During tomorrow’s marathon I shall pass the 1,000 mile marker in the #runforsharks challenge. I had hoped to do the first 1,000 miles in 40 days, but tomorrow will be the 45th day. I'm 5 days late because I lacked concentration after 3 weeks and was injured as a result, so had to be content with lesser daily distances for almost 2 weeks in the middle of the challenge. It was hard to take, this failure, as I was sure I could complete what I’d started out to do, but I have to be happy with reaching 1,000 miles, and failure has been pretty good for my self development I think.
The injury happened because on the night after my 20th marathon, I decided I was too tired to stretch. I knew it was a wrong thing to do, all runners need to stretch, but perhaps I was getting over confident after those first 3 weeks of success. So I didn’t stretch and a day later I felt a problem develop in my right ankle and lower leg. This started to hurt to the extent I thought I’d got a stress fracture, and what followed was a dark couple of days when my ego had to come to terms with the fact that I hadn’t done what I’d set out to do.
I found it hard to take because at this moment in time, my word means a lot to me. I feel the need to be honest and trusted. I also need to be useful. So failing in my quest to run 50 marathons in 50 days meant I’d broken my word and potentially wasn’t going to be as useful to the sharks as I could have been.
For almost 2 weeks I was in quite a downward spiral. Because I couldn’t run I was taking more time to cover less distance, time I didn't really have, and I also knew that people were concerned about me and that I was causing them worry by continuing the challenge. I spent much time thinking about why I was carrying on, and it was because of this I discovered the simple fact that I already mentioned, that I need to be useful. Useful to my loved ones, my local community and my society at large. That helped me renew my focus, and my efforts, to make each run produce some thought or photo that would help people reading my social media understand more about the need to help sharks.
It also urged me onto committing to learning new things in 2019. Basic things, such as baking excellent bread, and learning more about cooking. I’m way less interested these days in learning skills to earn me money, and far more interested in learning skills that might make me a useful member of my family and local community.
As soon as I felt able, after 12 days I think, I started to run again a few miles here and there, and got a sports massage at the Octopus Garden Yoga Centre to free up my leg muscles. This, together with a commitment to stretching, has helped me run another 9 marathons and 1 half marathon, with 4 more full marathons on the horizon this week, then a couple of lesser distances in the final 2 days of the challenge.
I’m pleased with food intake, I’ve only lost between 2 and 5lbs during the whole of the challenge, which says I’ve got the calories right. I have been eating intentionally with recovering from runs a 1st priority, and then after that I’ve been eating to get ready for the next run. So this meant plenty of whole foods, with a focus on anti inflammatory ingredients and good calories.
So many times I wanted to have a few drinks to relax but mostly I’ve resisted, except when the legs ached so much I felt a few drinks might help me sleep.
I didn’t know where this challenge might take me, you can push the boat in the right direction but the wind will take it where it will. I’m happy I failed, it’s done me good, this new direction feels right. I haven’t thought about pain for ages, now it’s just sensation. Until recently I just wanted to stay in bed so much, the challenge seemed too great to face, but then I went through a phase of the challenge being all that got me up and out of bed, and now I feel pretty neutral.
I was running along the beach today as the sun rose, thinking how grateful I am that at the moment I don't feel the need to try to be grateful. It seemed that if you try to impose yourself on life in any way then there’s a good chance you’ll miss the good stuff. I can’t exactly explain what I feel when I run these days but I’ll try by saying it’s a sort of stumbling, exhausted ecstasy where the colours, smells and feelings are a bit nearer me than they were a couple of weeks ago. And whereas a few weeks ago I often felt like life was so beautiful I might cry at any moment as an outlet for the intensity of emotion, now the waves are all inside, or maybe I am more a part of everything else. Same thing, I guess, it’s more a part of me because I’m more a part of it.
It’s been a trip. 6 days to go. If you'd like to support sharks in your own way, check out www.sharkwater.com for ideas.
I concentrate on my breathing, and this helps me concentrate on sharks. I try to send out helpful thoughts and I visualise sharks avoiding being caught in huge nets and on long lines. Yes, I know what this probably sounds like. Like a lot of woo woo. I don’t know how to defend against such an accusation, because it may just be a lot of woo woo. Like most of us, I really have no idea of how to try to help the world, but in the past visualising myself doing well at athletic races has mostly served me very well indeed. The first time I won the Canadian Men’s 24 Hour Championship I’d spent the previous 6 months visualising running that very race, seeing myself pushing on through the night, and feeling myself crossing the finish line. And on race day it all played out pretty much exactly as I’d imagined it. So why not visualise sharks avoiding long lines, it can’t hurt, and perhaps they'll pick up on my energy and it may even help, right?
I’m running primarily to raise awareness of the plight of sharks in our oceans, and to point people towards the Sharkwater project, which seems in a position to do something positive about it. For the past 2 years I’ve felt that I wanted to do something with my running that wasn’t just for me. It was no longer enough to win, or to even seek personal enlightenment through the act of running, as the monks of Mt Hiei do. The world needs more from us all than to become personally enlightened, I feel. There is so little time, we have to multi task!!
So seek to understand yourself, sure, but also, at the same time, seek to help others, that’s how I feel. And even if you never get to the bottom of your own self, at least you have tried to do something else for the world.
