I have followed Sally McRae’s running career for many years now. I don’t follow her because she’s good (even though she is phenomenally talented); I follow her because she is unbelievably positive in her approach to life.
She has had a really tough life with her childhood being plagued with awful events, most importantly the death of her mother when she was still a teenager. But even though there was a time she wanted to give up, she never did.
She now has a beautiful family and a killer career as a runner, coach and writer. She is writing a book which I am so excited to read when it comes out.
This film follows a project that she dreamt up for this summer. The plan was to run 507 miles (the number of months her mother lived for) and she was doing it at the age her mother was when she died. This meant that it was a really poignant project and each run was a tribute to her in different ways.
This is a bit of a long video, but it’s so inspiring, so if you do get a spare forty minutes or so over the Christmas breack, I really would sit down with a cup of tea and give it a watch. If you are struggling to get yourself motivated with anything, this will give you the kick up the bum that you need.
I have a friend who was doing a continuous deca Ironman last week. For those of you who are not familiar with the the world of ultra, that means that he was completing a triathlon that is ten times the distance of a standard ironman.
And if you don’t know ironman distances then I am here to tell you that he was attempting to swim 24 miles, followed by a 1,120 mile bike ride and all topped off with a 262 mile run.
I spent last week glued to Facebook as I watched his progress. He boshed out the swim in 13 hours and then took several days to complete the ride. By the time he started the run his body was already broken and it was painful to watch the video clips of him hobbling around the 1 mile course.
Ultimately, it got to the point where he was just moving too slowly and he had to withdraw after EIGHT DAYS of moving. He had about 120 miles to go, but he just wasn’t going to make it so he dropped.
I can’t imagine how disappointed he must be feeling right now, knowing that all that effort came to nothing (he still has serious respect from most people in the ultra community whatever the result).
It has made me think about my own experiences with giving up and that disappointment, and more importantly, when is the appropriate time to chuck in the towel? I used to say that once you went past half way you couldn’t quit, but sometimes you just want to see how far you can push it.
I’ve had several friends die because they’ve pushed it too far, and it’s horrible to log onto Facebook and see that somebody got into difficulty in the Channel and couldn’t be saved.
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is so important, but I’ve learnt over the years that listening to your body is important. You learn a lot from quitting so it’s never actually a wasted experience.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is embrace those failures because they’ll normally make the best stories years down the line. But make sure you learn your lesson and come back stronger next time.
Captain Matthew Webb, first man to swim the English Channel
On Saturday 18th June my dad and I jumped into the car and drove to Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking so that I could run a 100 mile foot race over a one mile lap. That’s 100 laps in under 30 hours.
I arrived at about 7:30am so that I could register and get my timing chip. Then I checked out all the important stuff like where the toilets were and where I could store my bag so that I could access it easily during the race.
At the start of the race there was a mini camp site where everyone set up tents, but I just had my holdall in a black bin liner. Lots of people were doing the P12 and P24 challenge where they ran a mile on the hour every hour for either 12 hours or 24 hours. It was lovely as it gave the place a real festival vibe, especially over night.
The weather at the start was really hot and although the first thirty miles are normally quite comfortable, I was struggling with the heat a little bit. It was very much appreciated when the organizers cracked open the ice lollies.
The lap became very familiar and I found that I could walk the slight incline and then jog the downhill and the flat. This rhythm became really important as the night set in because it’s easy to start flagging.
During the night we had a massive electrical thunderstorm and it got a little bit scary as we ran out into the rain and thunder. It didn’t help that I was so tired I was starting to hallucinate. This can be a really scary experience, but I’m learning to push through and the sun coming up in the morning makes you feel so much better.
It was another warm morning and I had about 20 miles to go when the sun came up. By that time most people were doing the death march and I just had to dig deep and keep going.
Dad arrived with Noah when I had 11 miles to go so they went into Dorking for a little look around while I continue to stumble on.
Those last 10 miles were shocking and if it wasn’t for the wonderful volunteers on the checkpoint, I don’t imagine I would have made it. They cheered me on every time I passed them and it just lifted my spirits. The other people on the course were all shouting encouragement to each other too, and I could really feel the love.
At 11am Noah and dad came back and I asked them to walk the last lap with me. We marched around together and I crossed the line in 27 hours – it was roughly a ten minute PB.
At the end I literally fell over the line and was presented with my beautiful buckle (most 100 mile races have a belt buckle instead of a medal for finishers).
I was in a bit of a bad way when I got back to the car and I know I was smelling really bad! I buried myself under my dad’s coat and tried to close my eyes and ignore the pain as we travelled home.
Monday was a write off and I had to take a day off sick. Noah was worried that if I tried to drive in I might get lost on the way. My brain was so fuddled that I barely knew my name.
It’s now Wednesday and I’m still a bit stiff but I’m starting to feel more human and I’ve been into work and not done anything too stupid. The only problem is that when the pain begins to fade the need to sign up for another one returns. Should I?
I love to run. I’m not a talented runner, but I do love to push myself as hard as I can and I love to see just how far I can go. And so it seemed only natural that I gravitated towards the ultra marathon distance, finally making it up to the 100 milers.
I did five of them between 2015 and 2017 and then I hit a bit of a road block. I don’t understand why, but every time I attempted the race, my head just gave up anywhere between 60 and eighty miles.
I had three failed attempts under my belt and a five year dry spell and I really was starting to think that I just didn’t have the ability to do it anymore.
So, I was a little bit hesitant when I entered a hundred miler for the weekend just gone. But, nevertheless, I pulled on my trainers and hit the trail. And I poured my little heart into it.
