That's me on an early training run in Byron Bay when I weighed over 100 kg.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Final Tally = $186, 659.74

This says it all:

Team Amnesty Australia

Thank you once again everyone, your support has been truly amazing. Please know that somewhere, someone is benefiting directly from your generosity and kindness. 

Alvaro Acevedo
Andy Firman
Anita Pollard
Anonymous X 7
Barbara Magee
Beauchamp Hotel
Bertin Sorgenfrey
Chris Harnett
Claude Bereny
Click Click Marketing
Colin Vucak
Crossing Family Lawyers
Dalim Software
Dan Bowen
Dan Collingbourne
David Payne
Donations via coin boxes around town
Elizabeth Hall
Elizabeth Robinson
Francine O'brien
Gabrielle Small
Gary McGrath
Gavin Costello
Gill Lister
Gillian Johnston
Hamish Black
Huong Nghia Peter Lu
Ian Gilmour
Ivan Jelic
Jane Heynes
Jennifer Lamb Massage
Jessica Sartini
Joe's Boxing Sydney
John Dobbin
Johnnie McDonald
Jonathan Dickson
Jonathan Kidd
Jörg Steeg
Justin Davies
Karen Hennlich
Kerryn Barton
Kurt Zinc
Lainey Gilmour
Leanne Gibbs
Lisa Fryar
Look Print / PosterCandy
Lyndal Smith
Mason Trouchet
MaX Fulcher
Merci Cafe
Michael Dray
Michael Herringe
Moheb Moses
Monika Majoros
Natasha Putnins
Niclas Westling
North Plains
Phil Sutherland
Richard Larsen
Richard Tucker
Rizk Hairdressers
Rob Armstrong
Robert Fisher
Samantha Gill
Sandra Gill
Sanjith Mohan
Sean Murphy
Selina Brendish
Steve Annear
Tanya Baini
The Database Dept
The Little Marionette
Tom Beckenham
Tony Spencer
Transfirmation Partners
Tristan Hanlon

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thank you dear sponsors

My Heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported my Running For Rights project. It was a great success. Our small team raised over $185,000 for Amnesty.  I completed the marathon without stopping, totally barefoot, in 4:35 hours, which, although no record-breaker, was well under my target of 5 hours. A full report is included here for those who are interested. 

Thank you once again for your very kind donations and support. Amnesty International's work is as important as ever right now. For those who wanted to donate but haven't got around to it yet, the page is open until November 30. It would be so wonderful to exceed my personal $9,000 target.

All the best,
John Dobbin

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My pain is nothing, compared to theirs

Blow Out at 4km
This year I have trained very hard in attempt of my first marathon. I am also running to raise money for Amnesty International, an organisation I have been involved with since the 80's. The hardest part was dealing with the pain of transitioning to barefoot running. What kept me going was the thought that whatever pain I felt was insignificant compared to the pain suffered every day by those I am trying to help.

I made the transition to barefoot running as a strategy to continue training. Before ditching my expensive running shoes, debilitating knee pain prevented me running more than 4 or 5 kilometres — a long way short of the 42 km needed for a marathon. As soon as I ditched the shoes, the knee pain disappeared and longer training runs became possible.

However, a new problem arose: extremely sore soles. The literature advised transitioning to barefoot slowly, starting with 100 meters then gradually increasing the distance. To keep up with the distances in my training plan, I bought some Xeros which are very basic sandals that allow for barefoot-style running while offering some protection. They work well, but it’s much better to run completely barefoot, there is better biomechanical feedback and cadence and pace is higher. I decided to try to force a more rapid adaption of my soles than advised and went straight into 6, 7 and 8 kilometre barefoot runs on bitumen. It was at times extremely painful. Large blisters formed but I forced myself to continue running on them.

Whenever my raw feet and blisters screamed at me to stop, I would think about the cause and the people that I am trying to help. People who are thrown into prison indefinitely for simply expressing their belief, people who are routinely tortured, women who are repeatability beaten and flogged for simply being women, refugees who are abandoned without hope

I ran on and on. My pain was nothing compared to theirs.

Contributions to Amnesty can be made here. Every dollar helps.

Originally published in Medium

Friday, September 27, 2013

And now for something completely different ...

Help me to raise $15,000 for Amnesty International by November 3rd 2013 and I will:

  • Run the New York Marathon barefoot
  • Tattoo the Amnesty logo onto my foot

I'm completely serious. I'm putting skin in the game. 

How you can help:

1. Toss a few bucks in yourself, it takes 30 seconds and you get a tax deductible receipt plus your name up in lights for the whole world to see.

