I am just back from an amazing three days of running with The Centurion Team. I covered 59 miles, climbed a lot, ran down hills a lot, laughed too much, ate even more and spent some real quality time with the amazing Debbie Martin -Consani who I am just in awe of (she carries lipgloss in her running pack whilst smashing apart 100mile races) and Danny Kendall the coolest and fastest GB man in the desert having recently finishing 4th at the MdS. Esteemed company.
The trip was a chance for the Centurion Team to get together and for those of us who are racing over Lakeland 50 and 100 to recce the course. My idea of heaven, running, friends, tea on tap and hills out the back door. I am very much at the lower tier of the Centurion running pile and still feel that I need to earn my place amongst such athletes. These guys and gal are epic, I spend most of my day to day life cleaning porridge off the floor and making cars out of sofa cushions, sometimes it feels so surreal to have to switch to the part of me that runs till I cant run anymore.
On the Friday James, Paul, Robbie and I ran the 3rd leg of the Bob Graham round. Saturday we ran from Pooley Bridge to Ambleside and by about 2hrs into this run I started panicking. We were running super easy, but my legs were feeling it. I was scared.
In my head, I composed an e mail to James Elson (team manager at Centurion) telling him that I was really sorry, but I was withdrawing from the Lakeland 50. In my head, I would get to the opening gambit….Hi James, really sorry but I am not going to run in the British Trail Champs because…and that is where I got stuck. Why wasn’t I going to run? I have a niggly injury which I can manage. I am getting the miles in. I am coping with the exhaustion of the miles and the kids. What excuse can I use to withdraw from this race? Whats the truth?
‘Hi James, really sorry I am not going to run because I am scared. I’m scared of the pain I know I am going to inflict on myself over that course. I’m scared of how every single step is going to be an effort. I am scared of all that climbing, I am even more scared of the descending. In short, I’m scared.’
But on the third day out on the course the fear turned into something else. I began to find my lakes feet a little more. The uphills weren’t quite so daunting, the downhills not quite so steep. The hand that had gripped my heart with fear, lessened its grasp and my heart began to beat with fight rather than surrender. I could hear my inner voice echoing off the hills, knowing, just knowing that if I didn’t toe that line and smash myself over the course, those surrendering words would live with me. I would have hidden from something I knew had the potential to break me. I had ran with some of the best runners in our sport, they were normal people, but held inner strength that most would never have the courage to call upon. And so, I realised, its not the course I am scared of, its myself. Its my potential to push myself to the absolute limit. Its my ability to dig deep and then dig even further. Ive been there before, I know I can do it again. And this is exactly what this course needs. The profile may not suit my running completely, but it will suit my mental strength and competitive nature.
From the start of this running adventure I have had to constantly face my fears, coming back from baby one, purely running again not hiding behind a bike split, having another baby again, putting myself back on the start line. A body pretty battered from two babies, fear it wouldn’t hold up to long distance running, it holding up. Every race, every session, diminishing that fear, shouting down that voice telling me I couldn’t do this, I shouldn’t do this.
And so every race, every result the fear isn’t getting any smaller, but I am learning to cope with him. I am learning to talk to fear, to negotiate and to use my huge doubts to build my inner strength.
When race day comes, when I am up there all alone in the hills, legs burning, heart pumping, calves straining, Ill listen to that fear, Ill let it tell me I cant do this. ‘You should be at home with the kids!’ I’ll show fear the hills, Ill show fear the air, the purity of running over trails and Ill use the fear to make me into the runner that fear does not want me to become.
So I wrote James another a message…it said ‘Thanks for a great weekend. I cant wait to smash that course.’
Me and Fear we will do it together.