I have just written the title for tonight's blog, but not really sure what I will write about. I was going to title it The Early Years - Learning to Race, but felt that I would probably stray about a bit and cover a lot more than simply learning to race, probably also a bit about learning to understand oneself. So anyway here goes!
Over the last week my thoughts have been rather jumbled as I read various people's blogs about their West Highland Way experiences http://whwblogs.blogspot.com/, and Ian Sharman's report on his Western States 100 race. http://sharmanian.blogspot.com/ But what probably got me thinking the most was catching up with Chris Howarth the weekend before last. Just to update you, Chris won the Great Britons competition, which was fantastic news for his Run Kenya Charity Journey. http://www.hearourvoicekenya.com/runkenya.html To those of you that voted for him, many thanks.
Chatting to Chris, I was in admiration of the charity work he is undertaking. His ability to mix his passion for running with a desire to help others. It started me thinking about my running, and how for many, many years, the sole focus of my running was self desire, self satisfaction, a very selfish approach. Some may conclude that nothing has changed, I hope not. I consider it has changed. But before I can explain this, I need to go back to the start. The start of my running.
Those of you that have read my post back in April about my first ever marathon will know a little bit about what got me started. http://ultrastu.blogspot.com/2010/04/marathon-number-1-fletcher-marathon.html As I highlighted in the post, leading up to marathon number one, it was alot about trying to prove to myself that I was good at running, as I wasn't much good at any other sports. And in New Zealand, back in the 70s there was a massive influence/emphasis about being good at sport. As I haven't lived in NZ for coming on 20 years, I can't comment whether things have changed, but looking back now, this emphasis I think was largely responsible for my 'lack of self worth'!
So April 1980, at the age of 17, I achieved my goal I set myself in order to earn some self credibility, a sub 3 hour marathon finish. Having achieved the goal, I found my running performance improved dramatically, as if overnight! From finishing around mid-field in most Under 18 harrier races, typically around 30 - 40th out of 60 - 80 runners, my first proper race, the Dorne Cup, 6 weeks after the marathon, I finished 2nd. Unbelievable, how could I improve from 33rd the year before to finish 2nd?
I have mentioned previously that although I never read about psychology, I place alot of emphasis on it in my race preparation. Well back in 1980, I think that was when I started to prepare mentally instead of just physically. Having succeeded at the Fletcher Marathon, I was ready for the next success. I clearly remember using imagery to imagine myself running the race, being at the edge of the front group as we ran around the fields. I remember when it actually happened during the actual race, thinking there and then, at that moment in time, "I have been here before, many times before, it feels like it will just happen", even though it had only ever happened within my imagination!
So as if instantly I go from a mid-pack finisher, to now a top 5 -10 finisher. From being a 'nothing', a 'nobody', I gained a lot of self satisfaction from this improved performance. Sure, I was probably a bit physically fitter, as a result of an increase in training in running the marathon. However, I feel my change in performance was largely due to a change in my self belief, my self expectation of what I was capable of achieving.
My original intention of this post was to try to illustrate a message by telling my story of how my running changed, and how I changed. However, I can sense that this story could be very, very long, so maybe this story should wait for another day, or possibly another forum, maybe write a book! So I will rapidly advance many years into the future.
So from becoming a runner in 1980, through many transformations as I became a multi-sporter in the mid 80s, next a cyclist in the late 80's, then an Ironman in the mid 90's, and then back to being a runner. Through all those years, there was still the need to prove something to myself, The position in the race was so very important to me. I needed to finish high up in the field, to try to overcome this inner self-belief of not being a very good athlete! Sure, I had mini-successes along the way, but I think during all those years, the success of the race was externally dictated. It was dependent upon how well I raced compared to others. The result was the important factor, not the journey!
I'm not sure when and how things changed. Whether it was due to other things in my life, such as getting married and starting a family, or just getting wiser, as I got older, difficult to say. But I guess around the early to mid 2000's there was no longer the need to prove something to myself. No longer the need for external factors to determine whether I ran well. And what was so surprising, looking back now, the moment the external measure of success was abandoned, success came. Just like back in 1980, there was a dramatic change. I became a successful runner. I became happy with my performances, my new determination of success. I became more aware of what I was able to achieve. I became more self confident in what I was capable of achieving. The journey became important, rather than the destination. I became more aware, in how running was an integral part of me, of how my mind and body are not separate items. How important it is to be happy with your body, to be happy with yourself as a whole. And once you are happy with yourself you are then able to share this positive energy with others. To help and energise those around you.
So as I return to where I started this post, I referred to those runners who had recently ran an ultrarun. I referred to Chris Howarth and his planned journey through Kenya. But what is common amongst these people within their writings, within meeting these people in person, is their ability to energise, to inspire, to help people to enjoy, to learn, to possibly to help people discovery themselves. And as I continue to run, to enjoy the running even more than ever, I am hopeful that in my journey, I can do the same. To share what I have learnt, to help others to achieve success, in whatever way they measure it.
Well, I'm told you at the start of this post, I wasn't really sure what I would end up writing. My blog isn't called 'Mutterings' for no reason!
To sign off; "Success means different things to different people. Know within yourself, how you measure success, and have self belief in your ability to achieve success", Stuart Mills, 2010.
May you all be successful,