Last weekend, I joined a new community. A few months ago I had no idea this community existed, when with friends Ross and Tim we agreed to take on the challenge of running our first ultra-marathon, 53 miles along the West Highland Way from Glasgow to Tyndrum. Our winter training might have been tough but the uplifting scenery and the camaraderie of new friendships, with our group growing to 6, kept us going as the miles increased weekly from 15, to 20 to 25 and the race day of April 26th came ever closer.
I have always been interested in communities, especially the eclectic and eccentric. What common bond brings people from Holland, Germany, Scandinavia and Australia to Wales for the annual bog snorkelling championships, year after year for example?
Working in social enterprise is a privilege. Our community isn’t easily defined; we may and occasionally do, disagree about characteristics, but what is undeniable is that we share values and motivation to combat inequality and achieve social change.
At the Social Enterprise Alliance annual conference in Nashville in April I had engaging, interesting and often highly motivating conversations with social enterprise leaders and practitioners. Yes there are differences, I was struck by the ease that for-profit businesses, who have significant social purpose are embraced and encouraged by those in social enterprise in the USA, less fixated by concepts of sector, more open to the notion that if social value is the goal, it’s not that important where it is created and by whom. I was also struck by the high profile of faith based social enterprises and the ease of their leaders in describing how their personal faith was the main driver of their social entrepreneurship.
I look forward to conversing with friends old and new, in the coming weeks as we construct our international social enterprise group, (leaders, practitioners and supporters), to travel to Seoul in October for the Social Enterprise World Forum and onwards to Shanghai to experience social enterprise in China. This is the highlight of my working year, the annual opportunity to engage my antennae for discovery and enjoy the company of other social entrepreneurs as we observe, interact, network and share, all of the time building and extending our social enterprise community. For further details, click here.
And the race? At my darkest moment going uphill steeply at 23 miles, tiredness enveloping both legs, stomach cramping as it battled digestion of carb number 3000 in 4 hours, and a brain letting me know there was 30 miles to go…. a pat on the back and an encouraging word from a fellow competitor, on the same journey, perhaps just through or about to face their own dark moment, gave me a lift. I made the hill, then made the next one and soon both brain and body were back in focus on the journey ahead.
Not unlike our daily lives, ups and downs, highs and lows, using our determination to push through the challenges, enjoying the achievements big and small, observing those around us, encouraging and being encouraged, moving forward, if only slowly at times.
At these distances physical condition helps, but the power of the mind to push through the truly dark, defeatist and miserable moments, to visualise the joy of finishing, the relief of stopping and the achievement of completing, is the main factor in determining where you finish and probably why, I am very likely to return. While my post-race reaction was to swear never to do this again, after all the box is ticked and I’ve got the t-shirt and the champagne, I realise it’s not as simple as that. As the pain and stiffness subsides, I look at the facebook messages of the “ultra dafties training group” looking forward to Kintyre Way 66 mile run on May 9th or the 69 mile Hadrians Wall race in June, and wonder if my training pals would be interested in one of those super long races next year? I realise, having just been introduced to the eccentric, supportive and incredibly motivating ultra-runner community, I’m not quite ready to leave this group yet.
Read last week’s blog here