Extreme marathon, growth and the black hole

After a year and a half of preparation, I started the toughest marathon in the world at the beginning of April; the Marathon des Sables (MdS), 230 km run through the Sahara in 6 days.

Happiness is not in the medal

Happiness was in overcoming what I was most upset about - the longest day when I had to run for 78 km in 40 degrees across the desert in 1 day. I was nervous the night before. Could I do it? My fears were more mental than physical. Could I handle it? What if I cannot go through? I discussed it with one of my tenants who had completed the MdS before. He gave me a last-minute tip. Till now I am grateful for this tip. I will share this tip with you at the end of my story.

On this long and heavy day, there were 2 real moments of happiness: the moment I saw the finish line looming in the distance after a 74 km walk on top of a mountain in the dark. The joy and happiness I experienced at that time were incredible. With a huge smile on my face. Unforgettable. As a powerful reminder to always go back to. And then 30 minutes later when you are in a tent. Indescribable feeling. What a lucky experience. So bizarre. So intense. So beautiful.

But also the realization. Have I trained for this for a year? Yes, and it was all worth it.

The desert has made me mentally stronger. You can do twice as much as you think. And perhaps more. And these insights and experiences were really worth everything. Being mentally powerful while being close to yourself.

After that long day, we had a rest day. That morning I felt strong and energized. I was able to run again. After the rest day, a full marathon was on the program. It is so interesting to notice that you belittled the marathon after you had done it. "Ah .. just a marathon through the desert and then it is over." For how many years had I looked up to that distance?! Bizarre to experience how your brain makes "mindfucks".

And then the medal. It has no value. It didn't make me happier. HAPPINESS was not in the medal but it was in experiencing the journey to the medal and the victories in overcoming things that I feared the most.

Shortly afterward: Family time! We went to Ibiza with the family for two weeks to recover. There we made beautiful trips and relaxed.

The black hole

Looking back on this year, what I especially miss is the high level of fitness I had just before my departure for the desert. It was busy at the time because of the moving, my business, family and a training schedule of +/- 10 hours per week. I really could have it all. Mentally and physically. It didn't matter if more could be done. So much energy, so fit, so powerful. I almost felt like a superhuman. After the MdS I fell into a hole in the sports field, I couldn't find it. I was warned. New goals did not catch me. In the last 8 months, I started doing strength training. I was still running but with ups-and-downs. I really lost it. And I didn't want to go directly to a new goal either. I didn't want to get addicted to goals, get them and then end up in a black hole again to have a new goal. The most important insight for me is that the goal is a means for me to live at a higher level of health and fitness. The goal is an extra, a way to meet new people, learn new things, grow mentally and see new environments.

Moving to a new house

Last March we moved to our new home at the city park (Stadspark). A nice place where the children can play in a large playground around the corner in a nice neighborhood and close to a school. 

Other personal highlights:

  • My son Valentine (6.5) who decided to take a cold shower (after my example;)). And how proud he was afterward. And how proud I was, of course. Magnificent!
  • My daughter Emily (4) who was so proud of the fashion show she gave to the family on her birthday. Beautiful!
  • This year I also cycled the Elfstedentocht with my father (72). It was a beautiful day. What I mainly remember is my father's physical condition. I hope I can do what he does at his age.
  • The beautiful summer holiday with lots of sun on the Veluwe.
  • The half marathon in 1:31 hours in Ibiza.
  • The half marathon in 1:30 hours in Leeuwarden.
  • 10 talks about my adventure in the Sahara.
  • I did a bear run on Terschelling (full marathon, toughest in NL). The end of the run was bad and also got an important lesson that good running condition requires a lot of maintenance.
  • A few days ago I completed 28 km of the Sint Thomas Trail running through Frisian (corn) fields, mud, flooded grassland, and forests.
  • And I also completed other runs like 4 Mile, Bomb bear run, Dam to Dam loop, Noorderplantsoenloop.
  • What I also did this year was having laser eye surgery. The operation went well but it took more than 4 months to recover.

Low point

This year also had a black page. A coaching client of mine that I have been helping for many years and have known for 10 years, lost his pregnant wife in May. She died when she was 28 weeks pregnant with twins. The twins (a boy and a girl) survived. This was unimaginable. So much sorrow. So intense.

It touched many people and of course also deeply affected me. Last summer we talked a lot with him and we had to make many tough choices in his business. But I was able to help him shape his business and adjust to his new life. That was exciting but we have now succeeded.

