Year of the challenge is going well, more and more moments are being achieved and more importantly, completed.
It was only until I completed the Fan Dance, a 15 mile trek over Pen y Fan, that I understood how deeply not finishing the race in Zurich had affected me. My main concern for the day wasn’t the weather or had I packed enough food and water, it was whether I would actually finish. It was only until a few days later that I realised I felt elated with myself for completing my first challenge since Zurich.
The three letters, DNF, still resound in my head when ever I take anything on, as opposed to being a way out or a fear it is now a process of elimination and a way of looking at a situation that presents me with more options to complete. The DNF is not a possibility, finding a way to ensure it never happens no matter what, is. This had made my recent challenges almost easier, they have not become some race against time, instead they allow me to enjoy what I am doing, knowing that if I need to slow down this is because I want to finish not because I am chasing anyone …. Yet.
Last Sunday, 10th August 2014, I was fortunate enough to take part in Ride London. An amazing 100 mile cycle through London and Surrey on roads closed to all traffic except bicycles. The weather was of biblical proportions, there was torrential rain for most of the cycle and this brought on flooding in some areas, however I would not have changed the experience and I would relive it in a heartbeat.There was a moment when I was freezing cold, rain lashing my face, almost unable to see, that I questioned what I was doing to myself entering all these races. What was the outcome I was hoping for.
I surprised myself, the overall feeling with this race was enjoyment. I couldn’t believe it, not one part of me was arguing with myself to stop, all of me knew I would finish, that it was just a matter of time and by getting through each of the miles, the finish line was mine.After mile 35 every mile I cycled was one more than I had ever done in my entire life and I was beaming. My mindset was adjusting.
Since taking part in the London Marathon I knew what an integral part volunteers and people out on the roads cheering were. I made sure I thanked as many people as I could as without them the race wouldn’t happen and more importantly that feeling of community, recognition and significance would not exist for me in these situations.
A few weekends ago I took part in the Adidas Thunder run, this is a 10k trail loop that you can run as part of a team or solo. I ran in a team of five that weekend. This weekend highlighted to me the human desire for connection and when you find it you can reach an calming state of acceptance, with yourself and others.
The weekend just flowed, we each took it in turns to run our 10k, either in the burning sun or the freezing cold in the middle of the night with only a head torch to keep you company and the occasional sound of some one else approaching on a desolate dark path that a few hours ago had been packed with people. We sat and laughed that on a Saturday night we were up at midnight, sober, waiting our turn to run. We looked after each other without any of us having to ask to, made sure people woke up, made sure there was someone at the finish line or allowed people the space to hit the low only lack of sleep and physical exhaustion can offer.
I remembered at the start of the race, the race organiser saying there would be solo runners and if you saw someone struggling you should stop and help, as the solo’s take priority.
This is where I met solo Pete. It was my second run of the day, and one of my team mates had asked had I spoken to anyone on my first run, I said no and she mentioned there are a lot of interesting people on the run. Within minutes I spied a guy with solo on his back, so ran up to him, said hi and asked if he was ok, he turned to face me and said that he was really struggling and wasn’t sure he could get through this. My heart melted, I was familiar with that pain. I asked if it was ok to run the lap with him and he said yes, so we ran and talked and walked. He had an amazing network of people dotted along the route for him, cheering him on and ensuring he was eating and drinking. This guy was an inspiration, at one point he was even making me run. I begrudgingly finished my second lap and said I would come find him on my third, I didn’t. On my fourth lap I saw him being motivated along by Dave, a guy he had only met a few weeks previously at an another endurance event and one of the ladies I had seen on the run round with him. They got him running and off he sprinted. That was 18 hours into the race, he finished second, more proof the human spirit is indeed a powerful thing. I’ve also found a challenge for next year.
I walked away from this weekend enlightened by the experiences with my friends and with the people I had met.
Today I was asking myself, what is the aim in life. Living in London it seems to be mainly to acquire materialistic items; have a well paid job, a big house, appear affluent. Yet, at some point this never seems enough, we all want more. I re watched the Tony Robbins TED talk today on why we do what we do. He speaks of fulfilment and the need to contribute beyond ourselves. Overcoming these challenges physically has been incredible. What I have learnt spiritually about myself and others has been the real lesson and it is this that has brought me joy.
This summer I have learned to live, really live, outdoors, with amazing friends and my beautiful partner. Laughing, crying, freezing, sweating, the whole time interacting with my surroundings and the people in them.
The beauty of life is if you allow yourself, you can never stop growing and with that you will find more and more areas of beauty and fulfilment that remind you to seize each day. Push yourself, physically and mentally, don’t wait for that situation to remind you that you’re not here for long to show you that life is more than 9-5, eat, sleep, repeat.
I’m still finding my aim in life, it’s close, I just need to delve a bit deeper into myself to hook it out and then let it blossom.