2. Whip a hat around the office -- "hey, there's this crazy Ozzie getting a candle and barbed wire tattooed on his foot, chuck in a couple of bucks..."

3. Shout a round for Amnesty. Just one beer round money in here instead.

4. Ask your contacts to donate five bucks. If you encourage just 10 twitter/facebook/LinkedIn followers to donate, and they encourage 10 others, and they in turn encourage 10 more then this is the math: 10 x 10 x 10 x $5 = $5,000. And if the average donation is just ten bucks, then ...

5. Ask your company to donate. $250 buys a small logo on my marathon shirt, $500 a large one. I'm pretty sure the video of my tattoo will go viral, providing a great return on investment!

6. Let your local media know. They are always looking for a different ankle. 

7. Other ways? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mental 'Videos'

I am currently in Perth and entering my final six weeks of training before the big day. 

This was my running track this morning: City Beach to Trigg and back -- 13.4 km. It was probably the toughest training session I've done yet. 

Running on soft sand, in 20 km/h winds and through waist-deep surf surges was really hard. While I knew I had the fitness to complete the run, my brain just wanted me to stop and walk whenever I hit a difficult spot. I am finding such psychological barriers more difficult to overcome than physical barriers at the moment. 

To get through the run I employed a technique of playing mental 'videos' -- an internal vision of a perfect training run -- whenever my motivation waned. It worked really well. As soon as I 'played the video' my entire body relaxed, especially the shoulders, and I felt physically lighter. The running became less difficult, even if I increased the pace. It was quite amazing and I completed the run in good time.

That old adage, 'it's all in the mind', may indeed be true.

The Bridge Run

I completed the Blackmores Bridge Run last Sunday -- a 9 km run over the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I can't praise the organisers more highly, it was a terrific event. 

I finished the run in 55:35 minutes, barefoot of course. Even got interviewed about it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Voting for Human Rights

It is election day here in Australia. Asylum Seekers, yet again, are highly politicised and one of the tabloids' favourite 'folk devils'. On the good ship Oz, facts are being thrown overboard like Tampanese Children

Before casting my vote I thought I'd remind myself of a few facts:

1. There is no such thing as "illegals". 

People arriving in Australia are not breaking any law. As Julian Burnside, one Australia's most prominent QCs, says:

"The Coalition’s rhetoric is calculated to make the public believe that asylum seekers have broken the law.  The only way to test that is to ask what law they break.  The answer is: None.  
If Morrison [Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship] was honest about this, he would have to admit:
  • that boat people do not break any law by coming here, without papers, and asking for asylum;
  • that calling them “illegals” is calculated to make the public fearful of boat people;
  • that making the public fear them makes it possible to promise to mistreat them.
Incidentally, the word “illegals”, used as a noun to refer to refugees, was first used in the 1930s in reference to Jewish refugees.  It had the same disreputable purpose then as now: to give governments an excuse to treat them badly."

2. 90% of Asylum seekers are legitimate refugees. 

The majority of "boat-people" arriving on Australian shores are Afghan Hazara fleeing from deathly persecution. They are not, as many claim, "economic migrants". These people are fleeing for their lives and have few places to go.

Each grave is a story, and a unique one. Some were killed while going to work, while others lost their lives on the highways. One Hazara was killed commuting to his business and others on their way back from university. At one corner, five graves are built in a line. These belong to five cousins who had ventured out for a friendly cricket match and were fired upon at close range.

3. Australia is in breach of international law. 

The UN Human Rights Committee has found 143 violations of international law by Australia. This is the largest complaint ever made against Australia to the UN Committee. 

"This policy has subjected refugees to inhuman or degrading treatment in detention, denying effective judicial remedies such as legal appeals.
"It has seen some people detained for up to five years without being given detailed information regarding their detention or when they might be released, while others have been released after years of detention with no explanation, apology or compensation."

Prominent thinkers on all sides of politics are outraged by the refugee policies being touted by the major parties:

Malcolm Fraser, Former Liberal PM, says:

"The policies have become so unreal, so inhumane overall, it’s very hard to look at just one aspect, which increases the uncaring nature of the opposition. The terrible thing is that the opposition and the government both believe they can win votes by behaving in this way."

Barry Jones, Polymath and former Federal Labor candidate, says:

"The dehumanisation of refugees, who become faceless, nameless and rightless, is our greatest moral stain since the campaigns to hunt down and kill Aborigines."