Clean up

It was also time to clean up again. At the end of the summer, I looked at where I am standing now. Where does all my time go? It turned out that over the years I have been participating in 14 different activities such as advisory boards, boards, network clubs, etc. in addition to my normal activities. When I added that up, I realized that this was too much for me, even though I found them all fun and interesting. After several conversations, I put down several functions in these activities. Delicious and liberating. At the same time, this gave me room for new challenges. Main insight here: have good criteria on what to say YES and regularly check whether you go somewhere out of habit or because it gives you energy and adds value.

Traffic & Conversion Summit

Every year the Traffic & Conversion event is held in San Diego. I have been there again this year. It is the best event in the field of online marketing & sales. Many of my "heroes" were present there. Last year I brought a group of 10 entrepreneurs, experts, and investors. And next year I will go again, there are 15 people going with me. If you also want to join, visit the website: www.trafficandconversionsummit.com (if you want to be on top of online marketing & sales: don't hesitate, just book, it is a no-brainer) Or check: www.alexvanginneken.com/blog/traffic-and-conversion-2020

Business highlights

I had 3 two day meetings last year with my business mastermind group. It is so nice to have a Mastermind group, a group where you know each other, which motivates, inspires and supports each other.

I had a trip to Italy where I spoke at an event about sustainability in a breathtaking location. There was a nice group of entrepreneurs, administrators, and politicians (including Diederik Samsom).

We launched Streaminar.com software that makes it possible to easily organize and monitor live streaming events.

I had a trip to London where I attended the book presentation of Marie Forleo.

Superfood.nl, one of my participations, has experienced tremendous growth again this year. Supergreens.nl is very popular!

Nieuwbouw Online BV has also been able to grow, our development team has expanded and now around 8,000 consumers find their new construction house via our platform every year.

I became a mentor at Startup in Residence. A program in which startups solve a social problem in the province.

FINALLY, after 22 years I was able to buy the domain name vanginneken.nl :)

I received a personal invitation from PRINS CONSTANTIJN to a meeting in January to discuss the eco-system of start-up & scale-ups. Super excited!

Next year

Also next year I created new plans and set goals. It's time for something new: Vipassana, which is a 10-day silent meditation retreat. Due to the full life where we intensively use mobile phones, social media, have many appointments, family, it is difficult to stand still and reflect on our life. Now as a person I always like to be with myself (need a lot of me-time), I like to take the time to think, but I know that there is a much higher level. I know that this will give me (new) deeper insights. I also know it's going to give me things I have never expected.

The other event for next year is Mont Blanc. 170 km (UTMB) of running through the mountains in 7 days with over 12,000 vertical meters. The real endurance training has yet to begin. But there is a good basis to work from. And as I said before, this is a way for me to have and maintain a high fitness level.

In terms of business, I am really looking forward to it. The coaching really caught me last year. I like to support entrepreneurs/companies with growth. The cases are also becoming more and more challenging with acquisitions, sales, funding and innovative companies that are mainly looking for speed. Because I already had several international coaching clients in recent years, I also decided to continue my coaching in English and I am also going to create a lot of coaching materials in English. And of course, that includes a new website: www.alexvanginneken.com

Final words

I look back on an intensive and beautiful year with many beautiful heart-to-heart conversations, with more connection than ever. A year where I became more open, more daring to share, I saw my mistakes and became more honest to myself. But at the same time more secure and powerful. I know that I always put a lot of energy on the "outside" in order to create a perfect picture. That is what the entrepreneurs do. And that is the pitfall of being an entrepreneur. You've been trained to say you're fine. (Because who wants to do business with someone who is not fine?).

I just really enjoy real 1-on-1 conversations when it comes to personal growth, challenges, and entrepreneurship. Depth. The real shit. Deep connection. Previously, I thought that my value was in sharing (and thus collecting) as much knowledge as possible. What I like so much is that I help people by listening to them, giving feedback and, above all, giving confidence. And if I can do this for the rest of my life then I'm happy.

And if I can give something: nothing works as liberating as setting an extreme goal. To do things. Leave things. Have a plan. Networking. To learn. Be coachable. It feels like starting a business. Nice pioneering and growing. Delicious! And it is so beautiful to see that your environment grows when you take on such challenges. And the most important tip that I brought from the desert and that I want to share: walk from a checkpoint to a checkpoint: don't look at 2020 as a year, make it small, put milestones and go from milestone to milestone.

A smile from the heart,

Alex van Ginneken

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