Monday, March 11, 2013


There’s a bit of a craze at the moment for a certain kind of man and a certain kind of woman to attempt these ‘Off road, test your mental and physical limits, whilst getting very muddy in the process’ races. I’ve not quite determined what the male collective is, but I’m guessing for the females its ‘dyke’ (Am I allowed to say that?) My mate Pete commented that he didn’t think his wife would attempt one to which I replied that I didn’t think I knew any women who would want to attempt one!

These races have testosterone fuelled titles such as ‘Tough guy’ ‘Tough mudder’ or ‘Survival of the fittest’

Anyway, I duly found myself on Sunday at the starting line of ‘The Devils Challenge’ in Barton Le-Clay which was advertised as involving running through fire, being electrocuted, crawling under barbed wire, 8 miles of off road running, and of course the obligatory mud and puddles.

Oh, and it snowed.

Photo: An enjoyable, cold, wet and very muddy Psycho Run at Devil's Pit. Great fun
This is not an aggressive pose, this is me frozen to the spot!
I’m not going to write about the disappointment that they didn’t have fire, and running through the electric cattle prods was a complete non-event (it reminded me of a twisted Japanese game show where they poured a non-flammable liquid but which smelt of petrol, and then made the contestants jump through a hoop of fire) as everyone was trying to avoid these wires whilst (in a kind of perverse, totally non sexual way) I was excited about being electrocuted and so ran through with my arms akimbo, and felt nothing!

No, if there was anything that this rather pitiful event did for me, it was that it got me thinking about my own sense of worth. Some people determine their worth through material success, the size of their house, their postcode, their car or where they holiday, whilst for others it is perhaps about relationships, and in particular those that involve the opposite sex, & yet for others I guess its power or influence.

The point is, I’m wondering if, as I fast approach fifty, whether I am seeking validation through trying to be fitter, stronger, faster, more defined than my peers?

I’ve noticed this in some of my actions recently: Firstly, I’m spending too much time at the mirror, vainly, and in vain, looking for definition in my arms, whilst scanning the arms of similarly aged men, and, worse, I met a chap in the gym last week who I had a right laugh with until we started talking about Half Marathons and I realised that his best time was 8 minutes faster than mine. 8 minutes!!! We can never be friends! (Is this the equivalent of a woman going to a party and discovering someone in exactly the same dress?)

 As a Christian I’m meant to attain validation through knowing God loves me irrespective of how (or who) I am. I do truly believe this, as I experience that same feeling towards my children. It doesn’t really matter what they do, there’s a ‘cant help loving them’ emotion which prevents estrangement. In our state of mere mortality, there must become a point when the little axe murderer goes just too far, and I wouldn’t want to put this to the test, but even then, if the prodigal son sought forgiveness, would it be refused?

I see plenty of Christians who obviously don’t feel sufficiently validated by God’s love alone, and who remain driven, shriven, misgiven and riven rather than forgiven! This is something of a tragic state of affairs and it would be easy to blame parents, dodgy vicars or denomination and we certainly live in a blame culture, but let’s be honest, Christian or no Christian, we all seek, no, crave our fellow mans’ approval or admiration. But what are we frightened of? In John Eldridges excellent book ‘Wild at Heart’ he focuses on the mask that we all hide behind, although he places this vow, to never reveal the true us, firmly at the door of our Fathers (something I’m not sure I agree with) but I will confess that I do hide behind the mask, making sure that certain aspects of my life, my personality, are safely concealed from public viewing whilst conversely presenting an image of my self in a light which is favourable to others.

Andy Flannagan puts it this way in his song Ego:

'I’ll take the glory, but skip the pain, Edit the story to fit my frame.'

Yeah, you got me there Andy.

I deduce that one of the reasons for writing this blog is to start to melt the wax mask, so that the true Jon is revealed. I hope you still like him.


  1. Pete - the other old bloke in the picMarch 11, 2013 at 10:57 PM

    As a near fifty year old myself (2 months younger than you Jon - and don't forget it!) I can empathise with the need to prove one's virility. Up until last year, or should I say "season", for me it was on the football field; competing alongside young men less than half my age and feeding off their youth. The body finally told me it was time to retire, so now I enter stupid, yet enormously fun, events like this. Roll on Survival of the Fittest; and then Tough Guy; I just can't help myself.

  2. you'll stare 50 in the face and come out the other side laughing..or at least loving