Enthusiasm. Apprehension. Elation
A journey beyond one’s comfort zone and the power of positive thoughts.
“This hurts. I don’t think I’m going to make it. What am I doing? I’m not built for this. I should stick to the gym. I’m done.”
The above was the conversation occurring inside my head about 6km into a 13km portion of downhill fire access track somewhere off of Kedumba Pass. I had just been passed by five or six fellow runners – good on them, they knew how to power on downhill. Me; I was sore in the hip joint, knee joint, quad, lower right leg and both forearms.
Saturday, 16 May 2015 I, along with a couple of friends, family and a few hundred others, completed The North Face 50km ultra trail run. 50km of trails, stairs, steps, road, fire tracks and creek crossings. There were unbearable hill climbs, drastic descents and, for extra fun, 900m of a staircase best described as torture to take you to the finish line. Regardless of the experience of the competitor, the track commanded respect.
It was early last year that I enrolled in the run. My sister and brother-in-law had signed up and I do enjoy a good family outing. I figured then that my aerobic fitness was probably up to it but knew that I had to get a few more kilometres under the belt. With the help of the odd sunrise trot, some great trails around Sydney and a few Sunday afternoon runs I managed to maintain my reasonably rigorous gym programme and knocked over a few long distance breathers.
Coming in just under 180cm at 86kg I don’t have what would be described as a runner’s physique. However, I had committed, and for me, that’s all it takes – it was happening.
I maintained a decent pace for the first 12km, catching and overtaking people on many an uphill stretch, sitting on the pace of others for the very limited flats and embracing the cheers of the supporters as we passed the odd public viewpoint. The next 38km was hours of self indulgent thoughts involving the consistent internal battle of self doubt and positive reinforcement. After the final checkpoint at 41km through to the last 900m I found myself in a very dark place, a place deep within yourself that you would not wish anyone to visit. I was hating on people, reminiscing on past mistakes and reliving previous moments of sheer grit and pain. Finally, the last 900m of hell. Stair after stair. I crawled, I pulled, I walked, I jumped, I sprinted... I was almost done.
“You’ve been through worse than this. Get your mind right. You’ve got this. You’re a unit.”
Shoulders Back, Chest Out, Deep Breaths and a cheeky smirk across my lips. Positivity flooded my body. Another battle won.
I’m always amazed at how our internal battle controls the outcome of our endeavours. Some people give in to the pain, some people have techniques to get beyond and others just live there, they’re in and amongst it so often that you wouldn’t believe they have a breaking point.
It’s not until we force ourselves to expand our comfort zones that we are awoken to our true internal conflicts. I’ve been through many a type of pain and I truly believe pain can create greatness. The self inflicted pain of persistence beyond our previous barriers is by far the most rewarding. To transform yourself from the brink of defeat – broken, battered and bruised; and simply because of your commitment to training, indomitable will and intestinal fortitude be able to conquer the massive feat you set yourself – the vindication – there is no feeling like it.
Once having crossed the finish line, there was an overwhelming sense of community adulation. Fellow runners gave the occasional sideways glance and knowing nod. For me, a tidal wave of emotion rose from deep within. I collapsed on a stone bench nearby, drank the protein shake I had been carrying for the past six hours, fifty-nine minutes and three seconds, and had a welcomed grown-man tear. Pride had come and I soaked in all its glory.