The clouds above are dark, September, the shadow of winter coming to haunt us already. Six days since my longest ever jaunt, my achievement. My legs still sore and stiff not fully recovered… of course I did not heed the warning my body was giving – not really subtle warning either… but I was not letting that obstruction get in my way. I stand at the start line – somehow I missed the subconscious smile I must have had flash at me at the start 6 days before as I did not feel the enthusiasm here – I tried to snap out of it and became jovial with some of the runners standing next to me. My heart begins to warm to the challenge. 40 miles (or around that). Over trail and hills, minimal road, and a lot of slopes which one will have to navigate sideways…
The horn blows and we are off. Slow start as my legs protest and then my pride kicks in, I must say I was a little obsessive back then with my pride.. wouldn’t you be? Knowing you CAN achieve despite recent happenstance? – Well my pride kicked in – I decided I am not letting people past me with their 7 minute miles even though my legs protested – no Sir. (I later, in the run, learn the stupidity of this decision!). Resistance struck and I fed it by giving in and matching said pace. I continue onto the first slopes and on via a ford matching the pace for the first 5 or 6 miles…
Then I encounter the first of the big rising slopes, on the side of a large hill, typical of the Yorkshire Dales, this challenge lasted at least 2 or 3 miles, continuous side running up this very thin goat track. My feet hurt as the pressure of this unusual situation hit me. I slow down, so far only 2 runners past me. My usual clumsiness kicks in as I lose concentration and I slip, sliding down the hillside as if on a sledge in snow. I come to a halt on a large boulder and look up – damn it, 40 meters at least of climb, with my freshly gained sore legs… Regardless, I fight on, reminding myself of the unshakeable why. The why I am doing this. I crest the hill passing the 10 mile point. I silently wonder to my self ‘where is my second wind?’ Alas I must wait for it as I plod along. Another runner overtakes – pride kicks in again as I will not stand for it. We are running along a track now, a farm on the right, the temperature drops a little more with a gust of wind blasting us from the naked left side. I overtake several runners easily reaching my 7 minute mile pace again. I last for about 3 miles until the next rise.
Then the truth strikes me like Poseidon, raging and thumping in my thighs and the soles of my feet, burning hotter than Lord Helios (the Sun). I needed more rest. I am but half way now and struggling as the picture above shows. A large peak lay ahead with flags adorning the summit. At this point I set in with goals. Resistance was winning the battles mainly, but resolve within me began to turn the tide of this war of fitness attrition.
I remember to set mini-goals to assist in aiming for the big goal. The flags, Shogun’s podium I called it to myself as it was so reminiscent of Togakawa Ieyasu’s retinue as the shogun himself planned his next strike, banners bustling and rampant in the high winds of the day. I reach the summit, a vehicle and banners adorning it as spotted from afar, but I let the feeling of achievement swim through my veins and then the biggest test of all. One can see the finish point down below, BUT I am directed left. Left?? that is cruel – true to the challenge this run represents, my soul was struck a blow, my resistance roaring in glee at his chance to come to the for in the guise of Her Ladyship Calypso the immortal nymph to guile me away from completing this mission. All forms of reasons striking at my heart – you are diabetic, its ok, you are tired from last week, you are entitled to rest you have achieved so much…all these thoughts invading my conscience and starting to embed themselves. I start to slow to a slumber. I am now past 30 miles, less than ten to go – single numbers… yet somehow this simple fact, this marginal gain, eluded me… I struck a small stream, the stepping stones and thin track subtly brought me out of my reverie, stealing me away from Calypso’s grasp and hence resistance’s trap.
Then it hits me, a sign, stating only 7 miles remaining. A surge of joy swept through me. Why? because I am nearly there? no – because I won the biggest battle yet against my inner Daemon, ‘Resistance’. I complete the river crossing and overtake the two runners ahead of me. I increase pace to 7.30 minute miles again after slogging at jogging pace for the last ten miles, I feel refreshed as if the sun rose to bask me in its glow. I crest the remaining hill and begin to run the slope onto the flat valley ahead. High blades of wet grass and small pebbles lashing my toes and shins and I soar along the tracks. I begin to slow but I am elated, I set in with my goals again a tree here a stump there. I finally cross the finish line – the last 7 miles a breeze and a phenomenon for me as I realise the scale of my achievement.
Success. Sweet. Veni Vidi Vici. That week was in September 2016. I have since realised it was the most difficult challenge I had undertaken in my life up to that point for many reasons. Yes there have been harder challenges etcetera.. but this is most poignant due to several factors. Biggest of all I prove one can beat resistance and diabetes to succeed. I did however listen to my body and rest for 3 months before my next race – 33 miles on New Year’s Day. Alas that is another story.
It is my hope that this may have inspired you to go out and face any challenge and overcome it. For you have it in you.
You are the brave, you are the great, go out and win the war against adversity.
Thank you for reading 🙂