Julian Burnside, AO QC, in his forthright article: How should we vote? says:

"This year has seen both major parties competing to outdo each other in their promises of cruelty to boat people.  If they were promising to be cruel to animals, they would be run out of town. If they were promising to be cruel to Jews, or to blue-eyed people, or to carpenters, they would be run out of town.  But they have demonised asylum seekers – by dishonestly calling them “illegals”, by dishonestly suggesting that they are a threat to us.  Having created a false sense of concern about boat people, they can now win votes by promising to mistreat them.  It is an old, and disgraceful, technique."

He also offered some pragmatic suggestions about saving money with a more humane response. 

"There are plenty of country towns which are slowly shrinking as people leave. Given that AgForce Queensland, a leading industry body, estimates that there are an estimated 96,000 unfilled full-time argicultural jobs in country areas"

Here are some resources on voting options around the Human Rights issue:

  • GetUp have produced a series of policy scorecards for each electorate, which includes a section on Human Rights
  • The Refugee Council of Australia have produced a summary (PDF) of the policies of major parties.
  • And well-researched Refugee Facts have a concise summary of key policy Similarities and Differences.

Well, its time for me to go and vote...

Friday, September 6, 2013

What losing 40 kg in a year looks like

Damn, I wish I thought of doing a photo montage like this:

Amanda lost 40kg (88 lbs) by adhering to a Low-Carb-High-Fat diet for 12 months. More about this here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Bay Run

The Bay Run is an annual community run event. It is a 7 km circumnavigation of Iron Cove in Sydney. It is also one of my favourite regular training runs, which I usually do while my son is rugby training on one of the adjoining ovals.

It was a great event and I am pleased to say that I was the first barefooter across the line. In fact, I was the only barefooter.

My results:
Official time: 38:32 
Overall rank: 892 of 1881
Category rank: 59 of 89
Gender rank: 590 of 836
Speed: 10.90
Pace: 5:30

Monday, July 29, 2013

First Running Race in over 25 years

Yesterday I completed my first running race in over 25 years. It was the Fremantle 5K Fun Run. The last run I did was the Perth City to Surf, so it was nice to return to Western Australia for this milestone.

I am in Western Australia to catch up with old friends. I attended an Old Boy's reunion on Friday night and on Saturday night, a friend's birthday drinks. So I wasn't exactly in top shape when I woke at dawn to walk the course to determine if the ground was smooth enough to run pure barefoot. It wasn't. Parts of the course were very rough and hurt to walk on, so I donned my Xero's for the race.

Although all I aimed to do was finish without stopping, I found myself trying to keep pace with the main pack and in the first kilometer actually overtook a few people. At the 2km mark my weekend indulgences started making me feel a bit queasy and I slowed down again until this feeling subsided.

I crossed the finish line in 28: 58 minutes and came 5th in my category, which I was elated with.

Friday, July 19, 2013

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Do yourself a favour, grab a quiet moment, sit back and watch this hauntingly beautiful 20 minute short film (which includes some noteworthy barefoot running).

"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is based on the short story by Ambrose Bierce.  Set during the American Civil War, it is the story of Peyton Farquhar, a Confederate sympathiser condemned to death by hanging from Owl Creek Bridge.

A copy of the story is here.

Thanks to the Natural Running Center for alerting me to this gem.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Just learnt that the girls at Merci, the local coffee cart on Oxford Street, Paddington, donated all of their tips last week to Amnesty!

All I can say is ... merci beaucoup!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Amnesty's Amazing Work

For anyone unsure what exactly Amnesty does, or where the money goes, this short video explains it very well.

Please help change the world.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

9 Months

Tonight I had a flashback: a few years ago a friend invited me to join her on an Annandale to ANZAC Bridge circuit run. I immediately and irrefutably declined. At the time it seemed an incomprehensible challenge. I could not propel my 110 kilogram bulk to jog even a couple of kilometres. I'd be puffed just walking up a moderate hill. I was in awe of her running ability, and had lost all hope in mine.

View to Sydney Harbour Bridge from ANZAC Bridge

Tonight, I breezed around exactly the same 9.5 kilometre circuit. It has only been 9 months since I commenced running regularly. First for just a few hundred meters, then a kilometre, then two ... Now, I can knock out a 10 kilometre run after work and barely break a sweat. It feels so easy. This, I thought to myself, is pretty damn amazing.

And what a pleasure running is, on so many levels. The feeling of lightness and springiness in my body. Being out in the crisp winter night's air. The view of the city lights reflected onto the black, mirror-smooth water. The energy pulsing through my veins. The Who Live at Leeds pulsing through my ear buds.

