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Make your own Adventure

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to admit that some good things came out of lockdown, in amongst the things that were very (very!) challenging. Something I remember fondly is how hard we all worked to make happy moments out of what had previously been everyday things – we found the magic in local walks, making new meals, Zoom cocktails with friends and, in my case, a thriving local black market jigsaw exchange. I also remember how joyful it was when after many long weeks, I slightly furtively met a friend face to face on a street corner for a two-metre-catch-up, and eventually ate a poached egg that had been cooked by someone else!

In conceiving Jenny Bushell Adventures (my running coaching business), my hope was that I could help people to find everyday magic in their running lives – turning each run into a mini-adventure, each race into a day of exploration – finding out what our brains and bodies are capable of when we set them to work together and take away our preconceptions about what’s possible for us.

As I write, I’ve just been told that running is off the table for me for the next 3-4 months, and that it may be over a year before I’m ready to race at ultra distances again. My heart hurts, and my instinct is to crawl into bed to mope with comfort food, wine, and television – but I know that won’t make me happy. Instead, I’m determined to see if I can find my adventure in other ways, even if they aren’t the ones I’d have chosen. I really enjoy this concept of finding small ways to make our mundane more adventurous, so I thought I’d compile a list of micro-adventures – I would love to hear if any of these take your fancy!

Foodie adventures

I loved my food adventures in lockdown. Missing my usual post-parkrun brunch with running friends, I embarked on a mission to teach myself to cook as many new breakfast foods as possible. Beginning with poached eggs, I journeyed via pesto, shakshuka, English muffins, hollandaise sauce, crumpets, tortillas, bagels, a passable McDonalds breakfast muffin, Southern-style biscuits and gravy, croque monsieur and frittata. I know those aren’t all what you might call traditional breakfast foods! But it was great fun, especially the ones I made ‘cook-along’ style with friends live on Zoom. In the end, I was even gifted a huge cookbook featuring only breakfast recipes, such is my love for this meal. I also really enjoyed the time I found myself missing Spain and decided to make tapas. Two weeks later (once the special dishes had arrived!) I was feasting on prawns, croquetas, stuffed peppers and Estrella beer. With running taking up less time in my schedule for a few months, I hope I can get back into the rhythm of choosing a new recipe, seeking out the ingredients and taking the time to craft something tasty.

Novel adventures

A new book can be a wonderful adventure. There’s nothing like the feeling of getting completely lost in someone else’s world for a period of time. When I’m feeling a little down, a great book gives me a bit of space and escapism from life. For the past few years, towards the end of the summer term each year, I have asked my teaching colleagues for book recommendations – either all-time favourites or recent reads – and compiled a summer reading list. I’ve read some things that would never have come onto my radar otherwise, and have definitely challenged my comfort zone. You could ask friends to do something similar on social media, or maybe in a shared document – for extra adventure, ask for recommendations in a genre that you don’t normally go for.

Urban adventures

It may be tempting to think of adventures as things that can only happen out in the wilderness, perhaps with a tent and a stove, on one’s feet or by bike. But the adventure is to an extent in our minds, rather than the surroundings. If you live in an urban or a city area, you could use a day off to go exploring. Are there any walking routes in your neighbourhood? There could be ones which highlight film locations, blue plaques or just interesting features of the cityscape where you are. Pick a tube station, or a train station or bus stop – research a park, a museum or gallery, and a place to eat within walking distance, and combine them into a day out - there are infinite options. This is actually something I used to do with my sixth formers when I worked in a school in London – for their orientation day, I packed each group off into central London with a walking tour, an interesting museum, and a reservation at Pizza Express. They generally set out dubiously but came home buzzing! This is a type of adventure I need to explore more – I’ve got into a bit of a rut in thinking that the only good adventures are ones I undertake on my feet. But if that option is not on the cards, I’m not doing myself any favours by sitting at home and insisting that there’s nothing else out there.

Real-life microadventures

You might already be familiar with the idea of a microadventure – a 5-9 adventure that fits in between the end of one work day and the start of the next. You jump on a train or bus, or in the car, or set out on foot, and travel somewhere beautiful, interesting or inspiring for the evening, staying overnight before heading straight to work, adventure-fresh, in the morning. I’m sad to say that as yet I’ve never tried this, so perhaps it’s a challenge I’ll take on this term. This chap (according to the internet) is the ‘inventor’ of microadventures, or at least popularised them, and his blog is full of tips and ideas.

Running adventures

I could write pages and pages about different kinds of running adventure (and check out my trail running 101 blog if you’re looking for an off-road adventure) but there’s one in particular that I think is both fun and accessible – the FKT. Trail and ultra fans will probably have heard of the concept of the Fastest Known Time – a run on a particular route which does what it says on the tin; it’s the fastest time that route is known to have been completed in. It’s different from a race in that FKTs are attempted at a time of the runner’s choosing and are completed solo or in a small group. The concept has expanded from being mainly something done by elite runners on long and famous routes to something that all runners can try, with the routes having a huge variety of length, terrain, and location. I set my first (of several, I hope!) FKT last year on a route called the Surrey Three Peaks – taking in Box Hill, Leith Hill and Holmbury Hill. (It’s now been superseded by another runner, but I still get to keep that ‘first’ completion!) This is a route that I’d run much of previously, but I loved the challenge of setting out solo to see how fast I could do it. The FKT website lists all of the current recognised routes, which are added to continuously – so if you have a notable route in your area, you can apply for it to be added, and then set the first FKT on it.

Sporting adventures

While we probably don’t all need to take the challenge of taking up a new sport to the same level as this couple, I think a new sport provides a pretty good adventure. I find that when I take up something new, it’s a real confidence boost in the early weeks as progress is swift from a baseline of no ability whatsoever! Of course that doesn’t last forever, but it is still a great chance to find out about all the new things our bodies can do that we didn’t know about. Especially if (for whatever reason) we can’t do what we want to, it’s good to seek distraction and endorphins elsewhere, rather than sulking. I’ve just booked an induction to use the auto-belays at my local climbing wall – I’ve been bouldering for a while, but now I know I’m going to be off my feet for a while, I want to take it to the next level. The options are endless – you could consider cycling, climbing, swimming (in the pool or in open water), kayaking, a team sport like football or netball, or something studio-based like Pilates, yoga, boxing or spin. A great resource is the BBC ‘Get Inspired’ campaign – it’s a slightly ridiculously comprehensive list of different sports, with details about each and where you can go to find further information.

I hope at least one of these has taken your fancy – and I would absolutely love to hear about any other ideas for different adventures!

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I agree going for a completely different genre of book is a great road to travel. In lockdown I used a book of wild flowers to take on my walks. I'd like to do same with trees, butterflies, etc. There's a photographers approach too, try sitting and obverving a square metre of land, sky, street, sea and note everything in that space. There is a fascinating World out there, we're often in too much of a rush to appreciate.

Jenny Bushell
Jenny Bushell
Sep 02, 2021
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I love that. Reminds me of the technique to calm anxiety where you take each sense one at a time and note all the things you can see/smell/hear etc.

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