Wednesday, 16 September 2015

I overcome all fears *part two*

As the title of this post will somewhat indicate, this is the follow up to my previous blog post. A summary, for those of you who missed it. I was about to take part in my first marathon and was bricking it. After much goading myself on I convinced myself that I was ready, had a thorough pre-marathon breakfast, the much needed *pre-race poop*, tied my laces and headed off. 

And here's the awful, painful truth that I almost didn't want to confess. I couldn't finish it. I hit the wall at mile 18 and the next three miles were achingly slow. My legs felt like lead, my insoles had apparently shrunk during Tough Mudder- something I might have realised if I hadn't had to take weeks out of training for illness related reasons- and I could feel a line of bleeding blisters along both sides of my feet. I hit mile 21- 5 miles to go and well over an hour and a half in which to do it in. Easy. 

No. I was broken. I was a shell of my usual jubilant self. The relatively small size of the marathon (under 500 people) and the ridiculously slow pace between mile 18-21 meant that my worst nightmare was realised. I was in last place. The recovery van that went around the course to pick up runners who had damaged themselves was literally on my tail. Every time I looked around they were there. I have described this in a number of ways- the Top Gear failure car for example, or *my personal favourite* the komodo dragon stalking his prey for days after that initial venomous bite. I sobbed and sobbed and hated every moment of them following me. I gave the driver an earful about how awful it was having him there. He looked down at my left ankle (my stupid inherently damaged ankle) and said 'I'm sorry miss, you're doing incredibly but that ankle is just making us all a little nervous especially with the next hill.' Oh god. A hill. JOY OF JOYS. Stubborn as ever I stomped up that hill just to show him. I got to the top, looked at my running watch thinking that I MUST be near that 22 mile mark. 21.2 miles. I called my mum and cried. I told her I was a failure and that this was HANDS DOWN the worst thing I had ever attempted. What was I even thinking?! The pain was overwhelming when I finally let the failure wash over me. I turned to the recovery van, nodded at him and hopped in. I didn't speak again for the 20 minutes it took for me to get back to the race village. I couldn't; it would've destroyed me. I kept getting told how well I'd done, the other runners in the car (they'd all picked up injuries and were en route back with me) commended me for getting past them. One chap was on marathon number 8. He vindicated my feeling that the New Forest Marathon is a lonely marathon. Beautiful scenery but there are so few people that you literally fall into your own little bubble and that's it.

It was not what I'd imagined a marathon to be. I've watched the London Marathon and the Great North Run (I know it's a half- calm down) and said to myself, it'll be that atmosphere that keeps you going when it gets tough. It's the other 40,000 people all achieving something very great who will keep you motivated. It was otherwise a perfect day. Not too hot, not due to rain and the perfect level of cloud cover. I ran through little villages where small children handed out sweaty handfuls of jelly babies (little boy from Brockenhurst- you were my rock!) and I started ludicrously well. The first 10 miles came smoothly and easily and I was at the half way point in just over 2 and a half hours. I could come up with countless reasons WHY I couldn't do it but quite honestly there is no point. And this is actually very important for me. 

My greatest fear has always been failure. I sat in the back of that van and was a failure. And then I started to think. Being a failure would have been never having the bravery to try in the first place. Being a failure would have been continuing on clearly over taxed limbs to the point of real and significant damage. Being a failure would have been not learning something from the experience. And as painful an experience this was, my god did I learn. 

I have learnt that sometimes I need to be nicer to myself. If you had told my younger self that I would be fit enough to run a marathon -ever- she would have laughed and thought something along the lines of 'even the 100m on school sports days hurt'. That sometimes I need to do things for the process rather than some arbitrary final point that I've set myself. I'm actually quite looking forward to just training- for nothing in particular. I learnt that (no pun intended) I can't run before I learn to walk. A marathon WILL happen. I WILL eventually be able to tick that off of my 'to do' list and I will finish a hell of a lot stronger than I could have this time. 

The reason I know this is because I truly can overcome all fears. All it takes is the bravery to try. 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

I overcome all fears

Three weeks ago today, I woke up in a cottage in Cirencester having just taken on one of the hardest physical challenges of my life. The day before, I became a Tough Mudder. I had spent about 4 and a half hours running over hills and through dense woodland, climbing over walls and scrabbling through mud whilst being repeatedly thrown into water and a final bit of electric shock therapy at the end all for good measure. I crossed the finish line hand in hand with my brother, was handed my orange head band, finisher T-shirt and a cider. This was, hands down, the proudest moment of my life.   Four and a half hours earlier I had stood with my group of mudders and enthusiastically shouted at the top of my lungs my pledge to 'over come all fears'.

This morning, I woke up in a hotel room in Bournemouth to the sound of sea gulls and early enough that it was still dark outside- a sight I'm still not quite used to after a summer of early sunny mornings. I absentmindedly put on my trusty ronhill running tights and the T-shirt I acquired yesterday to face what is, undoubtedly, sure to be another of the hardest physical challenges of my life. Today, I run my first marathon. And here's a secret that I'm not altogether proud of- I'm scared. The week and a half after tough mudder left me struck down with a chest and ear infection that wiped out what remaining training time I had for the run and has tormented me all week. I've worked and reworked out how fast I need to do it to atlas complete it within the six and a half hour time limit (14.9 minute mile just in case you were wondering) and I've been plagued by memories of coming in last at races for school. I have been reassured by my friends and family, my personal trainer Heather is I'm sure sick to death about hearing me blabber on about it and is probably waiting on tenterhooks today for me to tell her it's done so we can resume work as usual.

This morning, I have done everything I can to ensure success. I had an early night last night and I'm waiting for the butterflies in my tummy to bugger off which probably won't happen until I step foot over the starting line and am actually doing this. Honestly, some days I look at myself and think 'what the hell have you done this for?!' and then I remember, today I will do what others won't so that tomorrow I can do what others can't. I do this for the challenge because, deep down inside- even when my confidence is wavering- I believe that I am capable of achieving anything I put my mind to. I do this because I know countless individuals who wish they could strap on a pair of running shoes and take in what will prove to be some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country but can't because of illness or injury. I do this because people tell me I am an inspiration and I believe that people who have the possibility of effecting change, no matter how small, should lead by example and be unyielding in their own determination.

I do this, because I overcome all fears.