Sam Staggers On: An origins story

If you’ve spent any time on this site or the various social channels associated (@SamStaggersOn everywhere), you’ll be aware that it’s probably 70% running, 20% food and 10% miscellaneous.

But before I got it into my head that running long distances was something I was meant to do (thanks Chris MacDougall and Scott Jurek), the split would probably have been 70% football, 20% alcohol and 10% angst – running just didn’t exist to me.

In fact, I think I was 22 or 23 before I ever considered running without some kind of ball involvement (insert childish joke). That’s not to say I was inactive though. In my school “career” I played almost every sport you could think of – football, rugby, rugby league, water polo, hockey, cricket, softball – even representing Southampton in swimming (that’s really not a brag, I think I came last in my one appearance and then gave up because you had to train in the morning).

I also had no concept of people running for the sake of running. I was aware that running shoes were sold but nowhere did I see people using them for the purpose they were intended. My dad had a pair which in tandem with some short shorts and long wool rugby socks would occasionally disappear for a few minutes but I don’t think he would have called himself a runner. Running was thing you did to be fit for other more enjoyable things.

Coincidentally though, around the time of his jogging in white Nikes, the very first seeds of Sam Staggers On were sewn. Nothing to do with running, just an innocuous German calendar in the kitchen of my next door neighbour’s house.

See my name is Sam. And today is Saturday. But in Germany, they speak like foreigners and call it SAMSTAG. HAHAHA hilarious right. It sounds like my name but it is also a day of the week in another country. Amazing.

So for a while in a small corner of Southampton, I was called Samstag, or stag for short. After that there was an increasingly baffling range of nicknames based on this same principle but I’ll leave that for now and leap forward to the blissfully Covid-free 2014 when I signed up for my second Ultra (London 2 Brighton 100k) and was looking for a way to keep myself honest.

My housemate at the time had a successful running blog and as a) nominally I consider myself a writer and b) she got sent free stuff; it sounded like an easy way to feed two birds with one scone.

But what to call my future empire of freebies and accomplishment? Well with a generous dose of British humility, I wanted to explain that I’m actually not very fast at running so there was unlikely to be any insights or ways to make you a better runner. I was also not keen on reviews as I firmly believe that what is right for me isn’t necessarily right for someone else.

All of which led to a running blog which wasn’t really about running. A sort of online diary of my thoughts while I trained or raced slowly. And for anyone that has done an ultra, you’ll know that race is a very loose term unless you’re at the front of the pack. Usually it’s just a lot of eating and walking until you see your crew or a photographer at which point you break into a trot which most resembles that shuffle people do on zebra crossings to give the impression they’re moving faster while not doing so at all.

It’s basically stumbling from one picnic to another. Or staggering. Hang on a minute! That sounds like my nickname from the early noughties and thus a double meaning if only for me and five other people (the nickname never really caught on outside 30 and 32 Hawkeswood Road).

So Sam Staggers On the blog became and @SamStaggersOn across social media. I was pretty happy with myself. It was personal to me yet belied a struggle which all good narratives have while also being positive. Solved. Now to wait and watch myself turn into a running influencer.

Except like all average brands with no particular goal, the meaning, as well as the actual structure was lost on other people.

Some thought that Staggerson was my surname – “Hi I’m Sam Staggerson”?? Some thought it was a drinking reference (which to be fair…). Some just didn’t see the humour and self-referencing that I could and like most jokes where you have to explain the punchline, it fell slightly flatter than I was expecting.

Six years on and I am yet to hit a million followers on any platform and aside from my girlfriend, my mum and a few bored, kind-hearted souls around the world, I’m not even sure if anyone reads my blog.

Still, it fills a bit of time on a windy and rainy Saturday on a rock in the middle of the English Channel and on days like to today, it also helps me to realise that I’ve “published” a lot of stuff in the past six years. Not all of it gold by any stretch but the erratic act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) helps keep me a little bit more sane and slows the deterioration of a once average mind.

Sam Staggers On – in life, while running and online. Just one more step.

PS – today is Samstag 🙂 Unless you’re reading this on another day of the week. In which case read something else and come back on Saturday. I’m also hoping that there is someone called Donna who could potentially have the same backstory…

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