My skis are balancing over the edge. I just need to push over the ridge and make the first turn. But, Im frozen with fear. Make the push, Make the push. I push over and slide onto the hill. I freeze again. ‘Make the first turn’ ‘Just make the first turn’ my amazing ski instructor is shouting below me. ‘Come on Eddie’ I urge myself. ‘You can do this.’ This hill is the steepest, roughest, off piste I have ever skied. But I KNOW I can do it, I just need to make the turn. Im still frozen. Im frustrated with myself. Why cant I move. My mind is racing. My heart is pounding. Stop. Wait. You just need to believe…..
Being challenged as an adult is way harder than when you are a child. Fear as an adult can take over your whole body. Your brain telling your body you cant do something is a hugely powerful emotion. So, how do we turn this off? Do we need to turn this off? Is this emotion not what saves us as adults from doing crazy stuff and dying?! As ultra or endurance athletes we need to push through this emotion all the time. For me, everyday I wake up feeling exhausted. Same for every parent in the world Im sure. Always awoken by a kid, always too early. I drag myself up and downstairs to the kettle. Stumbling down the stairs with creaky knees and sore legs. I cant run today I nearly always tell myself. Im too tired. Skip today says my body, yeah skip today says my brain. But that little voice says ‘Just wait and see.’ ‘Just have a cup of tea.’ That little voice is quiet, but its powerful. I listen to it everyday, some days louder than others, some days I have to search for its words. I think its my belief. My confidence. My strength. My family. It gets stronger, louder the more I allow it to speak. The more I train, the more I trust my body, the more I push beyond barriers I think are possible.
I think the inner voice is what separates us from many those who shake their head at our sport, who cant fathom why you would want to do that to yourself (fair enough!!) . But its not just sport that I believe this emotion, this trust is so powerful. I see it everywhere. Something is too hard, so we stop. We arent very good at something, so we stop. Everyone else can do it, we cant, so we stop. Working for something is not cool. Talent is cool, but hard graft, nah not for me. Too many people dont know how to work hard, are scared of failing or simply dont want to try. Blinded by screens, by social media, by likes and celebrities. The little voice lies silent, not used, not challenged. We dont believe we can so we dont, we dont even try.
As many of us start tapering towards your first race of the season the questions of ‘Can I’ spring into our brains more and more. Or as we start to ramp up the training into peak weeks we say ‘Can I really do this? ‘Its too hard’ ‘Its too long’ ‘Im not fast enough’ ‘Im not strong enough.’ You see many people defeated before they have started. Thats why I think its so important to build this inner voice in training, in life, in running day in day out. Build your mentally strategies when things get tough, when you are tired, when your form has gone, when you dont want to get out of the door. When you are running, when you think you cant, listen to that inner voice. Not the one saying I cant. Not the one saying you are not good enough. Listen to the one saying.
“You can do this. Ive got your back, I believe in you. I am stronger than anything you throw at me. Yes Im tired, Im scared, but Im living and Im feeling and that feeling is to be embraced. This is LIFE. And that finish line, the one you think about every day for months, for years, that finish line is going to be mine. Believe. Believe in what you are doing, Believe in the plan, in the pain, in your body, in you heart. Believe in your goals, in the process, believe in yourself”
In life today it is so easy to lose sight of who you are, to drown out that inner voice, to believe in what others are saying. I have to work on mine everyday. I call it The Battle….going along the lines of – ‘It would be much easier to stay at home. This is just TOO damn hard.’ But I feed the inner voice with these doubts and I let it speak. Am I strong enough? You have no idea how strong you are until you let yourself go.
…..I take a breath, Ill never forget that breath I took. It seemed a little like life paused. I breathed in. I had to do this. I mark the spot Im going to turn, I push, and I ski. I properly ski. And I loved every single moment. The fear, the doubts, the questions, gone. And in that moment, I know I can do so much more than I thought I could. I know if I believe above all else I will achieve.
So as we approach race season, take some time to take that breath. To stop and listen to your inner voice. What does it say? Do you trust it? Allow it to speak. Listen. Its not easy, but remember only you and you alone can achieve your dreams. It has to come from within, it has to come from suffering, from making mistakes, from tiredness , from questioning. It has to come from working day in day out, from thinking of others, from thinking of yourself. You have to want that finish line more than anything else in that moment and your inner voice has to believe that too. Work together. Trust yourself. Trust your body.
Out there on the trail, in life you have to be your biggest cheerleader no one else. Run strong, proud and tall. In everything you do. And when in doubt, when it just seems too hard. Just take a moment, take a breath, listen to that voice. You have got this. Make that first turn. Make them proud.