Now, to the past 10 days...
There are several ways of running a marathon every day. Some take a great many hours at it, such as the monks of Mt Hiei in Japan who, when novices, commit to running a marathon every day for 100 days as part of their spiritual practice.
There are others such as Dean Karnazes who have run relatively fast times each day as part of their job as a pro runner.
There are also people like me, who have regular jobs and have to fit in the marathons around that fact. And there are many more, I’m sure.
I’ve no experience of the first 2 styles of running marathons but I suspect that we all have different, yet equally challenging, things to take care of during the course of our day. And I would suspect that despite our differences, our varying styles collide where pain is concerned, with all of us viewing it as a simple, easily accessible vehicle from which we can begin to understand ourselves as we truly are.
I didn’t view my pain in that way at first, a few days ago, but recently it’s been impossible to see it any other way. It’s simply an easily hailed emotion which can help me attain a viewpoint into my own self.
Unlike the monks, I have to get to work by around 9am and then put in an 8 hour warehouse shift. So that affects my running.
And unlike the pro runners I don’t have anybody to prepare my food, wash my clothing for me, or cover my day to day living expenses. That too, informs my style of completing my daily mileage.
On top of this, unlike either of these 2 groups, I don’t have a solid, easily understood reason for running a full marathon distance every day (except for raising awareness for shark conservation, and I could do that with just 3km per day, as many of the other members of our informal group are doing), so I can’t let it interfere too much with my personal life.
That last point is pretty tricky to handle, I can tell you. Firstly, I have to interpret what will impact on those around me, and how. The pain, for instance, is fine for me, in fact I welcome it, for it always brings our friend, potential enlightenment, along with it. But that same pain, when viewed from my girlfriend’s perspective, isn’t very nice at all. She doesn’t get the payback from it, only the sight of it’s physical presence on my face. So I have to be careful about how I present myself to her, and others who care, such as my family.
And, of course, if I wanted to play up and let my girlfriend fuss over me and pretend to see me as some sort of big shot just because I’m running a marathon every day I could do that, too. She’s kind enough to grant me that, she’s a great girl. But that would be pretty low of me as this is an ultimately self centred act and I have to shoulder the weight of it like a grown up as equally as I reap the joy like a child.
So I keep the whole business on the low down as much as possible so it doesn’t interfere with our lives, I get the mileage done in the day and by the time it comes to meet up I do my best to ensure that I’m not limping, I’m not stinking and I’m not ravenously hungry!
All these circumstances mean that I’ve worked out a schedule where from Monday to Friday I run a half marathon on the way to work, and a half marathon home, then at weekends I knock the distance off in one go. I suppose one could say I could do that every day, before work, but I’m no superman, and running a marathon before putting in a warehouse shift is, sadly, beyond me, at least at this early stage of my spiritual and physical development.
A guy at work said, hey, so you’re just doing a half before work, then a half after, that means you can cheat if you want to, nobody’s going to know about it…
I look at people like that, I see their oversized cars and houses, and their swimming pools, and I think, yeah, I guess it’s not so hard to get all that when most of us are playing it straight and you’re willing to cheat at life. But I’m not a cheat, and I log my runs on Strava, so I can't cheat even if I wanted to, and if anybody ever thinks I have day I’ve got the data online to back myself up.
Another guy said he thought it was all pretty pointless, if you’re not running it hard, if all you are doing is jogging, then...why?!! I referred him to the aforementioned marathon monks of Mt Hiei, who run/walk a marathon each day not to finish it quickly, but to learn about themselves and the world as they move. Movement for them is an act of prayer. As I said, I’m doing this to raise awareness for shark conservation, but I’m also doing it for myself. I have no real idea what I may get out of it but I do think that’s it’s worth the trying, to find out.
Work has been good about the demands this places on me. Nothing has been said out loud, I’ve not advertised what I’m doing apart from on my personal social media, but people leave me alone pretty much for the first hour or so after I arrive. On a day like yesterday, 4C and sunny, I arrive feeling pretty good, but a few days last week it was freezing sleet all the way and that throws me out. I arrive a mess and it takes me a half hour or so and a large coffee to get my head together. I’m lucky I don’t work in a place where the boss is on my case from the word go because if I did I don’t think I’d be able to do this as I am.
I’ve tried to concentrate on the basics in life so far, cooking the right food to keep me going, keeping myself and my clothes clean and also doing yoga so that I don’t seize up. I’m sure I’ll get used to the daily effort needed soon and will be able to branch out and live more fully, but for now I’m keeping it simple.
My weight has been stable, so the food intake has been a success. When I started it was 156lbs and after 10 marathons, it’s 155.4lbs.
I see some great sights as I run. Real beauty in the middle of the city.
I’ve learnt how to run whilst at the same time stretching out my ankles and calves, it saves them locking up. I was put on the road to learning how to do this by a variety of sources which all deserve a mention.
First, Octopus Garden Yoga Centre in Toronto has introduced me to a new way of moving and thinking. I don’t just breathe now, I breathe into certain parts of my body, whatever I feel needs the oxygen. That taught me to relate to individual parts of my body, to communicate with different parts of me more effectively that I ever did before. Last night the right side of my stomach hurt, it’s where I had a hernia repair, so I breathed into that for 5 minutes and it then felt ok. After that the left side towards my back hurt, that’s where my spleen ruptured, so again I breathed into that area, and then the pain moved to my front left side, another hernia repair was done there, and again I breathed into it. Then came the knees, and so on. I breathe into these areas, concentrate on healing them, and the pain dissipates. Is this the same as using the pain as a vehicle to view myself? I'm thinking it might turn out to be something like that. It's just that the questions are all wrong at the moment.