Thank you running. I feel reborn.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Xeros: 'spare tyres' for feet

Warning: this article contains images that some readers may find disturbing.

I am enjoying my transition to barefoot running immensely. I am much lighter on my feet and have experienced no knee pain or plantar fasciitis (heel pain) at all since commencing. This is a major breakthrough.

When I first enlisted in the 2013 New York Marathon, put on my expensive runners and hit the pavement, knee and heel pain threatened to terminate my plans. Despite resting, stretching or ice treatment, every time I went out I would experience heel and/or knee pain after just a few kilometres. Lot's of people suggested barefoot or natural running as a potential cure, so I switched over and never looked back.

Running barefoot forces good running form by providing precise sensory feedback when the foot lands on the running surface and encourages a proper forefoot striking pattern. This in turn corrects the entire biomechanics of running.

First night out with my Xeros

Problem was my 51 year old shoe-cuddled feet were as soft as rice paper and walking just a few blocks on rough Sydney footpaths was excruciating. So I ordered some Xero huaraches (sandals) and problem solved. These very thin sandals provide protection to the sole with minimal sensory interference. On my first night out with them I clocked up 7 kilometres -- with no pain!

Ultimately I want to run as much as I can completely barefoot, and keep the Xeros for trails and those hot summer afternoons when the footpath feels like a barbecue plate on Australia Day. Gradually I have been increasing my barefoot time and strapping the Xeros on at a point when my feet become tender.

Blowout at 4 km

The other day I decided to head out without them on an 8k run. Bad idea. About 4k in and I had a blowout: a blister burst open. I discovered the memorable and unpleasant fact that walking barefoot on any surface with a burst blister is like some sort of medieval torture. Every little stone or blade of grass seems to find its way into the soft, pink, and very sensitive dermis. I limped home with the resolve never to head out without my Xeros again.

Now, every time a run more than about 6 km I tuck my Xeros into the back of my shorts. My spare tyre as it were. They are so light I am barely aware of them. I highly recommend this strategy for those starting out barefoot.

Note: If you would like to order some Xeros, you can do so here. The small affiliate commission will be donated to Amnesty. Everybody wins.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A flying start to the year

I am very pleased with my progress so far this year. With all the pre-Christmas indulgences -- cocktail parties, boozy lunches, boozier barbecues and a lot of skipped training sessions -- my weight jumped from 96 kg to 98 kg and my fitness waned noticeably. On Boxing day I put all that behind me and got serious. One month later and I am down to 92.5 kg (that's over 5kg shed in 4 weeks) and feeling much fitter. The plan (described below) is working well:

5:2 diet

As previously posted, I have commenced a 5:2 diet. This means that I fast twice per week. On those days I eat less than 600 calories. My 'breakfast' consists of perhaps a boiled egg, or a punnet of strawberries; 'lunch' is a few sticks of celery and a carrot or two or a tomato, and 'dinner' is a delicious miso soup. The fasting days are much easier than I thought they would be. As long as I graze on some celery or carrots during the day I do not feel famished. I am even doing weights training on these days.

On my five feed days I am allowed to eat anything I want to. I have had no problem at all achieving this. In fact I even managed to knock over a couple of amazing Argentinean feasts at Porteno's, my favourite casual restaurant at the moment. But usually I do not overeat on feed days. I have noticed that my satiation point is much lower and I feel full with significantly smaller portions. I also feel naturally attracted to healthy foods, and inversely repulsed by junk. Even the sight or smell of pizza or chips is a visceral turn-off, which certainly wasn't the case before commencing this diet. It is as if my body is becoming sympathetically attuned to healthier food -- a very pleasing and unexpected outcome.

Variety of low intensity exercise every couple of days

Most of my training is low intensity training in order to build up my aerobic base (which I wrote about previously). I mix the training up so I'm not always running. This gives my leg muscles time to recover (muscles only grow during the recovery period) and should develop my body more evenly.  It also injects pleasant variety into my regime. So as well as running I am ocean swimming and doing the occasional cardio workout at the gym.

Cardio work at Camperdown Fitness

I try to get at least two runs per week in, preferably three. Once a week I aim at a long run that is 10% longer than the previous week. I am now up to 19km. Although I call them 'runs', much of the time I have to speed-walk in order to keep my heart rate below the right threshold. So really my 'runs' are 25% running and 75% speed walking. My expectation is that the running portion will increase as my aerobic capacity improves.

