Rikki Rants: “Why can’t everything be better?”

A man running in a Santa morph suit.

My next guest is the brilliant Rikki from Rikki Rants.


• Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m originally from Essex, but moved to Southampton for University and never left! I am currently studying a PhD part-time, while working as a Teaching Fellow. I study and teach computer science, so am a bit of a geek. (Rikki is being quite modest – he is super intelligent and can answer any computer-related questions that I have posed, as well as helping me with WordPress from time to time!)

• What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I am half-Swedish, I am from Essex (I don’t really have the stereotypical accent) and I enjoy writing computer programs in my spare time.

(There may not be many famous Swedish runners, but you may recognise Bjorn Ulvaeus from Abba who completed the Stockholm marathon in 3:23:54).

Bjorn marathon
Super Trouper: Bjorn (nearest camera, with headband) en route to a fine time in the 1980 Stockholm Marathon.

• How would you summarise what your blog is about?

Originally, I expected my blog to be a place for me to vent about things that annoyed me, but the more I wrote for it I found it more as a platform to share knowledge and opinions. When I find something new out, work out how to fix something or see, hear or read something I enjoy, I try to make time to blog about it to share that information with the world.

• When and why did you start blogging? Are you still blogging for the same reasons?

I had avoided blogging for a long time. I didn’t really see the point, as most of the things I wanted to say were quite brief and didn’t seem worthy of a blog post. Also, as a naïve young geek, I didn’t like the blogging systems and thought I could make my own better one, before I discovered that there’s not enough time in life to rewrite everything from scratch!

When Twitter started taking off, it was basically perfect for me. 140 characters was a little restrictive for me, but it made it acceptable to publish short, transitory thoughts and opinions. After a couple of years of tweeting, I eventually pined for space to write more, so compared a couple of blog platforms and ended up setting up a WordPress account.

• Which three blogs/bloggers have had the most influence on you and why? Are there any particular bloggers that you look to for inspiration?

If I’m honest, I don’t really read any particular blogs religiously. I come across a lot of blog posts when trying to solve problems in my job, so I guess I’ve been influenced by all the bloggers who have ever bothered to share what they know. I’m also a bit of a fan of my colleague Dave Millard’s blog (Fixed in Growing Headlights), as his blog posts seem to be a grand culmination of a lot of thought about a subject, which I envy.

• How would someone describe your blogging style?

Verbose and haphazard? I tend to feel like I need to explain why I’m writing each blog post, which risks taking a long time to get to the point. I’m also not very good at ending posts, so I imagine someone reading my blog will wonder what the introduction has to do with the title, might find the body useful and then be surprised that it just stops!

• Which of your blog posts has generated the most discussion and why?

Unfortunately, none of my blog posts seem to generate that many comments. Most of the comments are from me, either as additional notes or in reply to other people’s comments. The most I’ve had is on a post about having my Twitter account hacked, and another about barefoot trail shoes. Most of the comments were people offering me advice about what to do.

• What tips would you give to anyone thinking about starting to blog?

Find time to write – I struggle. I find I have lots of ideas that I start drafts for, but never get round to finishing, which doesn’t sound so bad but is frustrating because they tend to become less relevant as time goes on, so there’s often no point finishing them. I haven’t figured out how to blog something that I should have blogged a long time ago!

• Who do you think the main audience is for your blog? Are you writing with any specific person in mind?

In much the same way as I treat my Twitter and Facebook posts, I mostly write to get something out of my head, but with a slight awareness that my friends (people I study with, people I work with, people I play football, play tennis or run with and others I have picked up along the way) are the most likely people to read it.

However, I also hope (and have observed to some extent) that the audience that will find my blog most useful are those that search the web for a question that I happen to have answered.

• How do you decide what is ‘blogworthy’?

I don’t really make an explicit decision. At least, I don’t think I’ve ever made the decision not to write about something because it’s not worthy. Essentially I write about things that interest me, and that I think at least one other person would learn from if they read it. There is also an element of whether I have time to write the whole post – if it’s too long, it won’t get written!