This knowledge corresponded to what I’ve read about the monks of Mt Hiei, who have been recorded saying, as they run/walk, “Now I’m resting my thighs as I move, and now my arms, and now my ankles…”
My friend Adam, who’s a Reiki master, recently explained to me how he mentally conducts a Reiki scan of himself on long runs, it takes him about 45 minutes he says and afterwards he feels much more energetic. This sounds very much like what the monks do.
So I took all that and made it my own, running in ways that heal as well as propel. And at the end of each day I do a few yoga poses, such as legs up the wall, pigeon pose, and child’s pose, an active rest pose that is great for the ankles, thigh and groin, which seems to have kept me injury free, so far. I also walk on my tip toes and heels for a minute or so, to keep plantar fasciitis at bay.
My landlady’s dog, Boo, is enjoying this challenge as he likes the smell of my backpack now it’s really worn in. He greets me at the door, as he always did before, but whereas in the past he’d hang around at my feet a while before moving off now he’s all over my backpack, trying to roll in it. Obviously he thinks it’s a skunk, or poop. There’s not much I can do about that (except wash it, for which I have no excuse other than a lack of time), and I don’t mind so much, humans don’t seem to be able to detect it, it’s only Boo.
To conclude talking about my daily activities, after greeting Boo I grab something to eat, usually a pasta with beans, or some fruit, then shower and then lay down in my room and reflect. I live in a single room and have long since gotten rid of my bed, and I find I sleep better this way, on a thin mattress on the floor with a sleeping bag over me, than I did when I had a bed and lots to distract me. Perhaps when I get my head together more I shall gravitate back to sleeping in a bed with some trinkets around me, but I’m not ready for that yet. I fall asleep about 10:30 and wake at 6, then begins another day. Unless it's the weekend then I get a few hours in bed to read before running.
The monks of Mt Hiei say that at the end of their marathon running stints they are super sensitive and can detect faint sensations, such as the smell of a wisp of smoke, or food cooking, miles away. I guess in the past I might have understood that as they’d lost so much weight that they become less of the human world and more of the world proper. But my experiences during the first 10 days of this challenge tell me that it’s more about the act of running and the deep thought it brings on, stripping away different layers of yourself until you become something very simple and in tune with being what a human truly can be. For example…
For years I’ve disliked smarmy guys who issued jokes from false smiles in bars and hostels and also the girls who were duped by such guys. Now, the problem with this point of view is that it’s perfectly ok in the world I inhabit to dislike smarmy guys and dumb girls, so I was never too bothered working out the root of my contempt. But their superficiality wasn’t why I disliked them, I discovered the other day as I ran, it was because I could never talk well enough to be in their shallow club. In reality, I was jealous of them because at one point in time, in my teens, I wasn’t able to be as successfully vacuous as they were, and even though I’d long since moved on from wanting to be in their club, the negative feeling aroused all those years ago had stayed around and become one of my commonly voiced beliefs. In short, I hadn’t bothered to update myself on this account, ever since I was an insecure teenager.
I realised this as I ran, felt crappy for a few miles, and then thought, ok, well that little issue is now worked out, just understand fully why you put that in place all those years ago, understand what you’re going to replace it with (probably nothing, or maybe just understanding is enough), and then we can move on and quit with the fake hating.
So I became less than I was, and in doing so became more. And I guess if one runs 100 marathons in 100 days, as the monks do, then there’s just a chance that you’ll meditate as you run so much that the you who finishes the challenge will be very different than the you who set off at the beginning.
I asked my girlfriend what issue I should concentrate on next. She said, well, maybe work out why you feel you have to take on bigger and bigger physical tasks all the time, and what you’re going to do if you can no longer do them?
So that’s on the agenda for today, and probably the next few days. I don’t expect the results to be pretty when I view them from afar, although I’m sure I’ll come to love them when I’m up close, and I don’t expect any revolutionary insight into my own soul as a result, just the ordinary sort of insight that comes from a prolonged period of concentration and questioning. Maybe I’ll get more though! Who knows, at the moment I’m open to whatever comes as a result of this challenge.
This Article is from Trek and Run magazine, Winter 2018
‘It’s called The Big Scare,’ Juan, our divemaster, said, ‘because although the Pacific looks clear on the surface there's actually 3 stages of visibility here; clear, then as you go down it turns a murky green - that’s where the Bull sharks hang out - and then on the bottom it’s clear again. It’s the descent and the suddenness of the sharks coming out of the murky water that gets most people, they just seem to appear from nowhere. If it happens, and it probably will as we almost always see them here, remember to stay calm, they’re harmless.’
For a few minutes the thought of the forthcoming scuba dive frightened me. I remembered the talk of friends back home, warning that Bull sharks were the most dangerous of animals due to their high testosterone levels. Their fear infected me, overriding the science based knowledge I’d acquired whilst preparing for this Costan Rican adventure. I knew that sharks weren’t the monsters the media liked to make out and that we humans had already hunted them to the edge of extinction, yet the claustrophobia that came with thoughts of scuba diving in low visibility alongside an animal that society had registered in my psyche as a menace was primal and temporarily overwhelming.
