Monday 11 March 2024

The People You Know

The people you know will get you into all sorts of scrapes and adventures. After all, they form a large part of who you are. People talk about nature or nuture, but it's not just your parents or your innate personality that moulds you. The people you surround yourself with are also crucial.

The reason I know this is rooted in an event over four years ago, when I got a nasty case of sciatica. I seemed to recover fairly quickly - by the end of the year I was up a hill again, the Cairnwell - but less than a year later I climbed Suilven with a walking stick and just one working leg. When it first happened, I told myself I would celebrate my recovery to fitness with something I'd never done before - an ultramarathon. But as the years rolled on, as Covid disrupted my routines and dog ownership affected my ability to rest and recover, an ultramarathon seemed further away than ever. A year ago today I tried to jog 10km and failed, pulling up short at 8km with an injury. It was a real low point.

That's where other people came in.

At the start of the John Muir Way Ultramarathon

I am in a running club and a cani-cross club, and a surprising number of club members had done an ultramarathon before. Many of them had done several. There was one woman in particular who had recovered from injury while still walking her dogs every day, and I was particularly keen to hear her story. I heard the same phrases so often that I actually started to believe them. The 50km ultramarathon I had signed up to was a "nice easy one," I would "enjoy it," and even though I really didn't know if I could handle the distance, I would "manage it no bother." People pointed out that I had done a marathon six years earlier. They had more belief in me than I did, and that confidence started to seep in.

That support led me to Port Seton esplanade this weekend for the John Muir Way Ultra, freezing on the start line along with 340 other hardy souls in a cold east wind, with the belief I could do this. We set off, the advice to "start slow, and get slower - you'll be fine!" in my ears. I followed the advice - my body frankly, couldn't manage more than a trundle anyway. But I got there in one piece.

An ultramarathon completed!

The dog walker with the injury was one of those 340 other people and in a lovely touch, she had waited at the finish to congratulate me. "You're an ultramarathoner now!" she said. The biggest mental milestone in my recovery from injury has been achieved. If it seemed less amazing a feat than it did four years ago, when I was doubled over in pain and popping co-codamols like there was no tomorrow, it was thanks to the people around me making it seem an everyday, unintimidating thing to do.

Thanks, folk who know me, this one's on you!

So what should I try next??

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