Recently I had the pleasure of running the No Ego Challenge, a delightful five mile trail race that starts at 6.30pm. Because of this noticeable caveat, it is pitch black, therefore a head torch is not a luxury, but a must to run.
As it was my first race in almost two years, No Ego was a new challenge, where I couldn’t predict how I would perform.
The darkness was a unique challenge making it difficult to see what was underfoot and I had fresh concerns about old injuries wondering if my plantar fasciitis coming back to bite me in the… foot.
The good news is I am writing this post, so I returned and am not still wondering about Dalby Forest lost. No Ego was a race where I learned about the importance of mental grit.
We started on a tiny gradient on the main road with space allowing the runners to vie for position dependent on fitness. This was as flat as it got and as we approached a sharp bend we came to a hill which must have been a mile long, though that’s a guess as I couldn’t see shit in the dark.
This first hill was a true test setting the men from the boys so to speak and I was able to overtake a dozen people who had fallen at the first hurdle going for the ease of walking. It was tempting to join them, but I refused to fail so badly.
Throughout the race, there were two types of gradients of hill – mountain climb and panicky downhill mudslide, meaning that where I live, outside of the Sahara desert was the worst place to prepare for such conditions.
Hurt was an understatement as my legs all the way from my toes tearing against my trail shoes all the way up to my burning quads took the brunt of the pain. They went through hell and begged me to stop.
But my brain is a stubborn bugger, a cruel taskmaster that doesn’t care for the plebs doing the hard work and it took the role in leading my organs, my limbs, my joints to stop whining and keep moving.
When the going gets tough in these situations I would usually be fueled with flashbacks of the doubters, the bullies, anyone who said I wasn’t good enough – painful mental, but it always got results.
For this challenge I didn’t feel hate to be motivated – during that pain, all I could think of was my wife and daughter. My mind went into a deep state firstly telling me the quicker I finish, the quicker I see them. But as it got harder, my mind had to dig deep into my psyche for motivation.
I wobbled up another hill – a guy in a Rat Race Dirty weekend bandana gave me abuse for swerving all over the tight trail path. My vision blurred – “was I hitting the wall?.. was this defeat?”
Then I saw my little girl, her sweet round chubby face, nothing but a baby, oblivious to what daft thing daddy is out doing this time to try and prove himself. I began to compose myself, all I could think was “What sort of role model would I be if I just gave in?.. If I quit when things get hard, how could I expect her to do any less?”
My body to swerve to the left, so I made a grab for tree branches to the right to help stabilise myself. That burning pain screamed out “quit, quit, quit…” I said no, today wasn’t about proving the haters wrong, but showing the ones I love what you can achieve if you give it you’re all.
The power of love took over for the first time, wiping out the drive to prove others wrong for the first time in my life, I kept moving think how blessed I was what I had built so far, the love, love… that will drive me even further.
I finished in 57 minutes a time achieved by 20% fitness, 80% mental endurance – my body wasn’t in top form but my mind was.
And this exemplifies why I love doing these races – to try my very best and finish the job. If I walked up a single hill I would have been disappointed in myself, even if strategically I could have worked up a better finish time.
The next Monday I was still sore, but eager to follow up on the momentum to hit the gym, my feet felt like they had been walking on hot coals so I worked the rower with a renewed vigour.
I wrapped the session with light sumo squats 3sets for 15 reps. I got to 10 reps the sins of the weekend came back, and the burn I felt made me want to desperately rerack those weights and go for an early shower, yet that little girl who has become my life appeared again. I pushed through to the end.
Love is truly the best motivator.