The Sharkwater ship rolled in the swell. I watched the white surf crashing against the rocky outcrops below which we’d soon dive, backlit with the early sun. Shaking my head I began to banish the fear. What did testosterone have to do with matters anyway! If that had a bearing on things, wouldn’t all those corn fed guys running around the world with flags, fishing boats, hungry bank accounts and guns be dangerous too!!!
We’d been told not to talk of this adventure on social media before we travelled, the shark finning business is worth a lot of money, a group of tourists coming to scuba dive whilst engaging in shark conservation, looking to disrupt a source of great wealth for many, might not be so welcome. They could track us from our social media posts, we’d been told, kidnapping, or worse, could result. Tourists travelling to Costa Rica to kill sharks and other fish are welcomed with open arms by the mainstream tourism community, but those looking to ensure a future for sea life and locals alike are in a different boat; they have to watch themselves very carefully indeed. That's what we'd been told, anyway, and without any other knowledge to the contrary it seemed a good idea to take notice of it.
There were 2 groups of divers, the more experienced band of 8 filled another RIB whilst in our inflatable there were just 4. Before we arrived at the dive site Juan signalled to us to make ready, fins and mask on, air flowing, he wanted us to get into the water and down with no delay. ‘There’s a swell today, no good staying on the surface, let’s just get in and get down,’ he’d said whilst briefing us aboard the Sharkwater ship. ‘And, these sharks, they’re shy, if we get down before the other group, maybe we’ll have a good experience, before the sheer number of our other diving group scares them off.’
Our skipper slowed the outboard engine, Juan gave the signal and all 4 of us flipped backwards out of the RIB and into the waves. Within seconds we made eye contact, hand signalled we were ok, expelled the air from our buoyancy jackets and began to descend into The Big Scare.
I breathed slowly, conscious that I’d use my air up in no time at all if I let fear get the better of me. At 5 metres the visibility was fine, nothing great, about 15 to 20 metres I guess, at 10 metres down there was no change, at 15 it was still good. When was the green murk going to hit us? My ears hurt, I’d been having trouble with them equalizing pressure the past few dives, the pain pierced both sides of my upper neck, for a minute I kept my depth stable, breathing steady as the other 3 divers moved down and away. I pinched my nose, tried to force air into the sinus channels although not so hard as to rupture anything, considered tapping my tank loud and signalling to the others that I was going back to the surface. But the sharks, how I wanted to see them, this was the one place in Costa Rica where you could see Bulls close to land, I tried forcing air gently again and my ears eased open, thank goodness. I flipped myself forward and kicked head first down after the group.
Then we were on the bottom. Huh, that wasn’t so bad, I thought, I’d been expecting a green soup of an ocean but it wasn’t anything like that, in fact I'd hardly noticed the change in visibility at all. Juan put his hand to his forehand, fingers pointing straight up, the sign for shark, we looked past him and saw the first of the days’ Bull sharks, gliding away. I felt no fear, this was the only known meeting place for Bull sharks on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and, there was just a single shark. Of course, it could probably make short work of us or any other small creature if it wished, but it wasn’t interested in that, it was avoiding us, and maybe if there were 20 of them I’d have felt different but here we were, in it’s home, and there was just a single shark, moving away.
I thought of how the human hype machine has worked on our minds over the years, as a result there’s so little balance and recognition of nuance these days. Sharks are dangerous, this country or that is dangerous, everybody has an equal say because everybody can have an equal say, we are right and they are wrong, but there’s no right or wrong and that’s not because there’s no right or wrong but because I’m too lazy to work the issue out, so a blanket statement will do in a society that only wishes to keep itself alive and functioning in a way that is now seriously out of date and, without doubt, dangerous.
I’d run the Marathon des Sables, the so called ‘Toughest Footrace on Earth’, in 2017 and the hype had got to me. I and most others taking part completed that 7 day race with hearts filled with great suffering and afterwards looked to social media for affirmation of our bravery. But then I’d felt foolish, Marcus Aurelius was laughing at me, and in 2018 I ran the race again but this time with a smile. Few things are as potentially harmful as settled, frightened humans like to make out, except for settled, frightened humans, I’d learnt that. Now, once again, I was seeing that truth played out before me.
We hovered, waited. I looked out into the empty blue. There were a couple of small yellow fish, the first about 6 metres away, the second twice that. Then there was a shark next to the fish nearest me. How the hell did that get there! I guess that’s where The Big Scare got its title, from moments like that, when you’re looking at a patch of seemingly empty ocean and suddenly this well camouflaged, huge hunting machine appears moving so slickly you’re immediately made aware of your own clumsiness. The shark was gracefully coming straight at me. I glanced over my shoulder but the group were looking the other way. All this that I’m telling you, it happened in a couple of seconds that slowed to what felt like an hour. I wondered if I should get out the way, and also, why didn’t I feel frightened? I was excited, for sure, but not at all frightened. Then when it was just 3 metres away I understood. I remembered, age 27, walking across the Sinai Desert, finding water every day, being confused at my luck, putting the discoveries down to divine intervention, not understanding that humans can smell water just as well as horses and other animals can if they only learn to get themselves out of their own way, not understanding that there’s a more natural method of interpreting life for those who are ready to discard the layers of negativity, arrogance, hubris and fear that our ancestors have burdened and blinded us with.
