Posted by: intrepidjane | June 4, 2010

How To Re-Mind Yourself Of What Is Possible!

"Life is too short for soft options" Andy Kirkpatrick (Psychovertical)

NEWSFLASH : I did it! On Saturday 12th June I completed my first ever ultra-marathon. 52 miles. All of it done! For those of you who have supported me so far : thankyou! I appreciate the fact that you’ve gone the extra mile for me 😉 Gotta run (Irish coffee beckoning!) J 😉

It’s Friday 4th June 2010. This time next week, I”ll be in the back of a VW Transporter van in Northern Ireland eating like it’s my last meal on earth (as I am writing this, I am actually thinking it could be my last meal on earth!) and preparing to get very little sleep on a thin bouldering mat before getting up at the crack of dawn to get myself to the race line for a 6.30am start. A race that will transport me 52 miles by my own human power. By my own human legs. I’ll be taking the very first step of the very first adventure to raise £100k for Help For Heroes.

Of course, I’ve trained for this – almost 9 months to the day from (literally) a standing start. 6 days a week of my life for the last 9 months dedicated to training for this event (with a brief stay in hospital in April due to a set of comedy tonsils ;-). My long runs have seen me out running for as long as 7 and a half hours at a time: it’s been a full-time job! And when I’ve been working, to cover the miles , I’ve often had to run before breakfast, in my lunchbreak and after work : 3 runs in a day! I should be feeling prepared – but something unusual is happening…. and it’s not just happening to me.

Last night I was talking to my partner on Skype (he lives in a different country – so we’re good at the “very long distance” thing ;- You could even say I’ve been doing an “ultra” since I met him!) . We started to talk about the Mourne Way ultra. First we talked about the amount of food we would need to carry..we started to giggle when we realised we might need our own husky dog team to haul our sandwich bags (jars of peanut butter are VERY heavy, you know). I have a one-track mind right now : FOOD.. 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, a big supper and 4 light grazings in-between.. and I’m still bearing an uncanny resemblance to something you might see hanging from a hook in an osteopath’s consulting room! (And I’m tapering…I can’t believe the roaring hunger that’s in me).

But that wasn’t the thing. The unusual thing that we have both done. The weird thing is…for both of us…life exists up until the 11th and after the 12th but the 12th itself is just a black hole. Already my partner has his mind on climbing in Yosemite in September. Already I have my mind on the West Highland Way and cycling 100 miles in a day in October. I am shifting my identity : I’m a cyclist. My partner is reverting to his identity as a climber. We have leap-frogged the event itself.

We wondered why. Are 52 miles of running too big to compute? How could we tackle the 12th so it exists in a way that we will not only survive but actually enjoy the event? Neither of us knew the answer.

So we both went away to our beds. I woke at 4am – that is happening alot recently because my body has so much energy in it now due to the lightening of the training load. With a few hours to go before I needed to get up for work, I decided to read. I’m reading Andy Kirkpatrick’s  Psychovertical just now – a story of how a man discovers who he can be by pitting himself against some of the most challenging climbs on earth. He describes how one climber climbed the Muir Wall in Yosemite by just concentrating on the sky hook he was placing…by focusing on the move he was actually making and nothing else. Would this be a way to run the 52? By just concentrating on the step we are taking?

Satisfying my hunger with chocolate digestives and an adventurous ride over the highest mountain pass in Britain.

The thing is though, I think it’s more than this. Andy talks about having a fire inside him later in the book. Something in him that drives him on. Something he sees in others too.I wonder if it’s in me. I have no doubt that it ‘s in my partner. I’ve seen it in him. I’ve heard it in his voice when he talks about soloing big walls in Yosemite.

And now I am smiling to myself. I have suddenly got the message as I sit here with my peanut butter and banana  sandwich supper in my hand. There is something in me – and I am standing in wonder of its total raw humanness (if that word exists). Yes – my belly is not just hungry : I am. I am hungry to help the children of others. I am hungry for the adventure and my appetite is growing ;-).

Today I was working in Drymen by Loch Lomond at the lovely Tir Na Nog. In the coffee break I saw a card which quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson : “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us”. I hope he’s right : may 52 miles be a small matter and may the hunger I have for this and the adventures to come keep me going! And if all else fails, I’ll remind myself of the words of Churchill : “If you’re going through hell, keep going!”.

Keep going with what lies within you,reader! (It’s your own natural fuel ;-))

JT (you can help our heroes by donating here:


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