Archive for the “Life” Category

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Nelson MandelaLong Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela, the man whose long walk to freedom transformed the evil apartheid system of South Africa, has died.

I will never forget the day I was lucky enough to be at Wembley Stadium with my friend Derek in 1990 to hear Nelson Mandela speak just two months after he was released from prison.  It was a day that shaped my life.

We watched him from high in the back of the stands off to the right of the stage.  We had spent the day watching some of the best bands on the planet but none came close to the charismatic presence of Madiba.

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An astonishing man who rejected hate and embraced forgiveness. May he rest in peace and may we pursue his dream of a world where all are valued and equal.


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FcertA4.tmpl-1On Sunday I followed in the footsteps of Olympic heroes in the National Lottery Anniversary Run.

Last year I won a place on the Olympic Park Run and was one of the first to cross the Olympic finishing line in the newly opened Olympic Stadium.  At the time I thought that was a one in a lifetime experience…

The National Lottery, one of the biggest funders of the 2012 Olympics, thought otherwise.

Legacy was always one of the questions hanging over the Olympics.  How would the Games translate into wider participation?  Well, 10,000 people signed up, paid up, and ran the anniversary run with 5,000 people,  children and their families, taking part in the 2.5k family run.

This year David was also able to get a place so we set off on Saturday morning for a weekend in London with our better halves.  The 7am flight from Glasgow to Luton is always a shock to the system.  It means a 4am start.

It also means that being shattered for the rest of the day!  We spent most of Saturday morning drinking coffee and trying to wake up and shopping at Westfield, then it was off to check in to our hotel out at Docklands, a nap and then off to the West End for dinner and The Phantom of the Opera.

I’ve seen the show on TV and we watched the movie the other night but there is always something magical about live theatre.  Phantom didn’t disappoint.

Sunday morning started at 7am with a light breakfast then we took the DLR to Stratford, along with thousands of other runners and their supporters.

There was a a real sense of excitement as we wound our way through the shopping centre at Westfield and out towards the Olympic Park.

Anniversary Run


The last time I was here the park was a building site.  All the major venues had been completed but the landscaping and temporary seating was still being installed.  Just over a year later and the Olympic Park is in a similar state.  The temporary venues have been removed and their sites are being redeveloped.  The extension wings have been taken off the aquatics centre (photo above) making it look very different.  The new glass walls are almost complete and the building looks great.


The warm up, courtesy of Mr Motivator himself, Roy Gale preceded start by Britain’s greatest ever Olympian, track cycling king, Sir Chris Hoy.

The race route was different this year.  It even had a bit of cross country at the start!

It was also pretty tight and twisty so it was difficult to run at race pace at the start of the race.  And it was hot and humid.  Thankfully it was cloudy which kept the temperature down a bit.

It was a great run and you could feel the sense of excitement building as we wound our way towards the Olympic Stadium.  At around 21 minutes a roar erupted from the crowd as the first runner entered the stadium.  The noise was amazing, especially as the stadium was less than half full.  It gave us a real sense of what it must have sounded like as Mo Farah was cheered round every lap of the 5,000m and 10,000m on that Super Saturday.

I was only just past half way!

I was looking forward to the tunnel more than the stadium.

As I entered the tunnel under the stadium I could hear the crowd… but not the crowd from today.  It was the crowd from Mo’s gold medal run, along with commentary from Steve Cram and Chariots of Fire in the background.  I could feel a wave of emotion sweep over me as I pushed my pace knowing I was close to 40 minutes.  There’s light at the end of the tunnel… brilliant sunlight.

Anniversary Run


The thing I noticed about the track is the bounce.  Maybe it’s because you come straight off the concrete of the tunnel but the track is fantastic to run on.  And all of a sudden you find yourself on the home straight and crossing the line, gasping and smiling and knowing that you have followed in the footsteps of legends.

Anniversary Run


Once we found Pam and Avril in the crowd we sat in the sun, ate our way through the nuts, biscuits and crisps in the goody bag, and watched the rest of the runners come in.

It’s fair to say that the runners came in all shapes and sizes.  I stood to applaud a woman with crutches cross the line but also for a woman who must have been at least 20 stones struggle down the last 100 meters.  At some point she must have thought “I can do this.  I can run 5 miles.”  And she did.  She made it, along with all those others who must have wondered what on earth made them sign up, wondered if they could do it on such a hot and humid day and, as they crossed the line, knew that I can do this I can do whatever I put my mind to.

That’s the real Olympic Legacy.

There is something amazing about a mass participation event.  There’s a sense of community, shared experience, a knowledge of what it takes to get to the start line, the gratitude to those whose support makes all the training possible.  If you’ve never entered a run, try it.  You never know where you might find yourself…

For us the rest of the day involved a picnic from M&S, a shower and a change of clothes and off into London for a wander around Harrods, a fantastic (and very expensive) cake from the Gand Cafe, sunbathing in Hyde Park and dinner at Jamie Oliver’s Union Jacks at Covent Garden.