I remembered running through a forest. The weather is fine, I’m unencumbered by anything but a pair of shoes, socks and shorts. I’ve no injuries, no illness, everything is as perfect as it can be and I’m jumping over every fallen branch, every rock, making great choices, moving through the forest like it’s my natural home. My pace is not slow or fast, I’ve a couple more gears in me if I want to speed up, but this is me in cruise control, afraid of nothing, powerful and aware. If anybody could see me, they’d think I was exactly like this shark.
Because that’s how it moved, gliding through the ocean like I move through the forest when I’m chilled out. I’ve never seen a shark on the attack before but I was certain this wasn’t it. It was way too slow, way too un-coiled, the vibration coming at me through the water wasn’t that of threat or force but indifference and so I hovered, letting it come to me, soaking this experience up because I knew it was finite, that I’d be remembering this for many years, sadly honoured that I’d felt the presence of at least one of these beautiful animals before they became extinct.
There were to be more shark sightings later in the dive, and a glorious ascent through the middle of a few hundred Eagle Rays packed so densely that I thought they were a cloud blocking the sun. We emerged from the ocean that morning feeling alive, powerful, real, knowing that we had to help protect sharks with all we had.
There will always be doubters when change is required, even when the evidence is overwhelmingly against them. We know now, for instance, that between 66% and 95% of all cancers are lifestyle induced. Meaning, that at least 2/3rds of all cancers are self inflicted, mostly by eating meat, dairy and other crap, and not exercising enough. This fact is backed up by solid science. Yet still many of my pals, who are good people, ignore science on this issue whilst simultaneously demanding it does more to cure cancer, somehow, instead of just changing their own lifestyle, and encouraging others to do so, too.
Running a marathon? Easy! Eating right, for you, the environment and your countries medical system? ‘Well, there’s nothing quite like a juicy steak, and the smell of BBQ, and I like cheese, who doesn’t, how can I give up that! I’m a man child not an adult for goodness sake! And bacon, mmm, bacon, right, eh? And who are you to tell me about cancer, my health is my business, the world is as big as it always was and what I do doesn’t matter, I'm not part of any community, I'm a nationalist not a globalist, and what if you get cancer yourself, then you won’t be talking so smart about it all, then you’ll wish you carried on eating as you want, destroying the climate and being cruel, like me. Life’s too short, you know...’
Especially so if you’re a shark. Or a turtle. Or a dolphin. Because, you don’t think the fishermen really make an exception for the cute stuff when they haul in their nets and long lines, do you?
Recently I was working on an ocean conservation project in Costa Rica, aboard the M/V Sharkwater, along with a handful of others from North America. The project had been inspired by the late Toronto filmmaker Rob Stewart, you may have heard of his film ‘Sharkwater’? It’s all about conservation and the importance of keeping our oceans healthy and well stocked. Whilst on the project I asked the marine biologists what people in North America could do to help sea life and they all said that we could become better consumers, and part of that is to use the Seafood Watch website to find out what local restaurants serve sustainably caught seafood and then use those restaurants instead of others who serve fish at risk of extinction.
As a vegan the sustainable fish thing didn’t apply to me but I figured it was worth having a look at the website, to see what great stuff was going on within Toronto, my home and recognized as one of the most progressive cities in North America.
I was shocked to see that the SeaFood Watch website listed just 1 restaurant in Toronto, and that was a chain restaurant that had 1 or 2 sustainable meals on a menu awash with unsustainable options. Clearly not a good situation. I checked out the entries for other cities and towns, the areas that others on my conservation project lived in. Some of the places on the west coast were better but largely the website was just another thing that looked like a great idea but in reality wasn’t being used.
So I got in touch with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who organise the website, and asked what we could do about this (below is their reply). I also reached out to the other scuba divers and budding activists who’d been in Costa Rica with me and asked who’d like to join me in contacting the restaurants in their own areas. I was trying to be positive, to actually lesson the gap between what the website could be and what it actually was.
I was saddened that only 1 of those who’d been in Costa Rica said they’d help. We’d all seen the extent of the devastation that modern fishing methods inflict, surely if anybody was going to be fired up about conservation it was this gang of people. But I shouldn’t have been surprised, one of the main issues the planet faces is that a great many of the people who care just don’t care enough. They start out with great intentions but in the end they’re satisfied with a cute new Facebook profile photo and a failure to understand that they matter, that what they do matters, that they can make a difference if only they pursued inclusion with other humans instead of striving for a half hearted individuality. And then somebody like me stirs them and they do the sad western passive aggressive thing and use me as an excuse for their laziness. Like, that pushy vegan, if only he was more polite about all this perhaps I would act but he turns me right off, it’s all his fault that I'm going to sit on my ass and do nothing but make solid sounding excuses for my inaction!
Bottom line, if you care, you’ll go vegan. If you pretend to care, you’ll make excuses. And if you don't care... I don't know, I can't imagine it.
