Tag Archives: Running

Looking back at my experiences and achievements in 2015

In the beginning of this year, I formulated no less than ten New Year’s Resolutions. For me, the end of the year is the natural moment to look back and review what I experienced and achieved throughout the year.

This is how I did:

  • Live together with the girl I feel in love with last year

Yes! And it is a very special experience. Moving in together comes with some challenges. But these challenges are insignificant in comparison to the wonderful pleasure of being together every day.

  • Track and improve my sleep

Fairly well. Especially in the beginning of the year, I used sleep-tracking apps. They helped me somewhat improve my discipline in going to sleep and getting out to bed on time. But I haven’t systematically used them all year round. And my sleeping habits still can improve.

  • Expand my blog

Not bad. Especially after summer, I’ve opted for a somewhat slower frequency. I’ve taken the chance to take on some speaking occasions presenting my work in this field. But maybe most importantly, I’ve visited two ‘happy countries’ this year: Denmark and Bhutan.

  • Work on my health by running or by yoga

Could be better. I regularly do yoga, but not every week. And while I ran a personal best at the 5k (22 min 20 seconds!), I have only ran in training for that race, not all year round.

  • Celebrate my 30th birthday

Yes! And I celebrated it well, spending a weekend in the Belgian Ardennes with a group of friends.

  • Continue to do well at work

I think so. My role within our team has grown this year. And in the last week before the holidays, I won a new promotion (yeah!)

  • Travel to two new countries: Portugal and Bhutan (finally!)

Yes! I spent two weeks in both of them, discovering different towns and landscapes and learning a lot about their culture. And apart from these two, I also visited Denmark for the first time and made stopovers in Nepal and Qatar en route to Bhutan.

  • Watch at least one new TED talk per week

Almost. I’ve had a good amount of inspiration in watching TED talks this year, with topics ranging from basic income to indoor plants to improve air quality in house and from the strength of Muslim women in peace processes to cold-water surfing. While I saw many, I don’t think I got to one per week. And unfortunately I did’t attend any TEDx events this year.

  • Read novels and books about happiness

A little bit! A quick glance at my current happiness bookshelf suggests there aren’t too many additions: books on the November GNH conference in Bhutan and The Power of Negative Emotions being the exceptions. Still, (un)happiness was also a theme in other books that I read, such as Haruki Murakami’s title Norwegian Wood. And reading A History of the World in Twelve Maps also made me happy!

  • Become a better public speaker

Yes! Two and half years after joining, I finished Toastmasters International‘s Competent Communication programme. And I undertook some public speaking opportunities to talk about my discoveries on happiness.


Especially in the beginning of the year, I occasionally took a glance at the list to remind me what I wanted to achieve. But as the year progress, I took more and more distance. And now, I don’t even understand why I needed ten goals.

Goals are helpful to meet objectives and develop yourself. But if there is one goal I have for 2016, it is to have less goals…

Runner’s high

A man possesses nothing certainly save a brief loan of his own body, yet the body of man is capable of much curious pleasure.

James Branch Cabell, American author, 1879-1958

As I’ve written here before, ‘flow’ is one of my favourite experiences. ‘Flow’ or ‘optimal experience’ is a term used by positive psychologist Mihaly Csiskszentmihalyi, the most boring hero I have. With the concept, he describes the feeling you have when you’re so engaged in an activity that you lose track of time and place. Concentration is intense. Your activity challenges all your skills. Your self-consciousness disappears.

Very briefly, I experience such a feeling of flow when I was running the 20 kilometers of Brussels yesterday. It was close to the half-way point in the Bois de la Cambre. I had trained in this park before, and exactly knew where the curves of the road would take me. On a bridge above the street, a DJ was playing music. I didn’t actively notice which song it was, but it fitted the rhythm of my steps. And though I already had suffered the heat before – and would still suffer it a lot more afterwards – at this point close to the 10k mark, I entered my flow and ran effortless. A large smile appeared on my face. I was euphoric.

I experienced, I like to think, a runner’s high.

A runner’s high, tells Wikipedia, occurs when people exercise so strenuously that their bodies reach a certain threshold. A switch is turned, flow is achieved. In chemical terms, it’s created by the release of endorphins during intense workouts. Endorphins reduce the sensation of anxiety and pain and cause feelings of euphoria.

Running 20k on a warm day, like yesterday, is not fun. With a temperature above 20 degrees and a burning sun, I had to take regular breaks to get my body temperature  down (I had gotten sun burnt the day before, and still felt a bit light in my head). But when I crossed the finish line after 2 hours, 12 minutes and 19 seconds, nothing of this mattered. All suffering disappeared. I was proud. I was happy.

The body of man, Cabell said, is capable of much ‘curious pleasure’.

Crossing the finish (to the left side, in a Dutch orange shirt). Screenshot taken from a video from the site of the 20k of Brussels.

Crossing the finish (to the left side, in a Dutch orange shirt). Screenshot taken from a video from the site of the 20k of Brussels.