Strength training at least twice per week

The theory is that the stronger my muscles are the easier work, including running, will be. So twice a week (soon to increase to three times per week) I go to the gym and push heavy weights around: squats, bench presses, shoulder presses, dead lifts & power cleans plus some chin ups or dips if I'm feeing particularly energetic. If I was purely focussing on the marathon I would just do leg work but I want all-round physical development; plus I'm toying with the idea of triathlons and iron man events in 2014. I'll explain my strength training methodology in a future post.

Active recovery on off-days

On days that I feel in any way fatigued I skip a training session. This is not being a wimp, it is being sensible. If the body can't recover properly it will get sick. I know this only too well. For about two years prior to undertaking this project I fluctuated between high-intensity exercise periods and the sick bed. I'd hit the gym or boxing class (real boxing that is) four times a week for a month or two then be wiped out by a cold or muscle injury for three months, and then repeat the cycle. So now if I am feeling a bit tired or fatigued then I do some very light exercise such as gardening or walking the dog. I also sail once per week which is like forced active recovery.

In conclusion, the plan is working very well so far. I am feeling fit and healthy, my strength is increasing and body fat is melting away. Next month is really a continuation and refinement of this plan. My complete training log is on DailyMile.

Sponsorship of my quest via a small donation to Amnesty is most welcome and can be made here.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thank you dear sponsors!

Thank you, thank you, thank you dear sponsors -- I have passed the first $1,000 milestone!

I very much appreciate your generosity, especially at this time of year when there are so many distractions and competing priorities. You are very special people.

You can be sure that I am training and campaigning hard for human rights. It's a great cause that you have contributed to.

Once again, thank you!

If anyone else would like to donate, please do so here. Every little bit helps.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Developing my Aerobic Base

After a fair bit of research I have decided to devote the majority of my training time, in the initial months at least, to developing my aerobic base. This means concentrating on exercises that improve the efficiency of type I, slow contraction, muscle fibres rather than working the type II, faster contraction, muscle fibres. This means mostly low-intensity running, swimming and aerobic machines at the gym.

As can be seen in this table, type I muscle fibres have an important property for endurance events: their maximum duration-of-use is measured in hours not minutes. The other great thing about these fibres is that their energy source is fats (triglycerides), not sugars; so training that primarily utilises these fibres should maximise fat loss.

Training type I fibres means staying below the anaerobic threshold (also called the lactate threshold), which is the point where lactic acid is produced faster than it can be removed. To estimate anaerobic threshold (AT) I am using the "180 formula" derived by Dr. Philip Maffetone.

By using a heart rate monitor during training I can ensure that I am always just underneath my AT. It is my AT level that sets my pace -- as soon as my heart monitor says "over zone" through my headphones, I drop back to a fast walk (I am using a Wahoo Bluetooth heart rate monitor in conduction with the iSmoothRun iPhone app). Each week, as my aerobic system improves, I should see my pace increase. The point when it stops improving will be the time to change to a different plan.

A lot more about this method of training can be found on the Natural Running Centre website.

The 5:2 diet

A friend of mine, Julie, is not someone who recommends something lightly. She is a sharp thinker and avid researcher  So when Julie recommend the 5:2 diet, I just leap in. After all, I need to lose about 20 kg in 10 months in order to complete the New York Marathon. And the sooner it comes off the better.

The 5:2 diet is pretty simple: eat normally for 5 days (easy) and fast for two non-consecutive days (eek). Fasting in this diet means less than 600 calories per day (500 for women).

Dinner ingredients for miso soup 

I started yesterday. Breakfast was a greek salad and two black coffees, 'lunch' was a few grapes and some watermelon and dinner a few pieces of sashimi and miso soup. I certainly felt the pang of hunger, but the funny thing was that it felt good. It felt like a type of slow motion work out. I knew I was doing something good for my body. And I love the idea of only counting calories on 2 days.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My New Year's Declaration

I don't normally do New Year's Resolutions, but this year I want to make a small declaration. As part of my Running for Rights project, my intention is to become a more vocal campaigner for human rights in 2013.

It is all too easy to remain silent about contentious issues such as boat-people, to sit on the sidelines while the debate rages in the media, at the pub or during a dinner party. I am sorry to say that I have been guilty of not always speaking my mind in case I put a client, friend or family member off-side. Disguised as 'politeness', such silence is more closely related to fear. The price of such 'politeness' is to allow important ethical issues to drowned out by loud opinions and bigoted voices.

So this year I intend to be more vocal, to make comments in the media, to research facts and inject them into debates; and not to be so 'polite' when conversations involving ethical issues crop up. Let's see how it goes.