Running in Brussels

Well tomorrow after next to no training I run the 20kms in Brussels – anything close to 1hr 50 I’ll be happy with.

Belgium seems to be conspiring to do it’s worst (read best) to ensure we miss ‘her’ when we go.

The weather has been brilliant the last week hi 20’s low 30, Sunshine – it didn’t even start out grey!

26c forecast fro tomorrow and 21 at the race start.

That’s why I’m writing this now, I may not be able to move tomorrow.

One of the best things about leaving anywhere is you start to see what is good about a place, much like you did when you first decided it was a good idea. The rose tint returns, things don’t seem to bad.

So today when I had Edie on the tow-behind and Olive rode her bike by herself in front of me and we went to Nordspark, and they ran about recklessly without concern for where I was or where they were – well it was sort of “Hey this ain’t to bad”

The coffee tasted better then before, the sun shone, people smiled (and grimaced and smoked to be honest), the setting was not to bad if you didn’t look past 100 metres, and, well, life could be a whole lot worse.

I think how contained we mange to live our lives has a lot to do with how much we enjoy it.

The Castle – the source of the forewarned post – Castle Catastrophes

If i kept my view to 100 metres a lot of time Antwerp would seem pretty spectacular, but I think NZ life has made me a bit soft. I’ve got used to having space and plenty of it, if you don’t want things in your face they don’t need to be, it’s easy to escape.

Nelson, one of my favourite spots in New Zealand – and where I lived for 8 great years – is a case in point. You could disappear to places that well almost no-one went to, yet they were still spectacular places. It’s very hard to do here.

Olive was asking today what the biggest country in the World was – Russia, Canada, China, North America..are the top four, New Zealand though comes in at number 75, only 10% behind Germany would you believe. do the maths on population the answer is obvious.

However by the same token North America offers us lot’s of space and freedom – that is part of it’s appeal to me, and part of what I want the girls to experience.

We’re all social animals, but for me being able to be just yourself in nature is the most special thing we can do, and I can’t wait to do more of that with our family.

Anyhow, back to the run – as mentioned I’m completely undertrained, and the heat will not be my friend, so it will be a bit of minor torture, though hopefully also an affirmation that once you have your base fitness up again as I did for the NY marathon then – well lot’s of things are manageable.

the plus as well for me is that while we have been here we have seen very little of Brussels, though what we have sen we have really liked, so running a 20km loop through it’s streets and parks will be a pleasure indeed.

Bismarck Statue from 1901 in the Tiergarten

Last weekend i ran in the Tiergarten in Berlin, and throughout I felt enormous pleasure and privilege in being able to cover so much ground under my own steam. A car or a tourist bus just doesn’t cut it for me, and if a bike isn’t at hand it’s a great privilege to be able to run, I’m so glad I got back into it.

Anyway I trust this finds you all well and happy , and I’ll look to update you soon

Changing or shaping – it depends on how old you are.

Changing or shaping – it depends on how old you are

When we set of for Belgium in Nov 2010, we were full of optimism – why would you go otherwise?

Friends and colleagues knew more than we did – Wow you’re brave – was a regular expression. Others lived the dream with us ‘Wonderful, what an adventure, you lucky things’ And indeed we were and are and have been – brave, be-wondered (new word), adventurous and adventured, lucky – well no, fortunate yes.

Hold on – not lucky!?

Exactly, I firmly believe you make your own luck. There are exceptions like winning the lottery (though again you had to buy a ticket to be in), but invariably where we end up is where we take ourselves.

Happy us (Ok it's NYC but hey...)

Join the front of the queue or stand back until the course is a safe one – well trodden, predictable and, well, if we are honest boring. Most of life’s joys lie in the hidden corners of our lives.

Like having children – there is nothing predictable about that adventure and anyone who thinks otherwise better look at just how quickly the world is changing around us; and then of course throw in the infinite possibilities of the children you will have and then raise with the habits you will draw them to and those you will repulse them from.

