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August 2021 Instructor of the Month: Willem Mucher

Willem Mucher Instructor of the Month

Tell us a little about you. Where you live, what your background is. What (if) you do in addition to being a Certified Instructor.

I was born in the vintage year 1964 in the southern part of the Netherlands, at the border with Germany and close to Belgium as well. It is one of the few hilly parts in the Netherlands and I do like it here, especially since you can hop over the borders in a breeze and be in a different environment. I currently share most of my time between my home place and a small town close to Brussels, Belgium.

After finishing college and being drafted into the army as a medic, I studied Physics for just a year at Amsterdam University. Music was pulling me a lot harder. I lived in NY in 1986 for 2 years, where I went to study jazz piano at the New School of Contemporary Arts for 1 ½ years. 2 Years later I moved back to Amsterdam to continue my studies at the conservatory as a pianist and as a teacher.

The 90’s were great for me, with 200+ gigs per year and 60 piano students. I’ve been a musician and music teacher for about 30 years altogether. In 2002 I moved to Albertville in the French Alps, where I lived for 10 years. We started a music school in Albertville, the city of the Olympic winter games in 1992.

How did you start running? 

I’ve always been sportive in several disciplines and in Martial Arts most of my life. I started running “seriously” for the first time around 30 years ago. I am (have to think!) still 56 now.

When and how did ChiRunning come into your life? 

I started running with a local club in Albertville after a big house renovation project of 5 years. The club just started picking up trail running and I just loved combining running with discovering the beautiful neighborhood. Ultra trail running was also coming up and I started quickly doubling my distances every couple of months or so. GPS devices were rare and we still used a map. But many runners including me (ripped calf muscles) got regularly injured. Upon asking colleagues what to do about it, they said that injuries were just part of the deal. To me, that was no answer. I was a regular visitor of the website boingboing and found around 2009 an article about ChiRunning that stuck with me. There were hardly any videos available back then and I remained skeptical about Chirunning. So I bought a ChiRunning book copy 2nd hand. The book in the end totally convinced me, ChiRunning was the real deal for me! The fact that I had some T’ai Chi experience did help. But I could not convince my fellow runners of the runners club. My personal proof that ChiRunning works was in 2011 when I ran my first mountain races of 100+k. I did 2 of them within 2 weeks and I could just pick up regular training within 3 days! The 6 other club members that also registered for the 2 races had to abandon before or during the second race because of injuries. From that point on I was hooked.

In what ways has Chi changed your perception of and success in running?

Once you are really connected with your Chi, you are totally connected and feel one with the present moment. Being in the present is what so many teachings teach you as the only way to be happy and free of fear and sorrow. My perception of time can completely disappear during a run and I can cover hundreds of kilometers. Doing a race in a forest against the clock seems more and more absurd to me from this point of view.

What do you think is the biggest misconception of ChiRunning?

Many runners are only concerned about performance and forget that mastery takes time, patience, and commitment. I quite often get perpetually injured performance runners who are out of options to be able to run and finally give ChiRunning a shot. As a consequence in my experience, many other non-injured performance runners think that ChiRunning is for slow runners only. Also the whole Chi and mind part behind ChiRunning is still quite unknown to a larger big public. I notice an unwritten rule with many runners that you have no right of speaking when you are a slower runner, which is absurd. I am planning a slow ladies or gents running club just for that.

What motivates you to run?

The calmness in my mind and running with an inner smile. I always prefer to run in nature and even more on trails in forests.

What achievements are you most proud of?

  1. My Race Across Scotland (360km) finished in 2019 and my Legends 500km finished in 2021 in the midst of winter, both in one go. You definitely get to meet your own devils. Not sure though if I want to continue on this path of always longer, always further. I need 2 weeks of recovery afterward, which is too long for my current lifestyle.
  2. Passing on the running fire to many people. Running will be a part of the rest of their lives
  3. My yearly ultrarace through 3 countries that I organize each year in April It has a wonderful atmosphere.

What led you to become an instructor?

It was a mixture of needing, wanting, and willing. My music practice slowly died, because time was causing change. However, it was the right time for ChiRunning and I loved it. I have always been a teacher. Teaching is a great way to deepen skills and knowledge for yourself and I love to work on an even base with people. ChiRunning gave me an opportunity to continue to work with the same character of people that would come to take music classes.

Why do you enjoy being an instructor, and how has it affected your life?  

I love to work for a long time with the same people, in order to deepen both our skills. ChiRunning is perfect for this, many students also became good friends. I recently started to call all people that ever have taken a class with me to ask them how they were doing and if ChiRunning still affects their life. By far most students still somehow apply ChiRunning.

What does your average week look like, run-wise?

I run 4-5 times a week, with one interval training and at least one technical training for myself. The others are trainings with my students most of the time. As long as I am in this rhythm, I do not need to prepare specially for an ultra-race. It has been an average of 60-70km/week, but last December I did 3 crazy weeks of about 330km, for a challenge but also to check if my body would hold.

What other forms of exercise do you practice to compliment ChiRunning?

I do some Yoga, Pilates, and TRX bases muscle and flexibility training. I love to walk as well. I need to constantly move and avoid sitting on my butt all day because I risk a totally blocked lower back if I don’t.

Advice for people new to ChiRunning?

Not really, go for your own adventure! Just make sure to discover how ChiRunning has so much more depth to it, which is right there for you to explore.

Short answer! Okay, GO.

Most memorable race: Legends 500km

Ideal weather for running: Does not matter, a grey sky just covers the sun!

Focus that currently dominates your running: just running again normally (lower back issue/lumbago from sitting too much on my butt lately working in front of a computer)

Favorite place to run: Mountains and forests

Go-to before race food: Nothing particular, eventually a pasta party

Celebratory food after a race: Beer! And my stomach is a black hole for the whole week after an ultrarace

Upcoming race/goal: The Great Escape Ultrarace 160km in Luxemburg/Belgium in September

Run with or without phone/music: I never run with headphones, especially in nature. It bothers me not to hear my surroundings, my own breath, and the sound of my feet. But I just bought a pair of EarPods and I might try running with some ChiRunning School lessons.

Repeat on your playlist: I am an omnivorous: music, philosophy, religion, lame jokes.

Fill in the blank.

If I didn’t… run 10 years ago, I would have ended up with a burn-out

I can’t run without… my gadgets (GPS watch, Stryd, a bit embarrassed to say I feel naked otherwise…)

My first race was… a 16km and I felt dead on arrival

My current favorite shoe to run in is… Altra Escalante AND no shoe at all

My most difficult run ever was… my first 70km, Le Templiers in France pouring rain and mud

I’ve run… 500+ marathons/races.

The longest distance I’ve ran…. 500km. Where?  Belgian Ardennes (dutch report on my website

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