With A Little Help From My Friends

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Charlie Dark often points out that 'running is a metaphor for life.' One of the myriad ways in which this is true is the extent to which achievements which are often seen as individual triumphs are actually the product of a network of support. I have had some experiences over the last month which have reminded me of this fact. My story starts with plans to run the Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series Sussex Ultramarathon. I knew that my friend Jason was running this race, and I had arranged to run it with him. Then Jason had to drop out due to work travel. And engineering works made travel to the race complicated. So I landed on taking a Zipcar for the day (now that I have my UK licence) and driving down, although I wasn't keen on a long solo drive, a long race, and another long solo drive. I reached out to my networks looking for someone who would be interested in Jason's race place, and would be good company for the driving. After a false start or two, I ended up arranging to pick up my friend David in Southeast London on my way out to the coast. 

Thanks to turn-by-turn navigation on my phone I was able to safely get to the arranged point, pick up David, and head off. In addition to being an endurance runner, David also had tons of practical advice on UK driving and navigation which proved invaluable. I fear that the trip may have gone badly wrong had I not had his support. Talk naturally turned to running. I frecalled some advice I received from Simon Freeman (of Freestak) before one of my early endurance races: I should be prepared to experience despair during the race, but this will pass; I would experience times of euphoria during the race, these too will pass. I hadn't thought of this fantastic advice for quite while. It was perfect advice for the day I had ahead of me.


The race started in sunshine along a stunning stretch of coast (btw, David took most of the photos that accompany this post). My race strategy was to push as hard as I could early and see how long I could maintain intensity and pace (and of course to see just how much more capable I was after the past months of rigorous preparation by my coach and friend Barbara). I ran up the first couple of hills, only walking when I hit a really large one. Good weather, good conversations with fellow runners, and some almond butter and Jam sandwiches got me through the first seventeen or eighteen miles feeling good. Then there was a long set of very steep uphills, accompanied by very steep downhills, and I really had no choice but to walk a fair bit of it. Despair started to set in. Remembering Simon's advice I reminded myself that my down mood would pass. Upon reflection I was letting being affected by the slowness of walking uphill. Remain patient, I told myself.  Soon there was a long downhill, some flat, and some level running which brought me to the twenty-one mile checkpoint in a great mood. I refilled my water, added some Nuun, and started in on a Clif Bar as I headed back out. The next few miles were glorious. Beautiful countryside, a long downhill, nice weather (there was a recurrent threat of rain which never actually materialised). I was feeling good and enjoying the run. 


Then I bottomed out and started to climb again, and the euphoria was gone. I still felt good, just not euphoric. Soon I was running past the start line (where the marathon runners were peeling off to finish), and headed back out the way we had started that morning. This time around the hills were much tougher and I was walking where I had run earlier. Things got tough, but I just kept focusing on moving along. There were a couple more brief bouts of despair (especially re-running the same sharp hills that I had struggled with earlier; the intervening fifteen plus miles did not make this stretch easier) Again remembering Simon's advice kept me focused and continuing to progress rather than wallowing in despair. When I finally crossed the finish line it was with a great sense of accomplishment and a strong sense of having succeeded at pushing myself all the way through the race. I was met by David's shouts of congratulations and was thrilled to have such a warm greeting.


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This page contains a single entry by Daniel Maskit published on April 23, 2015 7:45 PM.

Running 'Naked' Through Paris was the previous entry in this blog.

Not Twenty Six Laps: One Lap, Twenty Six Times is the next entry in this blog.

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