Many of my joys, if not all, have been from stepping out from the usual path including my marriage with Chrissy and having our own amazing children.

My sporting and outdoor adventures have followed a similar pattern – my most memorable being largely spontaneous and largely uncharted (running the Heaphy track with 2 others – at a weeks notice, and an impromptu 28 km circuit around Lake Rotoiti –South island – prior to a friends wedding).

And then there was Belgium. Easy, right?

Life isn't always a box of chocolates

Well, as readers of this full blog would know, not exactly. None of it was Belgium’s fault. Entirely the blame lies with me.

Somewhere in in the aging process there is a change that takes place. Until a certain age an adventure to a new land and way of life – well it ‘shapes’ your life, enriches it, opens you to possibilities, blah, blah, blah… Then there is a stage at which such an endeavor no longer shapes your life – it changes it – BAM, BAM, BAM!!!! Clearly if you’re not ready this hurts.

And there I was, and here we are.

For the girls this has very much created a time that will shape their lives in ways we can’t imagine from here – and increasingly the third culture kid phenomena is being observed and understood globally.

For me, everything has changed. New Zealand is still home, but I am no longer fixed there like before. I won’t comment for Chrissy – if she chooses to comment in her blog, I’ll let you know. I’ll get back to New Zealand, but I’m not really in a hurry.


Looking back much of the tension after our arrival I think was driven by the unrealized, deep down, recognition (I know that sounds oxymoronic but hear me out) that there was no going back. To return was futile; we came to create something new and exciting. Our company Chairman often says “It is what It is”. “It” took us quite some time to adapt to that fact as far as Belgium was concerned.

So 24 hours after completing my first mountain bike in Belgium since we came here – I now realize it was a bit more symbolic than just a ride. I had finally said to that deep down part of me “It is what It is”, and that deep down part of me accepted it (again without me realizing). A week earlier I had declared that I would only listen to the French speaking Brussels radio station (Pure FM), whilst commuting so I could improve my French (sacre bleu) – this was more than wanting to be able to understand the commentary on the six nations, I’d finally shifted to an attitude of ‘well you’re here, make the most of it’.

So the two events are connected and represent a sea change in my stay here in Belgium.

Seeing the light?

On the drive to the airport I was thinking about our plans to go to Croatia for a summer break – and how the fact that I already live somewhere that I can’t understand the language means I no longer have language as a reason not to go somewhere; liberating.

For our girls this will and has already shaped their lives. They are well down the track in accepting that they can travel and communicate wherever they wish – as I left this morning they were conversing in basic Dutch inspired by having been to see K3 – the enormously popular Belgian trio of women who appeal to all the sub-teens. They go to school with Dutch, Spanish, Americans, Germans, Czechoslovakians, French, Indian, Austrian, Chinese, and talk of places we didn’t even know existed until our high school years. What that leads to I have no idea, but I know they won’t live in one place forever.

Edie and Olive - going crazy in NYC (one of my favourite all-time pics)

However, to view this as the dream start for their lives is as fraught as our optimism in coming here. Everything is just a beginning and it very much has to do with what paths are chosen. And more important than bringing them on this journey is that they understand where the reward in life is; somewhere off the beaten track and before the precipice.

And then, as I understood and then forgot whilst standing in “Belgium’s headlights’, sometimes you still need to jump – your life can’t simply become a predictable series of ‘adventures’, because that is oxymoronic and pointless.

I marvel sometimes (as I am sure my parents did) that I have been able to survive some of these jumps, but daily I need to remind myself that is no reason not to ‘jump’ anymore. Everyday is discovery.

I re-tweeted a quote from Deepak Chopra last week rephrased it’s like this

– If you treat every moment of your existence as a miracle then happiness will follow –

It found me at a good time.

Thank you Belgium. Thank you Chrissy. Thank you my amazing daughters.