And you know what? I only went and bloody did it.
So, I just wanted to say that when you’ve failed at something a few times, it never means that it’s over. If you want something bad enough, you can get it. Just keep plodding away and eventually you will get there.
I’ve been watching some of the Salomon TV on Youtube over the past few days and it’s quite addictive because the people they follow are just so interesting. I think that we all need positive people in our lives and these are the people who shine a little bit of light into my life.
I don’t have any real interest in being rich or famous or successful, so the outlook of these people is really inspiring to me. Their idea of success is coming to know themselves better and the people in the world around them a little better.
Watching these videos you get to see people pushing themselves over a finish line that they have determined. There is no trophy or gold medal at the end. There isn’t even a cheering squad because they’ve made this challenge up on their own. All they care about is digging deep and understanding what makes themselves tick.
There is something quite spiritual in it and I guess it’s why I enjoy pushing myself. I’m never going to win a race, but I can find a point to the things that other people consider pointless.
It’s the London Marathon this weekend and I’m so jealous of all the lucky people who are in and running. It’s normally such a special race, but this year it’s even more special – given that we haven’t seen this race being run for two years.
There is just something so magical about seeing all of those people pouring over the start line to complete something pretty incredible. The fact that you can have an Olympic gold medalist running, and then also someone dressed as a carrot in the same race, is what sport is all about.
I have entered the ballot to get in a couple of times and not got in. One day I will be on that start line!
All runners, without exception, we have a dialogue
That runs as we do. Sometimes angry, sometimes funny
And sometimes just downright weird, reminding us
Of our own little oddities, our mental defects, as it were.
I get mad. Like really mad, turning over old events
Like tiny rocks that burn the fingertips. These thoughts
Are better left alone, but I love the burn, the hurt.
Lately, I have tried to change the pattern,
Think of things that happened in my day,
Creating stories from the objects on the floor and in the trees.
The teddy bear, tangled in the spindly branches of
The gooseberry bush, looking old and tired of this life,
His fur all tattered, did he run away? Or was he thrown?
Or was he dropped by accident? Missed so dearly by
A little boy, comforted with useless words.
And then there’s cups from Burger King discarded on
The pavement like a shiny tile. There is no Burger King
In this crappy little town, so just how far it’s traveled to
Reach my pounding feet, is known by God alone.
And that woman on her phone, who’s she talking to?
Unaware of me, I guess that it’s a lovers’ tiff,
He forgot to bring the milk and bread last night
And now she’s pissed; she wants him out, or else.
I wonder what the other runners think, when they bound past me?
Have they made another story for the crumpled mask,
The Kit-Kat wrapper on the floor, or the smiling man
In the Screw Fix uniform? I hope they have,
And I hope they’ve made a story just for me…
There is a famous book by Murakami called ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’, and although I’ve not read it I have a good idea how it must go. And that’s because I run a lot and I reflect on life and make up stories in my head as I go along. If you are a long distance runner, you have many hours to fill and so this constant talking to yourself is important for your sanity.
When I first started ultra running, I wasn’t sure if I was the only person who did this until I was running my first hundred miler and I had to pull out at 54 miles.
I had been running at the same speed as a guy who I didn’t know for almost the entire race and he decided to pull out at the same time, so his girlfriend offered to give me a lift back to the finish to get my bag. We hadn’t spoken much during the race, so the car ride was the first time we got to know each other.
He asked me what my name was and when I said ‘Rachel’, he practically yelped with delight. He said he had been making up stories about the people he had been running alongside, giving them names and jobs etc. He had decided that my name was ‘Rachel’ and he was so pleased with himself for getting that right.
I thought this was pretty cool, and it showed me that I’m not the only one making stories up about where a Burger King cup might have come from…
My bones ache, I am so tired. And I didn’t even achieve my goal. I wanted to run 100 miles and yet again I only made it to 100km.
I say only, but this was on the Jurassic coastline and the terrain and the weather were awful. If you have ever visited that part of the world, you will know just how steep some of those hills are.
Still, that doesn’t take away the disappointment when you have literally put every last bit of energy into getting somewhere and you don’t make it. Failure is a part of being human, but it also makes us feel pretty crappy.
I hope that if anyone reading this has failed at anything recently, then you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep on trying.
I am exhausted, right now. I literally feel like I want to cry because everything hurts and the serotonin levels in my brain are completely out of whack. I tried so hard that I was hallucinating and I don’t know if I can put my body through that kind of abuse again. This might be a sign that I’m getting just a little bit too old. Perhaps I should just pour my energy into something a bit more sedate like writing?
That fiery joy will burn all night, and for a part
Of long days yet to come. If I could sleep
I’d dance through to the main event,
Forgetting that sweet pain that stings
On the eve of a big day.
I’m running a long race tomorrow and the nerves are starting to set in. Not in a bad way, but in a way that makes me feel a little on edge; it’s like some primal part of my brain knows that something big is on the horizon.
I don’t know if you are the nervous type, but as a child I used to vomit when I got nervous. It was excruciating to want to do something really well but to struggle to do it because I would get myself into such a state. It wouldn’t matter what I was doing: exams, swim meets, Christmas; I would always end up making myself ill.
I’ve gotten better at controlling my nerves as I’ve gotten older, but I still feel that familiar twist in my stomach on the night before a race. I know it’s going to hurt, but I also know that I have nothing to fear because I know that I’m enough no matter what happens, and I never knew that to be true when I was a kid.
If you’re feeling anxious about anything, just know that you are enough too.
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