This piece was first published as a feature in Ultrarunning Magazine, https://www.ultrarunning.com/featured/in-love-and-running/.
We’ve all been heartbroken in love and on the trails. In order to protect ourselves from more heartbreak, we play it safe. We don’t sit extra close; we don’t push extra hard. We don’t go in for the kiss; we don’t go for the tough race. We don’t embrace the sweet complexity of the other person; we don’t dance down the technical trails.
But what if we did? What if we went for it? It could be a disaster, right? Or it could be a sweet success.
In early December I ran my first 50 mile race, Raw Ultra’s Wicklow Way 50 mile. My goal for this event was to get over the finish line in 15h 59m 59s. The cutoff was 16 hours.
I ran the 50 miles in 12h 02m 32s, finishing 39th out of 79 runners.
My race day accomplishments made me re-evaluate my perceived capabilities.
I accomplished what I set out to do that day; I worked hard but I played it too safe.
We all perceive ourselves in certain ways and stick ourselves into boxes. We think we can do certain things, but not other things. Our perceived capabilities are the fog hovering over the mountain, while our potential is the rushing river we hear in the distance waiting to be discovered. It’s time for us to find that river and jump in.
I’ve run lots of races, from 5k to ultramarathon to everything in between, but I’ve never raced one. In March I’ll run my next ultra, Irish Mountain Running Association’s Maurice Mullins 51k. I’ve decided to go all in and race this race.
Like a lot of us, I’ve underestimated myself for too long. It’s time to feel my heart thumping out of my chest because I’m pushing myself beyond my perceived capabilities. Imagine that flutter you feel when love walks past and multiply that by 1,000. It’s time to feel that on race day.
Irish ultra runner, Clare Murphy-Keeley, https://runningbeyondthefence.wordpress.com/, recently shared a quote on social media from Barkley Marathon legend Gary ‘Lazarus Lake’ Cantrell, “If you’re going to face a real challenge, it has to be a real challenge. You can’t accomplish anything without the possibility of failure.”
Clare’s share hit the nail on the head (my head actually).
It planted a seed of question in my mind. What if I aimed for something that I considered far beyond what I thought I was capable of? With failure nipping at my heels could I run towards the possible?
If my main opponent is my self-doubt, what would it take to push past this opponent?
I could trust in my training and my capabilities. I could embrace the difficult moments of the race and the inevitable discomfort that will arise as a result of pushing beyond my limits. I could aim to win. I could try to make the top ten or to beat my main opponent, me. The one who didn’t think she was good enough to finish a race let alone race one. I could race her all the way to the golden gates of the finish line.
Let’s make this relationship we have with running ultras work for us by racing our own race. Along with those trash bags we wear before races, let’s throw away our preconceptions of our capabilities and pin our bloody potential to the front of our t-shirts. When we cross the finish whether we’re looking at the clock, looking up to heaven, or looking into the dirt, we need to celebrate the fact that we ran the race to our fullest capability. The possibility of experiencing that moment is worth the risk of failing.
In love we face the same challenge of being controlled by our preconceptions. We think we’re too tired to snuggle up for a few kisses so we stick our face into our phone instead or we wrap ourselves up tighter in our blankets. We can rejig our reality if we push aside our tiredness, we put down our phones, and emerge from the duvet. We might just find ourselves in a beautiful moment if we lean in and go for that kiss.
It’s time to change our default perception setting from inability to ability. It’s time to believe we can race the race.
We love running because it reminds us of how strong we are and that we can achieve pretty great things when we work hard for them. Let’s embrace our capabilities as we head for the next race.
Our potential is there, like a set of puckered lips waiting to be kissed. Waiting to find that lovin’ feeling. Will we find it? Or will we lose our love for running?
This is the risk we take, in love and running. We won’t know, unless we pucker up and go for it.