I got onto Trip Advisor and searched for the top 50 fish restaurants in Toronto, then I wrote to them all. I kept it brief but asked them to consider becoming a member of the Seafood Watch website. It would only cost a couple of hundred dollars, which isn’t much for what amounts to an official stamp of approval, and I made it easy for them to go forward by providing all the links and details.
Not a single restaurant got back to me. Maybe they just went forward and signed up to be a Seafood Watch partner. But the website says otherwise, at the moment.
The future is grim for our sealife, and for us. We’ve disrupted the food chain and now we begin to suffer. We are already seeing this in the red tides of Florida and other ocean dead zones around the world. Some of us live in areas where the oceans are managed well, and they see no reason to change. But our world is small, what we do in one area matters to the other areas, and our people are in need of solid guidance and examples.
Here’s the reply from Monterey Bay Aquarium. “Any restaurant can become a Seafood Watch partner as long as they are willing to phase out any red rated seafood products. All of our recommendations are publicly available online or on our free app. To use our recommendations, you’ll need to know three things:
1. What species is it?
2. What country if it from?
3. How was it caught or farmed?
With those three key data elements, you can use Seafood Watch recommendations to figure out the respective rating.
Please feel free to direct any restaurants interested in partnership to www.seafoodwatch.org. They can click on the “Businesses & Organizations” tab to fill out a short inquiry form and someone from our business team will get in touch to explain the partnership, answer questions and identify next steps.
Finally, Vancouver Aquarium has a similar seafood product called Ocean Wise, which relies on our recommendations. They also have a restaurant program and would likely have more Canadian restaurant partners, but keep in mind that I believe their restaurant partners are only required to highlight which seafood items on their menu are sustainable.”
'I tried to see this sustainable seafood issue from the side of the fish eaters. This website could work but it doesn't because people - the restaurants, the activists - aren't really that interested. Is it worth anything? Probably not, but hindsight might say it's a start. Although the story is different now, the scientists tell us that, the facts are beyond doubt and life as we know it is nearly beyond saving, and there's hardly time for a start, middle and end, let alone a rescue mission.
Still, if you're in the mood to do something, and if you know any restaurants that want to do the right thing, then ask them to dig deep (change isn't easy) and go vegan. If it turns out that they want to pretend to care but aren't that bothered then they won't take any notice at all. But if they want to pretend to care more than most, then also let them know that they can sign up to the Seafood Watch website. It's better than nothing I guess.
This post is about the healing power of food and yoga, applying the things you learn to everyday life/running, and a thank you to friends.
13 days ago I got a groin strain from lifting a heavy compressor at work. My work colleagues said my pupils dilated that day, perhaps from shock, and somebody gave me a lift home as I couldn’t see clearly enough to take public transport.
12 days ago I went to ER, had tests and a scan for possible hernia and internal bleeding. The tests were negative, which was a relief. The dizziness was still there though, and I recognized it could be serious. I’ve had 2 hernias, and internal bleeding, I know what it feels like to have something go wrong in that area of the body. The pain I felt, and the dizziness, suggested to me that I’d not be able to do any competitive running for at least a month. The doctor suggested I rest up, go on light duties at work, and take strong pain killers. I decided to take the 1st 2 bits of advice and ditch the 3rd.
I started immediately to fill myself with healing foods. All the anti inflammatories that are well known (there are no secrets in this line of medicine, no special degree needed to understand it all) - turmeric, ginger, cayenne, berries, spinach, kale and more. Often blended into drinks such as Golden Mylk... ...or simple Green Smoothies... ...to ease the load on my digestive system, so that my body would be freer to concentrate on healing my groin strain. I also had daily Hibiscus herbal teas to help with any possible blood pressure issues. Below is a typical main meal of the past week; avocado lemon pasta with a kale and olive salad. I attended more yoga that is usual for me. I knew that by resting up I was also risking a quick recovery. I had to keep the areas around the injury mobile, whilst at the same time gently stretching the affected areas.
I knew to do this because when I came to Toronto a few years ago the first people I fell in with were all vegans - Trevor, Tim and Pamela, a Dietician - and all fans of the Rich Roll podcast. Talking with them, learning from Pam much more about food, and listening to Rich and his guests, opened doors for me that led to other great sources of knowledge such as Dr Gregor of NutritionFacts.org. All these influences have changed my life greatly, for the better.
4 days ago I visited the medical clinic where a different doctor gave me a thorough check up. Blood pressure whilst sitting, getting up, and standing, resistance exercises on the groin to see extent of injury, heart rate monitoring. He kept me on light duties at work and suggested I could start running when I felt ready. The dizziness hadn't subsided but he couldn’t explain that. I asked another doctor about that later in the day, he suggested it could be down to shock, the shock of the injury and of thinking I’d not be able to run for a long while.
2 days ago I woke up feeling pretty good after all that healthy food and stretching. I applied some athletic tape on my groin and decided that maybe I could take part in a trail race that I’d been looking forward to for months, the Run for the Toad 50k. Not to actually race it, but just to be involved, get some exercise, and to test my injury out in a no-pressure, fun and friendly environment. I went to the race, ran the trails for 10 minutes beforehand just to see how I really felt as I hadn’t actually run since I’d got injured, was happy with how the groin was, and decided to take part.