Monday was the hottest day in years.  33C.  We headed back to the air conditioning of Westfield in the morning for some breakfast and shopping then to Trafalgar Square for a sandwich and then the National Gallery and a wander round Whitehall.  By late afternoon we were just hot and tired so diner was Yo! sushi at St Pancras and then off to Luton for the flight home.

What a weekend.

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We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. (Simon Sinek)

In his TED talk Simon Sinek tells why the ‘why’ is important. Much more important than the ‘what’ or the ‘how’.

I work for a Church. I think my job is about the ‘why’ but very often it has little to do with ‘why’ and much more to do with ‘how’ and ‘what’.

Over the past 20 years the church in the West has declined. It’s a long and sad story that has been told often. In response to that story people have come up with plans, strategies and programmes. You’ve probably heard them all.

‘If we do this people will come’.

Sounds like ‘Field of Dreams’ doesn’t it? Except it doesn’t. Not quite. In the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ Ray builds a baseball diamond in his back yard against everyone’s advice. He goes on his journey to Fenway because he believes that he will find something significant there. He builds the baseball diamond so he can share what he believes. He doesn’t tell anyone what they should see, or how they can see it. Just that a bunch of dead baseball players seem to show up and play in his back yard baseball pitch.

Sinek thinks that ‘why’ is the golden question. I think he’s right.

People didn’t turn up to hear Dr King for him. They went for themselves. He didn’t talk to them about his plan, he talked about his dream.

Obama did the same. Remember the signs? HOPE.

The SNP did the same. ‘We believe in Scotland’. Relentlessly positive about what could be.

So what is the Church’s ‘why’?

People don’t follow Jesus because it will make their minister feel better. They don’t come to church to make the person who sits beside them feel better.

They follow because they believe. They follow because they believe that God’s grace and forgiveness will change their lives.

That’s not the story we tell. Our story is all about ‘how’ and ‘why’.

If you love God this is how you should behave.

You should love God because if you don’t you’ll go to hell.

That’s the story we tell.

We tell a story of joining a programme or a class or a group, not a story of lives and a world transformed. We tell a story where we apologise for being small or poor or not very good at this not of amazing things done by ordinary people helped by God.

We tell the story of Jesus like this:

“God sent Jesus to die on the cross because we are so terrible. Our sins are forgiven, but we need to earn that forgiveness over and over again because we are all still miserable sinners. Don’t do that. Don’t wear that. Don’t listen to that or love that person. Don’t have sex. Don’t have fun.”

Let’s contrast that with how Jesus asked people to follow Him…

“Follow me and your lives will be transformed.”

Nothing about Jesus invitation is about Him. It isn’t a command and it’s not even about Him. It’s about them.

I will make YOU different… Come with me and YOUR life will never be the same again.


Now, what is it you want me to do?

That’s not our story. That’s not the one we tell.

It should be.

But it’s not.

We explain the ‘how’ and the ‘what’. We call it theology or a sermon. We don’t tell people the ‘why’. Our ‘why’ is simple and strange and compelling and transforming.

God loves you.

Yes you.

Yes, even you.

Not just good people or straight people or white people or rich people or clever people or left footed people or any other label.

God loves YOU. He loves you so much that he sent his only son to die so that we don’t have to worry or be scared and so that we can live life free of guilt and shame and doubt and worry.

The ‘how’ and the ‘what’ are interesting. But the WHY… now that’s a story we should tell.

Update: Here’s the new Apple ad… If  you don’t believe what Sinek is saying.  Watch and see if they mention the ‘how’ or the ‘what’…

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( if you’re using one of Apple’s flash free devices)

Not once… but you want a macbook, ipad, ipad mini, ipod or iphone, even though they never mention any of them by name, tell you how much they are or even where you can buy them.

That’s the power of ‘why’.


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My race pack for the National Lottery Anniversary Run has arrived!  As you can see I’m number 248 and I’m in the red start wave.  That’s the first wave so I’m starting to worry that I put the wrong time as my prediction!!!

I’m really looking forward to the run.  The course is slightly different to last year, partly because all the temporary venues have been removed from the Olympic Park.  It’s still 5 miles and I’m still hoping for a sub 40 minute time but that’s going to depend on lots of things, mostly the weather and the volume of people.

The forecast for the weekend is looking HOT but I’ve had a few runs in the heat recently so I’m hoping I’ll cope.  I keep telling myself I managed to run 26.2 miles in 26C so this should be fine!

This time last year we were all still wondering what the Olympics would hold.  Would the opening ceremony be any good?  Would the British athletes cope with the pressure of a home games?  Would world records tumble?

The answer was a resounding YES.  The opening was incredible, the athletes performed and world records were smashed.

