Inspiration can come from anywhere.
It can come from friends, family, nature, celebrities, disaster or random meetings.
The last place that I expected to find it was down a twisting country lane on a snowy Saturday morning whilst nursing a hangover and not having eaten breakfast (Tring railway station needs to up its game).
The reason for my early wander wasn’t entirely random.
I’d been shortlisted to become an ambassador for performance sportswear brand Ashmei and the Chilterns were the location for the Ambassador Day which sounded very grand and perhaps more in keeping with tuxedos and gold-covered treats than the tracksuit I was wearing.
I should probably point out that they hadn’t sought me out based on my 5.12 marathon PB or my 3.10 first ever triathlon (Dennis Kimetto and the Brownlees need not worry), I’d applied the previous year too and somehow got through this year.
As I was nearly an hour early, I decided to walk the mile or so to Ashmei HQ and was rewarded with the first treat of the day.
Light snow had settled on the fields and before 9am on a Saturday, barely anything was moving.
An ethereal vision of rural life held me entranced as I plodded along, trying to take pictures of the pheasants and somehow capture the majesty.
Of course I failed but it was still a beautiful scene nonetheless.
The headquarters were located just outside the village of Aldbury and consisted of a small, sleek looking room with some equally cool looking merchandise on display.
Outside there was a converted silver Airstream caravan and inside a blacked-out Jeep presenting some idea of the style and underlying substance of the kit.
Embarrassingly early for once, it was nice to meet some of the team and ambassadors before everyone else arrived.
I had my awkward picture taken (presumably to see how much airbrushing would be needed) and put my homework (two “polaroids” showing you and your sport) on the full-wall windows. This is one of mine, the other is here:
Then as people began to drift in, I hung around by the coffee (and amazing looking cakes).
Usually this type of gathering would not be my cup of tea but everybody was so friendly that “mingling” was a pleasure not a chore.
The personal stories I heard all had a common theme of running, cycling or triathlon but they came from many different backgrounds and history that each story was as intriguing as the next.
We were given an enlightening introduction to the sportswear industry, the company and their ethos by founder Stuart Brooke.
Simon had also done a video which has got me thinking about making one of my own at some point.
At this point we were due to head out onto the run but it was now half ten and I still hadn’t eaten so Geoff kindly let me have one of his son’s leftover birthday cakes (not sure how happy his son was but there was enough sugar to get me through an ultra).
We then proceeded to run along some joyfully muddy paths through fields, up hills and through forests whilst chatting to anyone who you happened to fall in step with.
Funnily enough, the first question was nearly always “What do you do?”.
Normally this would be answered by something about my job but here it was always “run”, “bike” or “triathlon”.
For me this meant a huge resource of athletes whose brains I could pick whilst gazing at the epic scenery around me.
The run was just under six miles but I could have happily gone around again to talk more to the people I did meet and find those I didn’t have a chance to.
Time flies when you’re having fun and also when you have a massive downhill finish to cake, coffee and warmth.
A few final words and we were free to leave although nobody seemed in a hurry so I also bought a Running Sweatshirt (review to follow) from the Airstream and continued to chat.
I reluctantly took a final piece of cake (refuelling – don’t judge) and jumped in the car of fellow ultrarunner Holly.
Snow had turned to rain so I was very appreciative of the lift and even on the short journey, I was inspired by her plans for the future (Cape Wrath Ultra looks stunning despite the midges).
So as I waited for the train on a cold, deserted platform, I thought back on the fact that although I had met them for the briefest of short moments, every person that I met was an inspiration.
And as if to prove the point, I did my longest and quickest bike ride ever on Monday (25 miles).
Thanks to everyone and the best of luck with your amazing endeavours (Thanks to Matt Fowler for the picture – I’m at the back!).