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Work or Pleasure?

Can you really relate working in sales in the fast moving semiconductor industry with running 400Km across the Scottish Highlands?  I’ve just got back from the Cape Wrath Ultra in Scotland, a footrace connecting up a myriad of trails (and very often no trail) through the highlands; across peat bogs, gorse and rock fields and well over 100 river crossings which meant wet feet for the 8 days. Starting from Fort William (at the base of  Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK which I summited the day before the race just because I could but maybe not the brightest idea) the trail wended its way up the western coast of Scotland to the Cape Wrath lighthouse situated at the most NW tip of Scotland. Along with the 400Km there was 11,000m of ascent all to be completed in stages varying from 26-71Km over 8 days. This really is my idea of relaxation and rest from work with no internet contact and very minimal phone signal due to the remoteness, and I wasn’t alone. 175 other runners aged from 26-66 (average age of 45) joined me although only 110 completed the whole course.

Just like work there is a real mixture of highs and lows although the ever present risk of injuries is maybe a little unique to this adventure. Almost everyone was strapped up with multi-coloured KT tape up by the end of the week for various muscular and tendon injuries. You have to enjoy the highs when they come, whether it be a superb view on a mountainside or a long hard won equipment order but also face up to the extreme lows of being very tired and a long way from camp (maybe in the pouring rain and cold) compared to the long arduous and continuous travel by plane, train, taxi, etc. to visit customers and the long hours working into the night answering e-mails.

Although this was an individual event we were really all one big team guiding, supporting, encouraging, and cajoling each other along the trails which is really no different to that which we should be doing in the work place to attain the end goal. The 175 runners were also backed up by an organisation support structure of 70 staff and volunteers including logistics, medical, catering which looked after the runners at each of the end of stage campsites moving the base, including upwards of 40+ tents for the 240 each day along the course. This is equivalent to all the teams working back in the factory ensuring we and the customers have everything we need to complete our tasks. And it’s not a 5 minute sprint. And, rushing into a project or off the start line is absolutely no guarantee you’ll get to the finish line first, if at all.

Even though Wi-Fi and even mobile phone coverage wasn’t available technology helped us in the form of individual satellite trackers everyone carried to ensure we could be found if we went off route and call for emergency help if required (which it was on a number of occasions but happily with no long lasting detrimental effects). Many of us also used GPS watches to monitor distance and even track the route that had been set out for us. The large screen on my brand new iPhoneX came into its own with the trail information I had been able to overlay on maps downloaded through an app (map reading for idiots really). Saying that, time is always a pressure and with some of the longer days (out running for over 13 hours) longer battery life and or lower voltage components are still necessary to eliminate the need to carry a power bank, so a good incentive for us to keep working toward that end. The VCSELs-based facial recognition system in the new iPhone was very useful but only when the sun didn’t shine as wearing sunglasses really ruins it benefits. Unbelievably for Scotland though for 6 out of the 8 days I constantly had to remove my glasses to view the map.  

Who says there isn’t any crossover from work to leisure whatever the industry or career you follow?   I’m back now at work mentally refreshed with many happy memories, but with very sore feet, what is the next challenge I can find to do?

To talk to Ian about his experience or any of Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology products send an email to:

Author: Ian Wright – VP Sales & Service Asia


GPS route map from Fort William to Cape Wrath, Scotland Finishing the route at Cape Wrath, Scotland, in front of the lighthouse Ask a question