Since late 2014, I've read fast approaching one hundred books. Whilst these books have differed in genre and topic from philosophy to psychology, health and fitness to spirituality and alike, these books have centered around a common theme. They have all been books focused on developing personal strength and excellence in mind, body and spirit and overcoming challenges and adversities. I guess you could call it the pursuit of self mastery.
Out of these books, three truly stand out as the kick-starters to this Smilinggg journey. Ones that came to me when I needed inspiration most. A different way of viewing things and recognising that who I was in that moment of reading, wasn't who I had to continue to be.
This blog post is my way of paying homage to Dr Carol Dweck, Charles Duhigg and Matthew Syed for their respective books Mindset, Power of Habit and Bounce. These three books ignited a spark in me that slowly but surely shifted my outlook and with that, my personal belief.
The best way of paying that homage is to share my own Smilinggg journey and the results that came from embodying their teachings. I hope to possibly ignite that same spark in you. Whether you're currently going through your own adversity, or you simply wish to improve your current situation in whatever capacity. A side note: the third G in Smilinggg represents Growth (mindset) that is how fundamental Carol's book has been in the formation of Smilinggg with its daily practice and philosophy.
The following post simply documents the last two years since August 2015. The significance of that date? I ran my first ever running event; a marathon. Prior to the 16 week marathon training plan, I had no history or love for running and with a metal rod in my left leg from knee to ankle from snapping my tibia and fibula in 2012, quite frankly I wasn't sure if I could run these kind of distances. I've pulled all my Facebook posts from each race I've done since to give you some context plus a couple of Vlogs from YouTube. This blog is simply to show that we truly are the sum of our daily habits, and how a change in belief and mindset can truly hold the key to what one can achieve. The simple Smilinggg Mile proved my keystone habit. I've found progression rather than perfection is key and there really are no failures, only feedback.
I hope this ignites your Smilinggg spark.
DANANG INTERNATIONAL MARATHON 2015:
We did it
My RunKeeper tracked it as 26.48 miles in 3:41:43.
Lost for words right now, so I'm going to soak it all in and enjoy the day. But I'm excited to share my experiences in the coming weeks.
Thank you so much for your support, words of encouragement and donations. Without the donations this would have just been a personal achievement, but with your generous giving it's become something far greater.
As of writing this we have raised £1,040.05 for Mind: The Mental Health Charity... That's most definitely a reason to be #Smilinggg.
Please keep the donations coming in http://www.JustGiving.com/Smilinggg
I'm gonna hobble off and find some food!!!
Thank you again. It means more than you'll ever know!
Steps + Smiles
LAGUNA LANG CO MARATHON 2015
Today I ran my second 26.2 miles / 42km at the first Laguna Lang Co marathon here in Central Vietnam.
It was a beautiful one loop course, incorporating rolling hills to start and finish, stunning scenic views of the mountains and lakes in the distance. With superb pre, intra and post run care.
I only made the decision last week to race this event due to lots of travel, slight aches and pains post Danang marathon and anything but an ideal pre-race training plan. Sound a lot like excuses to me JC!!
Anyway, I was absolutely delighted to cross the finish line a few seconds short of 3 hours 58 minutes and with that, being presented with the trophy for 1st place male marathon finisher for the 18-29 age group.
To finish a happy story on a sad note, Harry was put to sleep on Friday. He was a notorious walker and in his younger days quite the runner too! His paw prints are all over Ashdown Forest. You'll be missed buddy.
This one's for you little man.
Steps and smiles. Pants and paws.
#Smilinggg and #Barkinggg
CAN GIO, HO CHI MINH MARATHON 2015
Today I ran the Can Gio Marathon here in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Crossing the finish line of this rather low key event completed my marathon hat-trick which I'm particularly chuffed about.
The running course wasn't particularly breathtaking, consisting of a straight 21km out and back route on a main road with very little to look at and next to zero non-participant interaction.
The 4:30am start meant running under the stars for the first 45 minutes and catching the sun rising behind the clouds.
Once the sun had found its hat, things began to heat up... Literally.
The very high temperatures and rather uncomfortable conditions under foot meant I felt particularly thankful to cross the finish line with a time of 3:58:32.
I have the utmost admiration and respect for those who continued to cross the finish line many hours after, having to further contend with the scorching heat.
The relatively quick-fire three marathons I have completed are all part of a bigger picture for me and the #Smilinggg vision and I'm looking forward to revealing the next charity fundraising running event which takes place in January.
There's now just enough time to grab a cheeky massage and a quick bite to eat before flying back to Da Nang / Hoi An later this evening.