Our happy little Belgians - and friend Milla

Thank you ‘change’, without you I’d have none of this. Nothing.

So what do you plan to change today?

Go make yourself lucky.

ING NYC Marathon – Epilogue

And so what of it…

Marathon fireworks two nights before the race

Well it’s renewed my passion for running, even if that does mean I need time for my ankle to rest, it renewed my belief in what people can do – anyone who puts there mind to it – the marathon is the metaphor – and it’s a very good one (I thought often through the race – why 26.2 (Iike really “why?”) – but more particularly what if it was less, what if it was more, is the story highlighted in history because someone realized something about that distance – and of course there is no answer, but isn’t it amazing that 47,000 people can get off the couch to do this, when we know for sure it isn’t easy).

And of course it proves that there is reward, real reward, in taking ourselves through these things, through pain and discomfort we wouldn’t ordinarily endure, by avoiding the ‘seemingly safe’ and taking on the ‘not so obviously safer’ route of pushing our boundaries and reminding ourselves of what is possible.

I remember my first training run – the day I found out I was in (true) – I dragged myself around a 2 mile circuit of Staadspark in Antwerp on a fairly hot late April day, got home to pop open a beer and then had the phone ring with the charming Bertrand offering me a ticket to a concert he was off to (his wife was unable to go and Chrissy and the girls were in Italy), my legs aching I headed off and had a great night – apart from having to stand for about 90 minutes more than I would have liked.

And from there to 26.2 miles in New York. Before that I had completed probably fewer than 10 runs in over 10 years, and not been past  6 miles in over 15 years.

The highlight of my training is still the novelty of running to the Nederlands from Antwerp (a convenient ½ marathon and my longest training run). The previous night I drove out there with the girls and cycled back to Antwerp with them in the bike cart. They had a great time and so did I, we did lots of crazy stuff along the way and I remember how excited they were when I got them home to Chrissy.

Edie and Olive - 2hrs after I'd finished (they'd been at Lion King) - we were all pretty stoked - so Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square saw the Croad girls celebrate in style!!

I was up at 5 the next morning and headed off into the sunrise on a beautiful late spring morning. It was peaceful, clear with a frosty mist drifting across the horse paddocks, probably to date the most beautiful day I have etched in my mind of Belgium. I completed the run on schedule and drove back to Chrissy and the girls before 8 in the morning –  I still had a whole Saturday up my sleeve. Magic, pure magic.

Honestly next to giving birth (not me, Chrissy – to our two wonderful children) this has to have been one of the best returns for effort I am aware of.

It costs a pair of shoes, a little organization, a bit of determination, a bit of care, and any 26.2 mile course you can find.

You’ll love yourself for it, and people will regard you as a superhero (even your kids)… which is all quite nice if you can get used to it!!

Be strong – go do something you never thought you would, and let me know what it is and how great it feels.

There’s a building here 828 metres tall

A quick post from Dubai.

This post has nothing to do with the building – but that is amazing.

This is what I am going to post about  – New Zealand, from which (whence?) I am returning?

Things I noticed while in New Zealand:

  •  I could understand most people
  •  Plenty of smiles
  •  Plenty of acknowledgement – direct and indirect
  •  Discussions with people I had never met
  •  Having someone come out from behind their counter to heartily shake your hand because you had competed in an event that day
  •  Store owners staring conversations with you
  •  The amazing ease of getting around
  •  Stress free driving on roads I used to think were busy
  •  The realization that most New Zealanders really don’t realize what they have
  •  The thought as I walked around Blue Lake – that if millions of people a year passed it’s shores it would be as famous as most any other tourist attraction in the world (along with many, many other parts of New Zealand)
  • I thought about what this drawing of Olives meant

