About 10 years ago, in a moment of total weakness, I was persuaded to start competing in a series of runs called Endurance Life. I had come out of a crappy relationship and needed something to get my teeth into. And this, I was absolutely certain, was it. I vaguely remember half reading the race information. The routes looked pretty hilly, but were along the pretty coastal paths of South Devon and Cornwall. There were pictures of blue skies, sparkling seas, scenic lighthouses. It would be great, I thought. Just what I needed.
This was life before kids so I actually had some free time. So I did loads and loads of running in preparation, plus lots of strength stuff and core training and running up and down mega hills type craziness.
It got to the race day and I. Was. Ready.
I was hydrated, I’d slept well, I was loaded up on pasta and porridge (not all for breakfast obvs), I had gels and a super light camelpack and all the gear (and no idea it turned out) you need for this sort of race. I’d trained. The sun was shining, the sea was sparkling. Bring it on.
The race started. And I totally lost it.
I started off way too quickly, my head went literally to pieces. All i could think was, ‘I can’t do this’. I thought there was a small chance I might actually be dying. At one point I was pretty convinced I couldn’t find a pulse.
Yes, I actually took my own pulse during a race and believed there wasn’t one. That’s how much i had lost it.
But I was in the middle of nowhere on a remote coastal path and the only way out was onwards and so I somehow staggered on to the end.
The final finisher (which by some miracle was not me) in that race took 5 1/2 hours to complete it which gives you an idea of the sort of race it was. Hell. On. Earth.
Never ever again. I swore it. I told everyone who would listen. Never ever would I put myself through something like that again. Why would anyone do that to themselves more than once?
Fast forward 10 years, to last Saturday, and somehow I found myself on the start line of an Endurance Life race again. The 10k this time. But even so. I know, I know what the hell was i thinking?
This was all part of my recent quest to find headspace. To take a bit more time out and do stuff by myself. Entering a race that had nearly killed me the last time is the *ahem* obvious way to clear a few cobwebs, right?
This time around the weather was a million times worse. No blue skies. No sparkling seas. Just bitterly cold, driving rain and gale force winds.
This time I actually looked at the race profile. Hmmmm. Quite hilly.
Before the start of the race, queuing for the dreaded portaloos, two of the loos were blown over…with people inside. Literally my worst nightmare. Let’s face it wee-ing in a tiny plastic wardrobe stinking of other people’s wee with nowhere to wash your hands is bad enough. But toppling over and being trapped inside covered in chemicals and the contents of runner’s tummies…..it’s like something they would dream up on ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’. Except with less bugs and snakes. I digress.
Luckily they could climb out (and no weren’t covered in crap) otherwise I dread to think how bad the post traumatic stress could have been.
During the race briefing the winds whipped up to several thousand miles an hour (or so it sounded inside that little marquee) and the start gantry blew away. At that point i was thinking: WTF??
A little personal risk assessment may have suggested not taking part that day. A more sensible me might have said, ‘You’ve got responsibilities. Lets just hide in the bar for a bacon butty and a nice creamy hot chocolate, no one would even know’.
But my inner 10 year old was saying: ‘But there’s loads of mud, and hills’. And the 42 year old me was saying: ‘And last time this bastard race beat you, is it going to again?’
So to the start line I stumbled. After one final dice with death in the portaloos, the quickest wee I have ever had. And with the sound of a horn, off we went.
The first mile was like a set up comedy video on You’ve Been Framed…people sliding all over the place, face planting in puddles, literally covered from head to toe in mud.
It was like having three too many tequillas and then getting into a mud wrestling ring. In a wind tunnel. With someone pouring huge vats of water on your head. My sparkly new waterproof jacket was not I quickly discovered, waterproof enough.
I focussed on staying on my feet, not being blown off the edge of the cliff and trying to at least occasionally look at the view of the Devon coast through the gallons of sand whipping me in the face. At one point my contact lenses were almost blown out of my eyes, which would have been a first. And potentially life threatening as I’m completely blind as a bat.
The race was almost comical in its difficulty (the ‘Severe’ rating in the race blurb should gave given it away I guess!). Sheer, slippery cliffs, knee deep rivers to wade through, mud…so much mud. And downhill bits with a sheer drop off at the end that needed an element of insanity to even attempt to run down. I sprinted down them. I think that tells you everything you need to know about my state of mind.
Just keep going, just keep going. Were pretty much the only thoughts in my head, so I’d definitely ticked the headspace box at least.
Somehow I got to the end. In a respectable 24th place, the 4th woman overall and the 1st in the old birds age group. I collected the bling and the T-Shirt and staggered around in the rain for a bit wondering what the hell had just happened.
But what happened was this. I used to think I could and then i couldn’t. I thought I couldn’t and I tried it anyway, and turns out actually I could. Try saying that really really fast!!
What I mean with all this crazy tongue twisting nonsense, is that you may think you’re not a runner. You might try it a few times and it feels really really horrible. You might feel there is a possibility you could die doing it you’re so out of breath. You might be at the back. You might wish you’d never even started.
But if you keep trying. Just keep trying. You might surprise yourself. Without wanting to sound all Disney, and sorry for all the cliches, but:
Believe you can and you will.
Just keep going.
The harder the struggle, the more GLORIOUS the triumph. Whether you’re running to the end of your road, or entering your first marathon. It’s all same same.
The main things is: never, never, never give up. It really is worth the ride.
Happy Running all xxx
Mel Bound is the founder of fast growing women’s running community This Mum Runs, with a dream to inspire women of all shapes, sizes and abilities to get their trainers on and just give running a go. To find out about fab women’s only courses and classes, check out the website www.thismumruns.co.uk . And to join in the fun of their Facebook community click here