I created this blog several years ago as I felt like I had something to say. Having created a platform, at the point when people started to actually engage with it, I dropped off. Why did I do this? Honestly, because I felt like a fraud.
This feeling came to a head for me in September last year, when I ran the first 50k of the Thames Path Challenge.
Now, as you may know, in 2016 I completed (through walking) the 100km Thames Path Challenge, alone. I had quite a lot to say about it! It remains the hardest thing I have ever done. (Although I am running the Brecon Beacons marathon in 4 weeks so tbc on that one!)
Last September, when I returned to the TPC, at the 50k point a woman came running up to me. “Oh my gosh!!!” she said. “It’s you!! You wrote that blog. It was so inspirational! You’re the reason I’m here doing this.” At first, I was happy. Then she asked me for advice. I completed blanked. I had no idea. I felt unprepared and incapable of suggesting how someone should best tackle this mammoth task. I mean – for me it had been utterly horrendous! The physical pain and mental suffering of walking through the night, alone and without sleep is not something I’ve forgotten, would wish on anyone, or that it feels right to sugarcoat. What could I possibly say? To this day I have no idea how I actually managed to complete that challenge.
Last weekend, randomly, I decided to check my blog statistics. Despite having not updated for nearly a year, my TPC post draws in hundreds of visitors a month. I also regularly receive questions or comments via email or on social media regarding the TPC. For whatever reason – presumably because it’s such a gruelling experience – people are interested in what I have to say on this topic.
I’m reaching the conclusion that I don’t have to be an expert to write this blog. I just have to be honest. So, I think this is my way of saying that I’m back, and that I’m getting real.
I feel like I (and probably many of you) occupy a strange space in the world. People in my life admire my sporting achievements, the challenges I undertake, and the commitment I show to it. And frequently say things like “Wow, I could never do that!” To those people, there is something you should know.
I’m not special. I’m not even particularly sporty. At the age of 12 I hid in the toilet on sports day to get out of running 1500 metres. Anything I can do, you can do too. You can, but you may not want to. And that’s totally cool.
Ultimately, it comes down to how much you want it, and how much you’re prepared to work for it. At the start of 2014 I couldn’t run a kilometre on the treadmill. Last week, I smashed out my first sub-4 marathon. What got me there? Not innate ability, but hard work combined with a sprinkle of self-belief. At some point I caught the bug. I realised I love running, because it improves my confidence and my mental health, and it makes me a better version of myself. So I decided to go for it – up to a point.
I know people who have achieved much, much more than me in a similar timeframe. And that’s because they want it more, they work harder, and prioritise it higher. And that’s great. I’m in awe of so many people’s achievements, but at the same time, I’m not prepared to make the sacrifice in other parts of my life to train harder, more frequently, or even more efficiently. Running is a significant part of my life, but it’s not all of it.
At the end of the day it all comes down to priorities and balance. It’s the same with everything. You’ve got to work out how much you want something, what you’re prepared to do and what you’re prepared to give up for it. Don’t be influenced by those doing more or less than you, it’s a decision unique to you. You just do you.
I don’t really know where my running or fitness journey goes from here. I’m always setting new objectives and goals – I want to target a 3.45 marathon, I want to run 100km, I want to climb Mont Blanc and walk the Camino. Blah blah blah. The only thing of which I can really be sure is that I’m not going to stop challenging myself any time soon.
For me, stepping outside of my comfort zone through running and physical challenges, pushing myself to run further, faster and steeper, is incredibly rewarding. These experiences have taught me so much about myself.
Running is not for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be. There are a million and one ways of pushing yourself, and of overcoming your personal boundaries and self-limiting beliefs. For me, another one has been learning to ski. But, you could take up an instrument, or a language, sign up for volunteering or go on a solo-trip, to suggest just a few. I hope everyone can find that thing which challenges and changes them in the way running does me.
If , however, you are interested in running, or in walking 100km , or really in anything I have any experience of, feel free to get in touch. I don’t have the answers, and I’m definitely not an expert, but I’m always happy to have a chat and help in any way I can.
And…to the many of you out there running or adventuring further, faster and more extreme than I am, just know that I’m right here, doing me, while watching on in awe.