Steps & Smiles
WATERGATE 16 HOURS ULTRAMARATHON 2016
This morning in Malaysia, I officially became an 'ultra-marathoner'.
Battered, bruised and hobbling, I completed my 16th loop of the 5km course, totalling a distance of 80km completed.
Having suffered quite a debilitating loss of mobility in my left ankle around the 35km mark, resulting in quite severe discomfort to the area where my metal pins are located around my left shin (having broken my left leg back in 2012), walking became a real challenge towards the end.
With my current 4.4kph pace, and the countdown timer showing less than an hour remaining of the 16 hour time limit, I knew I'd not make it back around in time to complete a 17th loop.
Whilst the race is long and it's only with yourself, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't delighted to check the leaderboard and note a 22nd place finish out of 202 within the senior men's race and a 29th place finish overall out of 279 participants. It certainly helped take away some of the physical pain.
I must take a moment to thank the organisers, fellow participants and the volunteers, with one lady in particular. Camela Mogan was the most attentive physiotherapist, and helped ice and try and mobilise my ankle on more than one occasion. Wearing a Liverpool shirt, I told her I'd definitely not be 'walking alone.'
So feeling somewhat fatigued, with my legs elevated and ice compressing the injured ankle, I'd like to take one last moment to say THANK YOU to each and every one of you who pledged to Mind: The Mental Health Charity on this occasion. Your generosity has totalled £1,339.39, absolutely SMASHING the target of £960.00.
The donation page will remain open for the next 30 days, as I hope to raise some more funds if at all possible.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
DANANG INTERNATIONAL HALF-MARATHON 2016
A year on since my marathon debut, I returned to tackle the half marathon at #RunDaNang as part of my training towards the half ironman distance triathlon in September.
A truly incredible event. The energy, the togetherness and smooth operation from all volunteers and event organisers. It was impossible not to be #Smilinggg from start to finish.
The first half of the run was fuelled by an extra strong coffee. The second half of the run was fuelled by the interactions with the volunteers and spectators.
I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:42:06 placing 12th of 375 male participants.
The biggest highlight for me was the giving of the #Smilinggg Wristbands to fellow runners, volunteers and other people in attendance.
All in all, a day to remember and a post run high that remains as I write this.
A Vlog from the event to follow in the coming days.
Great to catch up with old and new friends alike.
Steps and Smiles
CHALLENGE VIETNAM TRIATHLON 2016
16 weeks ago I made the decision to give Challenge Vietnam a TRI. A pretty intensive 4 month training schedule followed, and today the hard work all came to fruition as I successfully conquered the 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21km run in the stunning coastal city of Nha Trang.
I like to think of endurance events as a time lapse of life. Coming in at sub six hours by the skin of my teeth, these hours were made up of highs, lows and everything in between. I ensured I enjoyed the moments of flow, whilst gritting my teeth during the many challenging parts of the race.
To cross the finish line and be immediately greeted by my dad and close friends who joined me for this experience was to say the least overwhelming. Thank you so much for everything! It all seems rather fitting that there's such emphasis on Family with the Challenge brand.
Thanks to everyone for the well wishes and support too. It was such a pleasure to document parts of the #RoadToNhaTrang via the vlogs.
So now it's time to relax and enjoy the satisfying feeling that is achievement surrounded by my Smilinggg squad.
#Smilinggg at #ChallengeVN
Race Highlights: http://www.jamescooper.co/challenge-vietnam-triathlon-2016/ (Short Interview featured)
LUANG PRABANG HALF MARATHON 2016
Lost in Luang Prabang, Laos
It's safe to say that was the longest half marathon I've ever done! It's also safe to say this is probably the longest post run report I'll ever write too!
Today I set the goal of achieving a personal best on the 21km distance... so when I looked down at my watch and saw the distance approaching 20km with no sign of the 'home straight' in sight, I knew something was wrong.
Being me I continued on the rather sharp incline and watched as I saw the meters tick over until I successfully achieved my half marathon personal best at 1:38:06... but, there were still no sign of aid stations or anything. I even saw signs to Vientiane only a sly 380 or so km away.
At this point I conceded defeat... I was lost in Laos. This was the key part and greatest personal lesson learnt from the race.
The American Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chödrön taught me about the term 'shenpa', simply put, it's that immediate feeling and reaction we experience in varying situations. I experience it as an almost internal boiling sensation. That's how I interpret it anyway. The urge, the hook, that triggers our habitual tendency to close down.
I was frustrated and a little agitated, but I recalled reading that the shenpa sensation is said to last just a few short seconds, I believe the number is in fact 6 seconds. It was in that very moment of recognition that I was able to 'unhook' myself from the automated cycle where the mind can have such a tendency to develop an irrational story, further compounding any fairly minor issue.