  •  The guilt of not contacting family and friends
  •  The futility of contacting family and friends when if its only a phone call I can do that from home
  •  The longing to see those same family and friends
  •  The exhaustion
  •  The celebration
  •  Not hearing the hum of a motorway at every stop
  •  Being in places where you could truly look for miles and see no sign of civilization
  •  Water you wanted to swim in
  •  Water that was just water (sometimes sea water, sometimes fresh)
  •  More people exercising per capita than I have seen anywhere else in the world (OK maybe I would include parts of Australia this, especially if you count the surfers)
  •  Late winter and it’s warm enough to be in a T-shirt
  •  Pretenders
  •  People of considerable warmth
  •  The sense of community which Maori and Pacific Islanders seem to uniquely bring to the party
  •  People willing to share some of their life/ their family with you
  •  Warmth (in all the other variations)
  •  Humour (which I understood)
  •  The beauty of Chrissy, Olive and Edie – constantly bringing warmth to my day
  •  It’s a long way
  •  Knowing this will always be home (And questioning if this is the same ‘knowing’ as Belgians ‘know’ Belgium is – I think not)
  •  Celebrating we have had the strength to leave it – to discover, to grow, to not cultivate moss.
  •  I had more time
  •  I slowed down
  •  I liked myself more (please that is not a gloating comment, it is perhaps however the most telling)

Lastly, the destinations on the departures board here in Dubai:

  •  Jeddah
  • Sana’a
  • Damascus
  • Newcastle(love the Geordies)
  • Beirut
  • Amman
  • Accra
  • Casablanca(come on Chrissy we have to go sometime)
  • Lagos
  • London
  • Colombo
  • Kuwait
  • Tehran
  • Glasgow
  • Madrid
  • Singapore
  • Riyadh
  • Karachi
  • Birmingham
  • Paris
  • San Francisco
  • Frankfurt
  • Seychelles
  • Doha
  • Amsterdam
  • Entebbe
  • Copenhagen

It’s 7 a.m., they’ll all be gone by 8:30 a.m

So will I.


What is a long way away?

I’m really not sure what this post is about, but I’m probably due for one of those totally irrational posts anyway.

I think it is probably a post for anyone who is separated by distance from those they love.

I am some 18,700 kms from my family in Belgium. It’s a long way – almost as far as you can get.

Bye for now...

I still see Chrissy, Olive and Edie everyday thanks to Skype. It’s wonderful.

Still I am theoretically a ‘world away’.

So how far is too far?

When does ‘down the road’ become a ‘world away’– and when does a world away really matter?

Does it have anything to do with distance at all?

Here’s where I’ve got to in responding to these questions.

A world away is a function of:

  • Time away
  • Nature of absence (work, illness, holiday, celebration, grievance)
  • The state of the relationship (and this is not linear – a strong relationship should     have the shortest apparent distance, a weak or average relationship may create a feeling of either great distance or very little and for quite different reasons)
  • The independence of the relationship
  • The familiarity  of the situation (where you are, where your family is, how often it     occurs)
  • The age  of your children
  • The weather
  • The (apparent) state  of the world
  • Local events or tragedies (the Christchurch Earthquake for example made me feel a  long, long way from New Zealand)
  • The time since you last saw other friends or family
  • That you see friends or family whilst you are away (which can make you feel closer or further away)
  • and is weighed  upon by the unknown and the unexpected (like worrying about your children when they are late coming home, when if you didn’t know they were  late you wouldn’t worry).

Too far is when:

  • either party knows the other wouldn’t drop everything in a moment to return  if it was truly needed.
  • the phone  or the internet is not used
  • everything comes before family
  • either party  doesn’t know the other loves them

It ‘really matters’ when:

  • you have  gone ‘too far’ – it has nothing to do with distance
  • you don’t  weigh all the factors above before making a decision to travel

So a mantra for travelling:

I miss you when I’m here, much like I miss you when I’m there, the difference is the time, the touch, the knowing, the immediacy, the intimacy.

A long way a way, reminds us of what we miss, what we should celebrate and take comfort in whenever we are together and whenever we are apart.