Let's start with "why you run" not "how you run".
July 8th 2017 was like any other race day. I felt slightly sick and nervous standing at that start line for the Sinister 7. I felt good and confident in my training. The mood of other runners was full of optimism and hope. Pictures were being taken, then the count down began and we were away. 100miles ahead of us.
But this wasn't to be my race or my year for ultras in fact. I did not finish the Sinister 7. I stopped after leg 3. I just did not want to be out there. I wanted to be at home with my family. I just did not want it enough this time. I did not want it at Lost Souls in September, as I stopped after two loops, completing 107km. So I now have those three dreaded letters after my name. Georgie Islip - D.N.F.
Looking back, the end of one race was rather funny. I had decided that I was not running more than two loops in Lost Souls simply because I had talked myself out of it - more on this later. I told the volunteer at Headquarter Transition that I was ending it after my two loops. The gentleman on the microphone proceeded to announce to the world, which again was not many considering it was about 4am, that I was quitting and I had a poor year running. There was no mention that I had just run 107km in the smoke and heat. No condolences. Nothing. But then I had chosen to quit.
Since last September I have been trying to explore my "why" for running long. If your reason or motive is just wanting the medal or t-shirt, this simply is not enough to complete an ultra race. You also can not just "turn up" and expect to complete an ultra race. You need to know your why for being there.
My light bulb moment happened in Lost Souls when I realized my reasons for running long races. They were to complete something that my parents would never do; to prove myself; to prove that I was not like my mother (who has always suffers from a mental health illness) to run these races for dear friends that have died too young and to show that I was hard. I felt in that moment, that I had come to terms with my Mum's health issues, my friends deaths and I how I do not need to prove myself anymore. It was quite an enlightening moment. I felt at peace with life and I felt a great weight left my shoulders. These were my reasons why and they are not my reasons why anymore. I needed to explore my new whys!
If I look back to the 2017 races I entered, I think I made several errors which helped my D.N.F.s.
1. I had not mentally prepared myself for either run. I just turned up, expecting to finish.
2. I just did not want either race enough, because I had just turned up.
3. I was slightly undertrained for the Lost Souls race, but well rested!
4. I had not given myself the space to think through each race.
5. I had no why.
6. I talked myself out of both races through lack of mental preparedness and resilience training. I allowed my demons to take over and win.
I have learnt a great deal from these races. I do not see them as failures, but learnings. I have researched, talked to friends about running long and thought long and hard about my why. So here they are:
1. What would I rather be doing? Of course spending time with my family and dog is a priority but time away is good for the soul. Having an adventure in a new place, running new trails and pushing myself to places you do not experience in normal day to day life is great. I want to relish in these tough moments and not feed the negative side of my brain that is screaming at me to stop. I want to embrace these tough times because I enjoy running long.
2. I love being outside and back to basics. I don't need to say much more here. I love being outside and I love running at night because it is so peaceful and silent. Running is so simple. It really is just about putting one foot in front of the other and if you keep doing this, then you will finish.
3. Running with gratitude and appreciation. I have gratitude that I can run. I love running. I love running long and travelling where so many others can't or don't. I love being on a mountain in the middle of the day or night. How many people experience this? I also run for all those that can't; my Mum, friends that have died too young and those that just can't run anymore.
4. Calming accepting the negative "Quit" call from my brain but not fuelling it. I do not want to feed my demons and stop this year. I do not want to talk myself out of the race. I want to accept this "quitting" call will happen, but I do not want to feed it. I do not want to make it bigger than it is. I want to stop it in it's tracks and not let it become my downfall. I want to remember a quote from the ultra running legend, Scott Jurek "Pain, it only hurts."
5. Me time to re-set myself. The calmness after finishing a long race is something unique. Running long re-sets me.
These are my "why". I can now comfortably move onto how I will complete these races. So watch this space!
Planned races for 2018:
50 Miler Zane Grey - April
50km Calgary Marathon - May
120 miler Fat Dog - August