At well over 6ft, often running barefoot with a Rhodesian ridgeback and child or two in tow, my brother-in-law, Georg, is hard to miss. This axe-wielding, Thai boxing, trail running father of three has always inspired me, not only with his ability to push through a marathon no matter what, but also in how he takes new sporting challenges in his (incredibly long) stride, while juggling a hectic family life and a successful career in dentistry.
He and my big sister have been together since they were 16, so he has been pretty much a permanent fixture of my adult life. We both fell in love with running at around the same time and still remember proudly completing our first sub-30 minute 5km together. He has dragged me to many a Park Run and, although he subsequently admitted to wanting to kill me at the time, I was so proud to help get him to the end of the killer Potters Marathon a couple of years back. I love when we have a chance to run and chat together and I wanted to share a little bit about him here. If you ever thought that you were too busy to run, read on!
When did you first start running?
Probably when I was about 15 months old, I’ll check with my mom, ha ha! But seriously, I use to run to make weight for Thai boxing fights. To begin with I hated every second of it, but slowly the miles crept up until one day I decided to sign up for the Potters ‘Alf marathon. After running that I felt an awesome sense of achievement and I continued on from there.
Was running something that came naturally or did you have to work at it?
It was a bit of both really. Once I reached a certain level of fitness (which, because of Thai boxing didn’t take too long) I felt like I was unstoppable and could keep running (albeit slowly) forever.
What do you enjoy about getting out for a run?
Running is a good time to just switch off. I tend to overthink things and to keep my emotions hidden. When I run I find I can turn off the overactive part of my brain and also the part that suppresses my emotions. That means that I often find myself running late at night laughing, crying and blankly staring into space.
When and why did you start running barefoot?
When I was a kid in South Africa, we ran barefoot everywhere. In primary school in SA you don’t wear shoes in summer and all sports, including rugby, are played barefoot. But then I became a fat, angry teenager in the UK and when I eventually tried to run I was told I needed all kinds of special shoes to do so. The problem was that they just made my feet hurt. I remember very well one day in North Yorkshire taking my trainers off and hiking up Carlton bank barefoot and loving every second. Soon after that I bought my first pair of five finger shoes for particularly rough terrain.
What is your proudest running achievement?
This tends to change every time I do another stupid run somewhere! To date it is probably trying to do the Born to Run Ultra Marathon in Wales few years back. Even though I was pulled out at 35 miles into the 40 mile run, I still ran a lot further than I ever imagined. I’ve found from running and fighting that you tend to learn a lot more about yourself when you losing rather than winning.
What was going through your mind during those 35 miles and how did you keep yourself going?
For the first half of the race I was mostly thinking about my family. For the second it was a mixture of thinking about how worried wife would be if I didn’t make it to next water station and paranoia of being followed buy a strange man (who actually turned out to be a St Johns ambulance guy who was following me as I was talking to myself and covered in my own sick!)
Would you do another ultra?
100 per cent yes! As soon as I stop having more children and get time to do the proper training!
Do you do any form of cross training?
I spend some time doing circuits in gym, I still go Thai boxing when I get time and I love swimming and cycling outdoors in the summer (but I hate both in the winter!)
How do you fit in your runs around having three energetic children and two dogs?
I try to combine parental duties with running, but it’s not always easy. I recently had dog attached to a running buggy with baby in it, a 6 -year-old running next to me, and a 4-year-old on my neck. I only managed 2km before I almost died! In seriousness, I try to do some runs with the kids; most of my training runs are done with dog and or baby in running buggy. It also helps that I have an awesome understanding wife who doesn’t mind me going out running.
How do you find running with a buggy and a dog?
I love it. It only gets tricky when there are lots of people in our way. The dog loves it and the baby loves it.
What running buggy do you use?
I have an Out n About fixed wheel running buggy. It’s very well used now; it probably done a few hundred miles!
Any tips for parents running with buggies?
Make sure your baby is old enough to sit while supporting their own head; make sure they are comfortable; take lots of snacks (for the baby) just in case; and be prepared to sing to keep the child amused!
What races have you got coming up?
The only thing booked so far for this year is the Potters ‘Alf marathon, but I’m hoping to do a few triathlons and open water races in the summer. It’s all a bit last minute with having young kids!
I’m looking forward to running together again on holiday in May (although I may only be waddling by then!) and to learning more from him about managing to run once our little lady arrives in August. Until my next, happy running.