THE MESSAGE FROM CANNES… and the Ripon Reminder
It’s just pinged into my Twitter messages. I don’t know her, but it feels like she knows me. Her message mattered to me: it touched me, in fact. So much so, that it’s inspired me to write a blog about it. Here’s why.
I have a persistent inner battle. It’s a battle that sometimes I win, and sometimes, I lose. It’s based on two versions of myself – I know them both well. I’ve lived with them both for years. Sometimes, it feels as though I’m living with them both AT THE SAME TIME. This is where we run into difficulty: there simply isn’t room for us all.
The old version: She can’t run. She’s unfit. She hides herself away, and tells herself she can’t do it – that it’s beyond her. She doesn’t put herself on the starting line. She’s afraid to try. She can’t face the possibility of failing. She wishes she could be braver, but she doesn’t know how. She doesn’t want to look foolish: it would hurt too much.
The new version: She can run. She’s PROVEN to herself that she can run, and – when all the stars align – she can run well. She feels confident, happy and free. She dares to put herself on the starting line. She isn’t afraid to try, risk failing, or looking foolish. She is proud of herself for that. She loves her collection of race medals. She loves the memories and the joy that running has brought her. She wants to keep trying, and to keep believing in herself.
Last weekend was the Leeds Half Marathon. It was an unmitigated race disaster. Everything went wrong.
- I was seriously under-fuelled. Stupidly, I even felt hungry on the starting line! My body was empty.
- I set off too fast, and (combined with my lack of petrol) I burned out. It’s that simple.
- I gave up. Mentally, I left the race WAY before it was really over.
- My race was over at 4 miles.
So what? We all have bad races. We all get it wrong sometimes. What’s the big deal? Get over it. Move on!
I’ll tell you what the ‘big deal’ is. It’s the fact that this was delicious fodder for Old Rach: She saw this and said “Ha! Told you so! You can’t do this. You KNOW you can’t. You’ve just made a right royal fuck up, and it’s just proof – if proof were needed – that this IS beyond you. See! I was right all along! Just stop trying. We all know it would be a hell of a lot easier if you did.”
And so, for the past week, I have been tormented by the incessant chunterings of my Old Self. Oh and she’s been loving it! Happy to be heard once again, and to kibosh any attempt at even trying, or standing on the starting line.
But I’ve tried not to listen. New Rach had to shout louder. She needed to answer back.
I had a race booked in my diary today – the Ripon 10 miler – just seven days after my unmitigated Leeds Half write-off. I also had a choice. Do I give myself permission to not turn up? Do I convince myself of at least ten good (and convincing) reasons why NOT to put myself on that starting line? Could I face turning up and having another race disaster? Would it shake my confidence to the point where Old Rach could revel in self-righteousness once again? Could I risk failing?
Who do I listen to – Old Rach, or New?
New Rach won.
I DID put myself on the starting line today. I felt brave enough to risk any outcome. I could get a crap time, or feel rubbish. My leg might flare up. I could even have to face the Walk of Shame back to the start.
But, I told myself with some degree of certainty, NONE of those less-than-ideal outcomes would be anywhere near as bad as letting her win. Letting the voice of Old Rach shout loudest would have been infinitely more painful, and more damaging. And so, I took my place on the starting line, as planned.
I loved every single minute. I ran well, I felt good. I felt the sunshine on my skin. I beat one of my rivals (we had a 4 mile, balls-out sprint finish, and I won.) I looked around and I felt joy. I noticed the smiles. I felt the support. I beat my time from last year, and I was 3rd F30.
And so, back to my message from Cannes. It reads:
“Just wanted to say, love your feed and your blog posts – so inspirational. I’m attempting my first marathon in November and already I’m having moments of self-doubt and worry that it’s beyond me. When I read your story, it gave me back some faith J “
It’s not beyond you, as it isn’t beyond me. It never was.