPS watch. There are a ton of reviews about this watch on the internet so I’m not going to bother doing one myself. I will say though that this watch has been a great way for me to keep track of my travels both on and off trail. The watch has some fantastic features including customizable apps that can be downloaded to the watch. Lastly the watch links up to an online database called Movescount were you can view all of your progress in infinite detail. What I really like about Movescount is that I can view other peoples adventures as well, a great way to inspire and motivate yourself as there are some incredible athletes out there.
If you would like to follow my progress here is a link