Anyone that has ever done an endurance event knows that success is only partly about your level of fitness. It is about your body, but also your mind and your heart.
Today, for all sorts of reasons, none of the three were completely ready and present. It was fake it till you make it time. Looking for my game face down the back of the sofa. But the event was booked. Total Warrior was calling. My first ever proper mud run. 12K, 30 punishing obstacles. My toughest challenge so far.
A cold filling my head. A cough, impacting my lung function. People around me handing me ready made excuses. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. You can always stop half way round if you can’t finish. Are you sure?
Screw that. This girl flies with her own wings. There is no DNS and there is no DNF. Not any more.
Messages from friends got me to the start line. And then that big event feeling kicked in.
Today, I crawled through water on my belly underneath barbed wire. I waded through mud up to my waist. Repeatedly. I carried a huge log up and down hills. I slid down a 100 foot slide. Went up and over a climbing wall, nearly falling but for the man who put his arm over and literally dragged me across the top. I went through muddy tunnels on my stomach and under cargo nets on my back. I was electrocuted. I hung on monkey bars….. for a few seconds at least, before I crashed into the water beneath. I jumped into a tonne of ice. I was wet and cold and dirty. And I loved it.
My fear of water nearly took over at just a few obstacles in. Chest high, black water. Every step into the unknown. Debris floating all around. Every step uneven. Wondering if the next one would be the one that took me under. But I kept going all the same.
And that is what it is all about. Really. Challenging yourself to do something new, different, difficult. As the sign at the beginning said…… do what you are afraid to do.
This is where the magic happens.
This weekend saw me take on my first run with a local club. Most of my runs to date have been big events where you will find runners from the experienced to the terrified. I’ve usually found myself in the middle or so of the pack. Not particularly good, but also not dressed as a chicken pushing a bath.
I turned up to find that most of those taking part were established runners. Affiliated to clubs, waiting to begin there was talk all around me of runs recently conquered, energetic events planned. I’d had a time for the run in mind. Something reasonable. Something possibly achievable. Until I heard someone say that the slowest time last year, was faster than the one in my head.
And so the doubt began. The I can’t tape began to play.
For a fleeting moment, the thought of just getting in the car and going home. Making a run for it in the opposite direction. But you know what they say in running. Dead last is better than did not finish which is better than did not start. And I thought there was a chance I was going to prove it.
So I decided I was going to have to run my heart out. Try and run faster than my usual pace, keep up with these other runners, try not to get lost on the route and try not to die.
But the tape kept playing. I am never going to keep up this pace. I am never going to make it back. I am going to be last. And thanks to running most of the course on very uneven ground and grass, a slight back ache that started at 7K was bloody another couple of miles down the track.
Both my hips hurt, my knees hurt and my back hurt. Bits of me hurt that I didn’t know could hurt. I was limping so badly by the end that a first aid person came to see if I needed any medical help. It was the toughest race I have done so far, tougher than the longer and very hot half marathon.
But here’s the thing. I ended up with a 5K and 10K PB. I ran 15 minutes faster than I thought I would. I beat the ‘I can’t’ tape. For no other reason that I didn’t want to do what the old me would have done. Gone home. Either that or I was just trying not to find out whether dead last is better than DNF!
This morning I got up early as usual to go to the gym before work. As I woke the light peaking from behind the curtains suggested otherwise. A bright, beautiful morning. Low, early morning sun.
Ten minutes later my running shoes are on, my hair is tied back and my Garmin is set.
It was the kind of morning that makes you grateful. Grateful for the weather, grateful for that me time, the ability to be able to do it at all.
A mile or so away from home and I’m away from the main roads. Into the side streets. Almost no traffic. Soundtrack: birdsong.
I always have my headphones in when I’m at the gym. But when I’m outside I would rather just listen to the world.
My early runs are in sync with a couple of people on our local high street. More often or not I see the greengrocer pulling out his outdoor stalls. There’s a small accountancy firm with an early riser, sometimes unlocking the office. I fancy that he’ s the type that savours some precious time before the phone starts ringing and everyone else gets to the office.
A few people at the bus stop beginning their commute. A dog walker or two. This morning, two young rabbits, scurrying through the field that I cut across on my way home. The occasional other runner. My neighbour’s cat lounging in a spot of warm sunlight.
And just me. Simply running.
This weekend I am running the Race for Life – the muddy version.
Race for Life is a special thing, both for its purpose but also for me personally.
I have taken part a few times now. To stand with other women, for other women, is empowering. Purposeful.
To see the reasons why, and for whom, people are running is emotional and humbling.
Names on shirts. Survivors…. and those we have lost.
Mine will simply say ‘all women’. For this is a disease that impacts so many, my own family included.
I have other female friends running their own race for life this summer too for their own reasons, and to both remember and celebrate those that they have lost.
There is another reason that race for life means much to me. Two years ago, it was my first ever running event. I took part with apprehension, with no idea if my body would make it the whole 5K. Of course it did. But I remember clearly as I neared the end, looking at those stronger women who were going around for the second time, signed up for the longer distance, and wondering how on earth they could. Thinking that I would never be able too. That race was my first taste of what it was like to want a time, to beat a time, to run for yourself and for something bigger.
So to everyone who is running the race for life this year, whatever your reason, may I send you luck, love and thanks.