Most of all we wondered what the games’ legacy might be?  Would they ‘inspire a generation’?

Well, the places for this run sold out in hours.  The places for the 2014 London Marathon ballot went in record time.  parkrun is growing every week.  Cycling participation is at an all time high.  And a Scot won Wimbledon.

It seems like something is happening…


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It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally logged 2,000km running with Nike+.



I ran the Glasgow Half Marathon in 2000 and then didn’t run another step until 22nd Feb 2010.

I can’t really remember why I thought it was a good idea to go for a run and I soon decided that it wasn’t really.  I lasted 3 months and didn’t run at all through June, July and August 2010 and didn’t run again more than a few km once or twice a month until March 2011.

first run


That first run should give everyone hope! 3km with an average pace just over walking speed.

Running has brought me fitness, friends and some amazing memories and achievements.  There have been two highlights…

On 27th May 2012, age 40, I ran the edinburgh marathon on one of the hottest days of the year.  It was 26C at times and I loved every step of the 26.2 miles!  I’ve just re-read my post about my marathon and still feel quite emotional about it.  There’s something about marathons that bring out the very best in people.

marathon nike



On 31 March 2012 I was part of the first run ever in the Olympic Stadium in London, the National Lottery Olympic Park Run.  You can read all about that experience in ‘Making History‘.  I’ll never forget running around the tunnel under the stadium with Chariots of Fire playing on the PA and then emerging into the Olympic Stadium.

Olympic Park Run Banner

Olympic Park Run Banner

The good thing about running is that the journey is never really over, and you never know what’s around the corner.  Strathclyde parkrun, a weekly free timed 5k, is one of the highlights of my week.  Who ever thought that dragging yourself out of bed to run at 9:30 on a Saturday would be a thing I looked forward to, and missed when I can’t make it, but it really is.

stewart running


In July I’m returning to the Olympic Stadium for the National Lottery Anniversary Run, this time with David running too.

So, here’s to the next 1,000km.  I wonder where it will take me?

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As a marathon runner I watched in horror as the news of two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon broke last night.  This morning I woke to the news that an 8 year old boy was one of three people killed in the explosion.  He was waiting to see his dad cross the finish line.

I can’t begin to understand why this happened.

I can’t fathom why anyone would do this to people who were gathered to watch an event which celebrates the capacity of humanity for good.

It was a vile, cowardly act.

Today the news is all about what happened in Boston and my prayers are with those affected.

But my prayers are also with those elsewhere.

Yesterday at least 31 people were killed and hundreds hurt in a series of explosions across Iraq.

That hasn’t been on the tv news today.  There have been no interviews with people driving to work who saw the car bombs explode, no further reports of casualties, no speculation about whether London should close its roads as a result of the events in Iraq at the top of every news bulletin.

These bombings in Iraq were not of military targets.  They were cowardly attacks on people travelling to work and on a check point at the airport.

These events lead me to wonder about the value of life.  More specifically I wonder why we value the lives of some people more than others?

Because we do.

So, today my prayers are with all those whose lives were devastated by bombs yesterday… in Boston, Nasariyah, Kirkuk and Baghdad.

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It stuck me that my ‘Unresolved’ post was almost entirely negative.  It was all about what I didn’t do in 2012, what I failed to achieve.

Well, I’m not going to let 2012 pass without adding some balance because in 2012 two brilliant, never to be repeated things happened…

The Olympic Park Run

In March I ran a race with Sally Gunnel, Roger Black and Princess Beatrice around the Olympic Stadium and I beat a guy called Bolt by 2 seconds.  It was Andy Bolt from Sheffield… but it makes a great story!

olympic park run certificate

I won one of 5,000 places in a once in a lifetime race around the Olympic Park in London.  I was part of the first race to finish in the Olympic Stadium and it was amazing.  I’ll never forget it.

olympic park run

We ran past the now iconic venues of the 2012 Olympic Games and round the tunnel beneath the Olympic Stadium to the strains of the theme from Chariots of Fire.  Emerging onto that track was one of the most unbelievable feelings.  It still feels like a dream.

My First Marathon


At the end of May I did battle with the 26.2 miles of the marathon for the first time.

It was an outrageously hot day in Edinburgh but I loved the run.  It was hard, I had to dig deep, but the sense of community and shared purpose and achievement was something I’ll treasure.

I am the 1%… even if I did throw up at the end and loose the nails from my two big toes!

Time Isn’t Everything

I set time goals for both these runs at the start of the year.  I decided before the start of both that the time didn’t matter.  I wanted to enjoy the runs and see the finish.  I had been injured before the Olympic Park Run and it was just too hot to chase a time in Edinburgh.

Sometimes the journey is the important thing.  Of course the destination is important but every run is made up of each step, not just crossing the line.  I’m glad I ditched the times and took my time to savour as much as I could.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere…

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