Three weeks ago I publicly committed to completing 50 challenges in 2 years; some physical, some on my bucket list, some out of my comfort zone, some more charitable and so on. Almost instantly I thought ‘oh no, I’ve actually got to do these now and how am I going to tick off almost one a fortnight’. Not so clever Victoria, why couldn’t you just be like ‘normal’ people and spend your time off relaxing instead of manically making plans.
The answer is all in my mind. I have come to realise that I am never completely happy unless I’m pushing myself – I thrive under pressure or when out of my comfort zone. Not necessarily at the time, but afterwards the adrenalin and exhilaration that I feel can stay with me for hours, days and even weeks. The irony though is that more often than not whilst I am actually completing the challenge, usually a run, I am in a constant negative battle with my mind. A typical run goes something like this….
Day before – I’m going to go for a run tomorrow, I’ve got time, the weather is OK and I need some exercise
Next morning – I need to do the washing up/ironing/cleaning, weather is looking a bit dodgy, not sure I feel 100%
There is then a 50/50 chance that I’ll actually do the run
Mile one – why am I doing this, my legs are sore, I haven’t done up my trainers properly, not sure I’ll do the whole 6/8/10 miles
Mile two – I wonder where I can do a short cut, think I’ll just run half the distance, my legs are agony, I obviously didn’t eat the right food yesterday, I think I might have a blister
Mile three – OK Victoria, sort yourself out, just run to the next telegraph pole/next village/next road junction then see how you feel
Mile four – here’s the short cut option, shall I do it, yes/no, OK lets just try another mile
Mile five/six – don’t even notice them
Mile seven – I’m amazing, I’m far fitter than I think, I’m going to smash the Bath Half/London Marathon
And so on…… Sound familiar?!
So it was with some trepidation that I embarked Julian House’s annual Circuit of Bath walk last weekend. For those of you who don’t know Bath its fairly hilly and this beautiful 22-mile walk goes all around the perimeter and includes 3 decent size hills. For some reason known only to me, 10 days beforehand I decided, with no training, to run this route instead of walking it. I must have had an extra glass of wine or been having a funny moment! But this is exactly the reason why I’m doing this 50at50 challenge – why not try it? What’s the worst that can happen? Does it really matter if I don’t complete it? I made sure I had money for a taxi home, so other than wounded pride I had nothing to lose.
In the 24 hours beforehand I had eaten plenty of carbs and protein and had also decided that I was aiming for 7.5 hours (the time that it had taken me to walk the Circuit a few years ago) – anything faster was brilliant and I was planning to run all downhills and flat and attempt to run up the hills, but not to worry if I walked. The only deadline was that I had to have finished by 245pm so that I could watch the second half of a football match that my son was playing in (conveniently at the same location as the start/finish point)! The forecast was awful so I took some spare socks and a waterproof.
The night before I was totally chilled and actually looking forward to it – why? I never feel like that, even before a short run.
Quite incredibly I loved every second of my run (and I never thought I’d say those words). I pootled along, enjoyed the scenery, ran with a couple of other people, chatted to a few people, got absolutely soaked, stopped to change into dry socks when it stopped raining, ran almost the entire distance, didn’t have any mental mind games going on and completed it in 6 hours 12 minutes. Why? What had changed?
Not surprisingly it’s all about mindset, but more interestingly I’ve discovered something called Runner’s High – its about pushing yourself, but not too hard. Don’t push yourself enough and you won’t generate enough endorphins to cause euphoria, push yourself too hard and the pain will outweigh the benefits. Find the sweet spot and you feel on a complete high and feel that anything is achievable! In the past I’ve always pushed myself too hard; try to run faster or further, aim to run the marathon in sub 4 hours or sub 5 hours and so on. I only got a feeling of satisfaction if I had exceeded my target, but I’m not aiming for the Olympics so why not just enjoy it; I might actually get more satisfaction by taking things a bit slower!
What have I learnt from this challenge? Pushing yourself (whether physically or mentally) doesn’t have to be painful. Just go one step at a time and enjoy yourself. Slow down. As the famous poem, Leisure, by William Henry Davies says:
‘What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.’
Please don’t forget to donate to my amazing charities; whilst I happily admit that I’m doing this for my own personal satisfaction, the real driving force is to raise as much money as possible. Thank you!
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