With a fresh and clear outlook, I nipped it in the bud, it was what it was and I went about attaching my thoughts instead to what this detour meant from a #Smilinggg perspective.
It gave me further opportunity to share a "Sabaidee" and smile at a greater number of people.
Everything happens for a reason. This was my reason. That's at least what I was telling myself!
After a few more kilometres, I was finally back on the right track and encouraged by the generous support of the volunteers and spectators.
I've noticed the spoken word of encouragement in South East Asia tends to be FIGHTING. I'd respond "yes with three G's!" It gave me a giggle, even if I was the only one who got the joke.
Having clocked the best part of 34 kilometres, I finally crossed the finish line to be greeted by the beaming smile of Amanda who only went and achieved a top three podium finish for her 7km run! Hashtag proud.
As always, a huge thank you must always go to the volunteers for their encouragement and for the most part, their directions. Thanks to the race organisers. All proceeds from the race went to the Laos Friends Hospital for Children.
The final thank you is to you for actually reading this... I have a real tendency to waffle. Talking of which, I think it's time for some.
Steps and Smiles
IRONMAN 70.3 VIETNAM 2017
That home straight feelinggg!
Delighted to report that I survived the heat and crossed the finish line in 5:46:37.
Congratulations to all participants and a HUGE thank you to the volunteers, event organisers, my dad for getting to share this experience with, and to everyone who has offered me words of support and encouragement the past few days. It means a great deal.
I'll take a few days off and then my attention will turn to the big one on 1st October, IronMan Taiwan 140.6 and more importantly the Smilinggg Virtual Race in association with Mind: The Mental Health Charity.
STANDARD CHARTERED KUALA LUMPUR HALF MARATHON 2017
#Smilinggg in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Chuffed to report a new personal best at the half marathon this morning. Strava had me hitting the 21.1km mark at 1:34:27.
Too bad for me, I seem to have an inability to run correct course distances. I crossed the finish line having clocked up a total distance of 22.3km, a time of 1:40:07 with an average pace of 4:29/km. Certainly chuffed and without doubt a little bit puffed!
My race report will follow in the next few days but I want to take a moment to thank the race sponsors, the organisers, the volunteers and those who took the time to cheer us on. A word of encouragement and a smile really did make all the difference when the going got tough.
A big congratulations to everyone who took part in the event. With over 35,000 participants, it's so great to have so many race categories and distances catering for all levels of experience from 1km up to 42km.
The medal has 'Run for a reason' etched across the top. I tell you what, when the going gets tough, that reason has a real tendency to pull you through! ✨
Have a super Sunday!
Steps + Smiles
THE SMILINGGG SMILE-ATHON IN ASSOCIATION WITH #WORLDMENTALHEALTHDAY
What an incredible day!
I won’t share with you the exact word I used when I stepped out of bed this morning, but let’s just say the sore legs and lower back are well worth it.
The Smile-athon idea only came to me last Friday. So I guess I firstly owe social media and Facebook a thanks. What a platform to help connect people and drive messages and awareness of worthy causes and events.
Thanks also to everyone that helped turn this idea into a reality. A like, comment and share really helps propel things in cyber space... so thank you!
The BIGGEST thank you must go to the Smilinggg miler’s, the donators and the legends pictured (minus a couple more who I didn’t manage to snap a selfie with!)
I managed to step and smile my way around the running track 178 times, reaching a total distance of 71km / 44 miles. It’s safe to say time went far more quickly when I was joined by friends for their Smilinggg miles.
I’m delighted to report that at the time of writing, The #Smilinggg Smile-athon has raised £344.07 for Mind: The Mental Health Charity and has hopefully raised awareness of both Smilinggg and its simple yet highly effective daily practice The Smilinggg Mile.
I’d still like to encourage further donations to push past that £200 milestone. I’ll be keeping the online donation page open for the rest of October.
Thanks again for the support and please continue to help spread awareness of The Smilinggg Mile to those who you feel might just benefit.
Steps + Smiles
WHAT DOES 2018 HAVE IN STORE?
It's safe to say our sparks and the goals we aspire to achieve will all be different. I think that is not really the point to this blog post. The point being the three books I mentioned earlier and Smilinggg and the simple daily practice spearheaded me towards a different way of thinking and a fresh approach to what could be achieved and the particular direction I wanted to take my life.
It's easy to see why I'm so passionate about sharing The Smilinggg Way and consider it my life's work, it truly transformed my life. I hope it can help do the same for you too.
Here's to igniting your Smilinggg spark and pursuing your wildest dreams.
Steps + Smiles