My feeling was to take it slow, to just get some distance back into my legs. This race would be part of my rehab. I feel a little at risk saying all this, mainly because general society seems to be somewhat behind athletic vegans when it comes to health matters, and many may think, if this guy was on light duties at work, how on earth could he consider running a 50k race?!!! AND why should I listen at all to such a disreputable person!
Indeed, work colleagues reading this might think dimly of me, they might suggest that I’ve not been honest with my workplace, or that whatever the reality, I should maybe keep quiet for fear of what things look like. Perhaps I'm being uncharitable suggesting that, I'm unsure. Whatever the case, my duty as I see it is to tell the truth so that others might learn as I learnt, in spite of what things may appear like to various parties, and that's what I’m doing. You see, being injured and then sitting back and letting doctors and the pharmacist dictate your recovery according to the little knowledge they have and the kickbacks they receive from the medical machine seems to be the standard method of healing these days, but it's a method that's changing. I'm thankful for that, as it seems an archaic way of going about things; being pro-active and ready to take on other ideas about healing is the way to go.
Food is there to fuel me, to heal me, to keep me healthy and, when I manage to prepare it right, it’s there to give me and whomever I am cooking for, intense pleasure. Here's a shot of today's breakfast, a really quick and easy tofu scramble with Field Roast sausage, kale, spinach and banana smoothie, and Golden Mylk. Full of taste, texture, happy brightness, and healing properties.Yoga has taught me to isolate parts of my body. One learns to breathe into the back, or legs, or arms, or shoulder, etc. It teaches me that we are all the sum of millions of working parts. You are the center point with the power to bring all these things together. You are the steward of these millions of parts. Given the chance the brain will mess you up, as will the heart, as will the microbiome, as will all the rest of the pieces. It's only you, the self, who can help them work together in the goal of being the best you can all be.
I remembered this as the race began. I was injured in my groin, but that was all. That meant I had a lot of body left with which to run! My lower legs, my glutes, my knees, my ankles, my stomach, my arms, shoulders and most of all, my head. I wasn’t going to get round this race by just running, I had to think hard at all times, concentrate on never kicking a root or rock, or falling over, or slipping on leaf covered corners. I had to apply all I had ever learnt about movement and anatomy and if I did, then maybe I would have some useful mileage back in my legs and I could perhaps looks forward to November, when I had a marathon booked, in which I had hoped to do well.
I ran straight, knees and toes facing forward, taking little steps, never over-reaching the groin. At times I felt my knees compensating for what my groin couldn’t do so I transfered my efforts to my thighs, then my calves, then when they needed a rest I ran from the shoulders, swinging my arms much more.
My vision was at times hazy so I made sure I picked up my feet extra high to avoid obstacles that I couldn’t see. At around the 30km mark I didn’t have to do this as I slowed down so much I was barely shuffling! Not just from my lack of training, but also from lack of calories. I usually take food with me to races over 10km but because of the injury taking over my mind I had forgotten to bring any. So a banana and a couple of cups of sports drink gotten from an aid station was all I had. Around 500 calories for a race that took about 4,000 calories from me, it was only natural I’d start shuffling when running on that sort of calorie deficit. This was ok though, it was all just a test, me working out how the injury was, I didn’t want to mask the reality with an overdose of sports drink/sugar, it was more important to study my fitness than to run fast.
I smiled as people overtook me, good for them, there was no point in me feeling competitive, I just wished their heels a happy goodbye and enjoyed the scenery all around. The rolling hills, the forest, it was good to be out there, truly alive.I finished the 50k in around 4 hours and 45 minutes. Half an hour at least off what I would normally do, but that was ok. I came 1st place in the 50+ age group, for which I got a pretty snazzy (vegan!) cheeseboard inscribed with ferns. I hadn't expected that at all and it made the pain quite bearable, kind of! Because to be sure, there was pain. I hadn't felt so beat up for years. A half hour after the race I was still lay there, in the grass behind the finish line, wishing the moment to pass, wishing my legs, my core, my arms would stop throbbing and crying out. The only thing that didn't hurt was my strapped up groin strain, and for that I was so grateful! Here's me and the vegan cheeseboard of victory, 5 hours later, feeling much better.The past 2 weeks has taught me to have even greater confidence in the power of food, and yoga, and in seeking out people who can help you on your path, and to be the person who puts themselves in a position to help others on their own path, and I write this post in the hope that it encourages you to switch on to those concepts, too.
I’m not out of the woods yet, I am still strapped up and not back to anything like my full training. That’ll hopefully start after another week of good food and yoga. But my current fitness is way above what I would’ve hoped for 2 weeks ago.
Two days before I travelled to Costa Rica I found an old Go Pro video camera. I didn't know if it still worked (it wasn't mine and I had never used it before so I didn't know if it'd been discarded because it was no longer any good) but because I had no other option to take with me whilst scuba diving I decided to give it a shot.
To help me film underwater, which I'd never done before, I scoured YouTube for ideas. I focused on the work of the best, and that for me had to start with Jacques Cousteau. I looked for his most famous work and clicked on a link for the film 'World Without Sun', except I read it as 'World Without Sin'. I took the inspiration of what he'd done back in the 1960's and carried it with me to 2018 Costa Rica.