• What do you find most challenging about blogging about sports?

I am fearful of giving bad advice. I certainly cannot classify myself as an expert in any of the sports I do, despite having done them a long time. Therefore, I try to only give opinions, unless I can back it up with quality evidence.

• Two weeks ago, Liz posed the question ‘Do you try and blog every day or just when you remember?’

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to blog every day. If I did, I’d be worried that it would dilute my blog; Twitter is the place for short thoughts. I only blog when I there is something that inspires me to write about it straight away.

• What do you do when you aren’t blogging?

Usually working as a teaching fellow at a university, running, playing football, playing tennis, writing computer software or playing video games. At the moment, not many of those due to injury, apathy and weather!

• What challenges/races/events have you got lined up for 2014?

I have a number of 10k and 10-mile races scheduled in the Hampshire Road Race League, and I’d like to improve my PBs in those distances from last year. Over the summer, I am considering attempting some middle distance running, and maybe even some sprinting. I’ve never really done it, and it will involve a change to my training, but I think it will be interesting.

• What skill do you hope to master over the next year?

I hope to improve my running technique, but as a core part of that, I want to get stronger and more flexible. I think this is critical to avoiding injury and running faster, but the challenge is to integrate it into my life and training in a way that is sustainable!

• What is something you would like to ask the next featured blogger?

“What was your most memorable race or other sporting activity and why?”

• Tell me what your favourite gadget is and why?

I’m in computing: everything I own is a gadget! In general, my laptop as it’s let me do so much more while also sitting in front of the telly; however, it has destroyed my work-life balance. For running, it’d have to be my Garmin 405CX: my running has improved in leaps and bounds since having a way to easily monitor my progress.

• What’s the furthest from home you’ve travelled for a sporting event?

I think it must be when I went to Poland to run the Gdansk and Gdynia parkruns.

Gydnia parkrun

• Do you listen to music when training? What music motivates you?

Never! I think it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, especially when exercising (which is quite a distraction for your brain). Listening to music would make me less aware of road traffic, other pedestrians, dogs, bikes and other moving obstacles!

• What’s your favourite food/recipe?

Pre-race, a salmon and vegetable pasta bake with a cheese sauce, I’ll blog the recipe one day 🙂 At the other end of the spectrum, my top 3 junk foods are pizza, proper fish & chips, and baby back ribs!

• What is your strategy for dealing with an injury? Have you ever had to put it into practice?

RICE! (Not the grain! Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. – Tamsyn) From what I can tell, it’s almost universally advised by people who know more about injury than me. It is obviously frustrating to not run, when it is something you enjoy, but it really is the only way to not make it worse.

People also forget just how effective something as simple as elevating your leg (everyone has a chair, stool, bench or table they can use) can be in treating an injury. I even sometimes use a pillow in bed to prop up an injured foot!

• Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions?

I nearly always make a pasta bake the night before. I always have a Nature Valley chewy chocolate cereal bar an hour before the start, but that’s more because it gives me a bit of an energy boost, without filling my stomach too much. And it’s not very British to say, but I make sure I go to the toilet enough times: no-one wants to have to do a Paula! 😉 So not really rituals or superstitions, just practicalities of running!

nature valley

• Describe your philosophy for life in a six-word sentence…

Why can’t everything be better?

• What is the most important advice that you can give to readers?

Keep at it. Everything takes time. If you want to get better at something, you have to keep practising at regular intervals. You can’t get better (at anything, this means cognitive and physical activities) by cramming in a day, even if you did for 24 hours straight. So get into a routine, do a little bit often, and you will get better!

• Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Tamsyn’s great! Read her blog 🙂 (I didn’t have to bribe him to say that – honestly!)

•I’m surprised that you haven’t mentioned you love for your unusual running shoes…

I’ve begun to realise that I’ve worn the Vibrams for so long now that they no longer seem like a unique thing that identifies me, and is just so normal to me!

• Aside from your blog, do you have any other social media presence where you are happy to be followed?

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