A Running Tale - ‘You Cannot Hide From Yourself.’Mar 18, 2021
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I had just run 18 miles into the first part of a 45 mile off road ultra marathon in the Scottish Highlands. It was a tough terrain and this was the second year I had run it.
The event itself finishes with a run up the Cairngorm mountain to the finish line at the Ski lift cafe, which was inconveniently shut due to the majority of the run taking place at night.
Although in third place I was in a bad way. I had gone over a mile off course earlier with a runner named Rae and we had to quickly retrace our steps and get back on course.
I set a fast pace and after overtaking those that had been initially behind me, I felt exhausted and I was aware of a slight niggle in my ankle.
Running through the first check point at 18 miles was like running into a different world. There was music playing, hot food and drinks on offer and a bustle of activity as many organisers and volunteers were ready for those that needed assistance.
I stuck to my plan and simply ran right through having a picture taken whilst moving and grabbing some water. I smiled through the exhaustion and discomfort.
Rae stopped and lay down in the back of a van. He was relaying his race, so was finished and clearly glad to have completed his part.
That’s me on the left running into checkpoint 1 at mile 18 with running buddy Rae.
A massive hill climb immediately greeted me after the checkpoint.
Climbing that dirt track seemed to last forever.
Once I had reached the top gasping for air and feeling a little discomfort in my ankle, I stopped and looked down at the checkpoint which now seemed a tiny miniature village from the top of the hill.
The worst part of the course was next. Mile 18 - 32 was an old moor that consisted of mile after mile of dirt and stone hills. It was the part of the course that led to many quitting at the second checkpoint of mile 32 that was set up at a disused railway station.
As I glanced back towards the first checkpoint down the hill, it looked extremely enticing. I wanted to go back. I felt sick, tired and disappointed.
This is always the most vulnerable moment for anyone when they feel this way. Thoughts rise up and entice people to quit to tell them they can’t do it and this happened to me.
In that moment of uncertainty and discomfort, my mind beckoned me away from the challenge.
‘Why not just stroll down there and feign an ankle injury and try again next year?’
The thought spoke to me like an old friend. Yet it was the next thought I had that really got my attention.
‘It doesn’t matter if you feign an injury because no one will know.’
Isn’t this how most of us think? We mould our own reputations and image of how we want to be perceived by others. In the end, we are frightened to tell the truth or let an image go because we have given it such importance.
Yet this isn’t just completely meaningless, it is also eventually highly damaging and disempowering.
It seemed ridiculous that I couldn’t go down there and simply say “I’ve had enough.” If this were true.
But would it be true? How would I know if I didn’t try and go on?
It is a fact most people are no where near their capacity when they turn away and give up. It’s normally our programmed conditioned thoughts and beliefs that talk us into quitting.
The moment you turn away from discomfort and suffering, what you turn to becomes overly important, because you identify yourself with it.
Its the familiar, conditioned escape route that’s always used.
The reality is the only person we cannot fool is ourselves.
This is completely unavoidable.
The truth eventually comes out anyway. It always does. In somehow seemingly miraculous ways truth is revealed. It cannot be denied. We are then left in a situation where not only do we feel fake but those around us know it too.
In that moment of uncertainty I recalled the guidance from the warrior Philosophy ‘BUSHIDO.’ The same philosophy that had also inspired legendary ultra runner Scott Jurek.
I had previously learnt and lived this philosophy to know of its truth and power and this particular passage came to mind in my moment of uncertainty.
‘Warriors have only one judge of honor and character, and this is themselves. Decisions they make and how these decisions are carried out is a reflection of whom they truly are.’
The truth was there. It didn’t matter what others thought, I would know the truth and that alone must be the cause of right action.
I knew the consequences of not being true. Most depression is caused by turning away or avoiding something that will not be faced.
And so I set off knowing that whatever suffering lay ahead, it would be nothing compared to the suffering of living a lie. Of trying to uphold a fake image of myself.
The discomfort passed. I found a renewed sense of vigour and energy. I completed stage two without a problem and eventually found myself running up the final mountain to finish in 3rd place.
I could have gone on. For the entire run, I never saw another soul and it became a tremendous experience of running in the most beautiful surroundings with a calm still mind.
Whilst most people do indeed run from their problems and their own potential, it is entirely possible to reveal courage by running towards it and discover a deeper truth to our own existence.
I knew this because as a young man I used running to numb the pain of childhood trauma. I was running from my own unprocessed pain which eventually led to my collapse and several years of illness.
I discovered what we run from will eventually catch up with us.
Deliberately placing yourself in extremely physically testing situations, can and will force you to face your own truth.
In one way or another, you will come face to face with the image you have formed to fit in, how you avoid particular discomforts and the defence mechanisms of your own ego.
Running away from, or towards courage, appears to be a choice but once you do run towards it, you realise there never was any real choice.
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