Yesterday was race day. The second of my twelve challenges and the first time I have run 5k since the last race. Those of you following me and my little blog will know that I have been pacing myself in training to work on an injured knee after the last race. It has been six long weeks since my first race, which has been beneficial as the knee is now much improved. To be honest though I have found these weeks tough. Not just because I struggle with the winter months, but the need to slow down, pace myself and spend time fixing myself is difficult. As I slowly built myself back up, unable to burn off my frustrations, the doubts and worries began to creep in. I knew that this race was going to be a challenge. A muddy run, something I have no experience of, and a number of steep inclines. I had taken a trip out to look at the main hill about 5 weeks ago and it looked fairly steep. Too muddy to get close enough with the monkeys, I couldn’t tell how steep it was going to be or how much of a challenge. As the weeks of training progressed, in my mind the hill became huge. In my mind it became an unachievable mountain.
Standing alone facing my mountain
Due to unforeseeable circumstances, I was running alone this time. When I started this year of running I toyed with an image of myself like Forest Gump. Running ahead of a pack of mothers. My winter beard at full volume, inspiring others to get moving. Reality is, that running is difficult and writing this blog is difficult, but only because alongside these challenges I am simultaneously juggling a house full of monkeys. Also, not many others want to venture out on cold winter mornings to run. Sometimes they are at home facing their own mountains. Mental mountains that have become unachievable goals through lack of confidence and support. I know only too well how this happens.
For years the fear of venturing out with a temperamental TM caused me to hide away at home. Caught out too many times, I couldn’t face the thought of being rendered powerless by my angry little toddler. The needs of MM and the start of the school years forced me to tackle these problems. On that starting line, I had to decide to make the changes required, standing alone, toe to toe with the problem at hand, only I could find the spark to tackle my fears. Looking the mountain in my mind straight in the eye, I broke the problem down into it’s small parts. I established where my supports were, planned my route and set myself plans b and c, if required. As I set off up my mental mountain, difficult at first, I discovered it was less mountain and more steep hill. Easier to climb with the help of others. I went into yesterday’s race with the same attitude.
Yesterday, I went and registered, paid my money, spent my last penny and made my way to the start line. I felt apprehensive as I looked up the first hill which was the starting straight. I had a quiet word with myself as I had a little warm up jog, down the hill then back up again. My playlist was loaded with some motivational tunes so I steadied my nerve and prepared to run. I chatted with a friendly face on the start line who offered words of encouragement and reassurance. I wished her luck as the hooter sounded and we were off. I soon found myself in amongst some familiar faces from the Ropner park run. Chatting and confident, all pacing themselves. I remembered why I was doing this and soon fell into a comfortable pace. I reminded myself of my own advice, slow and steady. I slowed my pace, conscious that I needed to conserve some energy as “the hill” loomed large in my mind. Important to note at this stage, that the route included two laps which included “the hill” and another incline. Not only did I need to conserve enough energy for one climb, but four. I just had to concentrate on just putting one foot in front of the other.
I found my pace and was soon alone on the track. Concentrating on my running soundtrack, I began to enjoy the sunshine but was soon confronted by “the hill”. Muddy at it’s base, I began slipping sideways as I tried to corner gracefully to begin my ascent. I only just avoided flying off the route into some nearby trees. Another runner fell in beside me at this stage and I took out an ear phone as she began to say how much she disliked hills. She said no one had told her about the hill. I turned to her and said “we can do it together”. We fell inline and encouraged each other up. Pointing out slippy patches and propelling ourselves forward. We made it to the top moments later. Out of breath but relieved for the levelling off then steep descent on the other side. I moved off forwards and again found myself running alone. By this point the front runners were passing me, heading back the way I had come. I then headed off to the woods for another muddy section which headed back towards the visitors centre. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of my monkeys at this stage as the path took me past the play park. Not this time, but I knew they were on their way. Mr LMR had been on a big day out the day with his mates the day before but, despite my saying he didn’t have to, he insisted he would be there to support me. All three monkeys in tow.
I set off back up the midway incline. Dropping back into a steady pace I was aware of the front runners lapping me to the finish line, many offering encouragement and smiles. I was pleased to see a female front runner cross the finish line first as I passed ready to round off to my second lap of “the hill”. I met another runner at its base who also said she hated hills. I told her she could do it and set off myself. Not so much running as a wibbly wobbly walk with a slight bounce this time. I made it again and felt great. The view was even better second time round, sun shining on my face, I didn’t have to do it again. I met the runner again at the finish line. Karen Wilkinson. She told me that I was her focus as she climbed that last hill. It made me feel even more proud of my achievement and I realised that the mountain I had feared had become a moderately steep and muddy hill. Difficult in places but an achievable feat. As I ran the rest of the lap, again alone, I spotted a group of daffodils, on the verge of blooming on the side of the muddy track. It summed up my race perfectly. Muddy and difficult at times but with sudden flashes of colour and happiness. Not least Mr LMR and my monkeys all ready for cuddles when I made it back to the visitors centre.
Climb every mountain
I’m fairly sure that, as this year progresses, I will face other such mountains. Not just in my running, but in every day. I fear the days when my monkeys are unpredictable and I worry about what they might throw at me and how I will cope. Sometimes the thought of a tantrum in public or an overexcited outburst is enough to keep us at home. The whole range of possibilities becomes overwhelming and mountains become huge. Mountains that stop us living our lives as we should. They cause us fear and trap us within ourselves. What I was reminded during this run, was that by setting off, pacing myself and setting my nerve, the mountain that I had created in my mind was not a mountain after all.
Two down ten to go. My third race is another from the winter 5k series and is at Wynyard Woodland Park on 13th March. Only two weeks away. I understand that this race will still be muddy but flatter. There are some tricky steps in the last three quarters of a mile that can be a killer for wobbly legs too. Don’t forget to click on the Raindrops to Rainbows gofundme page and help me support this amazing organisation. I’m feeling a bit stiff and sore today so I’m taking it easy this week. Next week, however, I should be moving mountains again.