SIV: Six

It had been a struggle to finally come to a decision regarding the focus of the project. I kept going back and forth between defining an opportunity and concept ideating. The previous weekend was used to settle on a direction of focus and the Monday after I had only just started with the initial brainstorm of ideas.

I am aware that the focus this week is ideation, and it is my biggest worry that I have fallen a week behind my own plan. Truthfully, I still wasn’t sure where the decision I made will take me. I deliberately made the girth of the focus quite wide and general in hope that if I brainstormed widely I would have a better understanding where the greatest opportunities are.

The initial set of mind maps and lotus blossoms that I had done  illustrated such a narrow scope of ideas. Or should I say, could-be solutions that are obvious and practical. I chose to disregard this and made a conscious decision to plough on instead, as I knew I had still a mountain of work to tackle in order to be prepared for the concept presentation that is scheduled next Monday. I wasn’t too worried about the quality of ideas just yet as I was only just starting to ideate. I wrote it off as the process where my brain rids of its boring ideas to make room for better ones.

Naturally, I was apprehensive about the meeting and the interview with the AUT Sports Development Administrator and Moon Lee, who is a senior AUT gym instructor and marathon runner. I knew so well that I could not afford for any more time to go to waste. I was not sure at all whether the opportunity would benefit me but I also was not comfortable to pass it up in case it did.

Marathon running had come into my research  but I did not realize the scope it offered till this interview opportunity. I was afraid of tackling it as I did not really know the subject well enough to attempt a design intervention. I was far more comfortable with tackling something I knew about, as I would already have built-in insights regarding the subject.

I am not an elite runner and I do not run to compete. In fact, I am completely the opposite. I am a newcomer to running. I realized that I had been looking at running mainly through my perspective and this may be the reason why my mind maps and such had such a narrow scope. What I considered important are different from a marathon runner.  My main priority is my safety. Finding motivation and developing some sort of discipline to improve my fitness are the biggest concerns I face. I am just starting out and all the gear I needed were clothes on my back, shoes on my feet and music plugged in my ears.

My ideas had surrounded safety as I had identified this to be the most important thing that any runner should be worried about, no matter their fitness level and reason for running. Whilst this is true, I think my being a beginner prevented me from say, considering hydration as another big issue to solve. I only run short distances and I run very close to home. If I ever needed to hydrate it is easy enough to cross the park and be home.

You only need the bare minimum when you are a beginner. However it is a completely different story for a marathon runner.

This hour long interview opened my eyes to what marathon running is all about, or as what Lee likes to call it ‘serious running’. Marathon runners run distances of thirty kilometres (possibly more) and train regularly to prepare themselves for the big day. He pointed out that runners who do not run distances over five kilometres will never understand why runners who run thirty kilometres are fussy.

There are many things a marathon runner needs to be concerned about when training and each and every aspect discussed are very important, but the two things that I found really interesting are:

1.  He is really lax about his safety. He cares about his visibility to vehicles at low-key lighting and THAT just about sums up his safety concerns. He does not bring a phone in case of emergencies and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he does not carry around a personal ID either. In fact the one time he got injured whilst running, he walked home, and “home was fifteen ks away.” He was doing some speed work and hit a guy who was shorter than him and he flew and spun in the air a couple of times before landing on the ground and broke his rib. “Life is tough!” he said with a laugh.

I think it is important for every runner to make their safety their number one priority. I understand that performance is key, to marathon runners  especially, so convenience and mobility are important too, but what will become of those if ever something happens ie, getting hurt or falling unconscious

2. There are heaps of things marathon runners should carry whilst running:

-means to hydrate

-sugar packs to refuel body

-personal ID and phone in case of emergencies

– a music player, if preferred

-loose change

-keys

-wind and waterproof jacket that packs tiny

– and perhaps sunglasses

But what is interesting is how mobility is a key aspect for a runner but carrying these essentials become an inconvenience and a major hindrance to their performance and improvement. No wonder Lee does not bring his phone with. No wonder he only takes the car key, tucks it in between his shoe laces and leaves the rest of his keys inside of the car. No wonder he opts not to wear a jacket in winter even though it is cold, as where would he put it after he’s all warmed up. No wonder he carries notes instead of coins and allows the vendors to keep the change when purchasing a $4.60 Powerade at the nearest convenience store.

I am glad I had this opportunity to speak to Lee, as he has given me insights based on his own experiences in a lot of detail going as far as suggesting the changes he wants to see and highlighting areas where he thinks the greatest opportunities rest upon.

I wasn’t sure whether it would benefit me to revisit and change my brief so that the focus is on one user group and a certain problem, or use this information to feed the direction I had chosen prior to any meeting or interview. The focus I had chosen was to improve the personal safety and security of urban runners so that they can pay attention to their performance instead.  The term ‘urban runners’ could possibly include those training to run marathons as they run on the roads too. However, the focus is particularly safety, and though it correlates to some of the issues that interest me from the interview with Lee, there were bigger and far more interesting issues that arose that had plenty of room for an innovative design intervention.

My decision is definitely to set aside what I had decided prior to the occurrence of these  meetings. After spending the morning weighing out my options I have decided to shift my focus on the issue of how all of these essential products that a marathon runner must take on runs can be a hindrance to their mobility and a distraction to their performance. What works to my account is that I had been focusing on very similar issues prior to the meeting and the interview. I had asked questions like- how can I make it so that anything they have to carry will not become a hindrance while running? So brainstorms and lotus blossoms I have done prior are still valid to a degree.

I am quite excited for the next few days but also rather scared. I am aware of the pressure more than ever. I foresee that I will constantly need to keep my stress levels in check, as it usually clogs up my thinking and, slows down my process and productivity. I need to learn to utilize this pressure as a driving force to keep me going instead.

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