It’s almost a week since my most difficult challenge to date. On 25th September I ran 31.2 miles through country-side trails. I’m not a natural runner, but something about this run engaged my adventurous spirit within. It was this same ‘thing’ that made me sign up, and without proper training, get out and do it.
I read somewhere that if a goal doesn’t scare you, then you are not aiming high or big enough. I’ve spent the last ten years of my life reading countless books on epic first ascents on remote mountains such as K2 and Mt. Everest. The names alone trigger something in my brain that excites me. Something that is so epic, it makes you shake to core and feel alive.
At some point in the last year, I grew tired of just reading about these adventures. I decided that, although I’m only in my ‘mid’ twenties, I needed to start doing stuff. I needed to put the books down and pick up a map, get in the car and make things happen. Why? The reason is simple; my happiness depends on it.
The 31.2 mile run was actually more like 35 due to my poor sense of direction. Although I didn’t get completely lost, I did back track a couple of hundred metres here and there, which according to the GPS on my phone added a few more miles. I didn’t mind, the more the merrier, as they say. I started off slowly, resisting the temptation to keep up with everyone else – everyone else who had trained properly, not just a couple of laps of Bewl Water. This was a long run and way beyond anything I had done before. I was a little scared.
It was soon after the 6 mile mark that I found myself isolated, alone, solo. I looked around and there was no one in front of me, no one behind me – it was just me, not another runner in sight. I didn’t mind it, I am very much used to running alone, as this is how I do most of my training. I actually find it slightly frustrating to run with someone else, there is a certain freedom in doing your own thing.
I plodded along nicely, ten miles, then fifteen, eighteen. By mile 20 I was well beyond any distance I had ever ran before, the unknown, as I called it in my mind. This is where things started to get a little bit tougher. At the same time, this is when things started to get more exciting. There was something about this run that I was looking forward to. It wasn’t the first 13 miles that I knew I could comfortably tackle, it was in fact running my first marathon, alone – and going well past it without a big deal, into a further unknown. By the time I hit 26.2 miles I was a good 6.5 hours into my day. My legs were asking me how much longer until I could rest, my brain was telling me to not think about it too much and my iPod was telling me to ‘Believe’.
The most beautiful thing for me that comes from undergoing a tough challenge, is in fact looking back. Looking back at the toughest section, when you are either scared, lonely or just damn-right exhausted. For me, it’s a really unique place to be. It’s a place that I don’t know how to describe other than simply ‘alive’.
I crossed the finish line after 8 hours 30 minutes. The cut off time was 8 hours, so technically this would class as a DNF or Did Not Finish. That didn’t matter to me, I had just enjoyed a seriously awesome challenge, and although I’m not the biggest fan of running, I may just do it all again someday. For now, I am looking forward to using the strength and stamina gained from this and working towards my next big challenge, still to be confirmed, but it will be at some point next year and involve getting myself into a similar state of enjoying life in its rawest form.
Aside from a personal challenge, this run was part of a bigger picture. I am trying to raise funds for a very special cause – find out more and make a donation if you can – https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/santiago-pilgrim