Throughout my subsequent scuba diving I used the Go Pro to film what I saw and felt whilst under the Pacific waves. I didn't really know how to use this make of camera or even if what I was doing would result in anything I could use but it pleased me to try and when I got back to Canada and viewed the footage for the first time (the camera has no viewfinder or way of seeing what you are filming, or have filmed) I thought that the results were ok. But, they were just ok. I had moved the camera around too much, the footage was jolty and without sufficient feeling, in my opinion.
I wasn't sure about releasing the footage, even just amongst friends. Now that I understood the dire straits that our oceans are in I considered myself a representative of marine life, I had a duty to present them in the best, most honest way possible. I had to show the true beauty and essence of their existence in the hope that when other humans saw it they might reconsider the appalling way most of us treat our marine family. Fish, Turtles, Sharks, Dolphins, they're more than just fish tacos, cerviche, fish and chips, or however you eat them. They're pulses of life as we are, they deserve the same considerations.
I saw an opportunity. I knew a friend at work, Anwan, who was passionate about music and enjoyed creating in his home studio. I thought that if I provided Anwan with the raw footage and a brief background of what I was trying to do, then perhaps he could use his musical skill to elevate the film to a place where it could help marine life in the way that I, and the marine biologists and activists I'd met in Costa Rica, would hope for.
I soon knew that he was the right man for the job because his first question about what we were trying to do was 'What's the feeling?'. So many artists favour style over substance or feeling, and it results in a litany of bloodless creation that just fills up our airways whilst giving us little to go forward with. This wasn't the case with Anwan. All I said to him after that was this...
'I saw a film called World Without Sun and I thought it was called World Without Sin, but by the time I realised my mistake I understood that my error actually summed up what I felt about the natural world, where even the most dangerous predators - the sharks - are without sin. So our film is to be called World Without Sin, and I'd like the music to represent what you see, rather than lead people to a stereotypical conclusion. So perhaps don't put menacing music to the shark bits, like the Discovery Channel so often does, and Jaws did? Other than that, I just want people to see how beautiful nature is, and that it's worth our protection...'
And with that, Anwan did his thing and this is the result, which I love, and I hope you do too. To add to my point of view, I'll close with Anwan's words on how he went about creating the soundtrack.
'I’ve wanted to do more scoring work along with my music production and Dave, a friend and colleague of mine, had recently been to Costa Rica and taken some great underwater footage. I saw the material and thought, I would love to add a dimension of sound to that. The process was pretty simple. After viewing the material a few times I could hear the sound ideas in my head. I gave each animal a different sound/music and mixed it together with a few sound effects. Peter and the Wolf, one of my favorite child stories, was the main inspiration behind the idea.'
When discussing talented producers in the Canadian music industry, the name Anwan Ekpo is always mentioned by those who have heard his work. Anwan has an unquestionable talent when it comes to making music people can feel. Stay inTune - @itsanwan
ActivismPosted by Dave Wise Thu, August 30, 2018 10:32:37 Whilst in Costa Rica we accompanied the marine biologists on several excursions. Often it felt like we were hindering their scientific process rather than helping as although we had bucket loads of enthusiasm we had little training in any specific conservation technique. However, sometimes we seemed useful and this film portrays one such occasion, when we dove in murky, turbulent waters to retrieve a receiver that had been collecting data for the past 3 months. It was truly fulfilling, a real adventure, all activism has a feel good factor attached to it somewhere but this day will stand out in my memory as an example of what satisfies me the most; doing positive work in slightly dangerous, physically and mentally testing conditions and coming out of it with a successful result. Good times indeed.
The plan is to use the data to determine what areas of the ocean sharks and turtles inhabit most and for what reasons, and then to put forward a case for a new marine conservation area based on these findings. If the animals can be left alone long enough for them to repopulate their species - at the moment so many fish and turtles are being caught before they've even had time to reproduce so extinction is close on the horizon for species such as shark, turtle and tuna - they may still have a chance of survival, as will our oceans and therefore us. In case you didn't know, the oceans produce 50% of the oxygen that we breathe so if we allow them to fall into bad health, we are all likely to suffer. If you enjoy my films and think they are important, please share around, thanks.
RunningPosted by Dave Wise Fri, August 24, 2018 10:18:49 I've run the epic 250km long Marathon des Sables twice now; it's a challenging, unique way to see some of the beautiful Saharan landscapes that make up the east of central Morocco. I've filmed as I run, the idea being to give you an honest idea of what it's like out there but also because I've had a camera in my hands whenever I've travelled since I was a teenager and it would've felt odd not to have one there. Running through the desert carrying all I need for a week on my back was fine, but running without a camera would've been way out of my comfort zone! Maybe in the future I'll learn to relate to the world face to face rather than through a lens, but for the meantime, I'll produce this sort of thing.
I'm inspired, always, by a mixture of Werner Hertzog and Bruce Chatwin, both of whom try/tried to get to the minimal truth of the matter. Like a Japanese artist working out how to portray a horse with the least amount of brushstrokes, the documentary film maker must try to think their way to the bare bones of what they are experiencing and then work out what represents that best from the scenes available to them. It's an exercise in cutting the BS inside and out. I know that by doing this I regretfully alienate most viewers - addicted as many are to special effects and emotional tricks - but that is the sad price one pays for choosing to look with the eye of the heart; the deep soul demands reality and I am not in a position to refuse the order. Hopefully the seekers will appreciate.
Here are the first two short films, more will follow.