Outrunning the Chicken
Talk about a blessing and a curse. Getting the opportunity to be an UltrAspirer is incredible because it combines two of the things I love doing – writing and running.
But the downside is I guess it means I can’t do something else I often do: be a complete chicken about races.
Now that I’m blogging about The Hillary Race, I know that I’m locked in to toeing the line for the full-on, oh-my-goodness-what-have-I-done 80km event with all its 3700m of climbing on March 14.
Yeah, I know. That’s a good thing, right? (Right??)
Although I love to run, I always freak out about races. Sometimes even in the middle of them. Once, when running over Mourea Hill about 27km into the Rotorua Marathon I thought to myself: “Whose f…n stupid idea was this?!” At least I thought I’d thought it. Turns out I’d actually said it out loud – much to the consternation of the stunned runners around me…
It’s completely irrational. For some reason just because there’s a race on, my running confidence melts away. It always has. I’ve always been someone who thrives on the training and wilts on race day – even the thought of it.
Last year I entered the inaugural Hillary, the full 80km version. But a few weeks out, I convinced myself that I was in no shape to run it and pulled the pin, opting instead for the 34km version.
Ever since I crossed the finish line that day, I’ve known that I have to race the 80km this year. Last year’s race is like a nagging failure, proof of my inability to silence that doubting voice in my head.
We all have that, don’t we? For me it’s the voice I hear when I’m down to run a certain pace or to do a certain number of reps in a training session. (“Hey, that’s quite hard – why don’t you just take it a bit easier, it’ll hurt less and that’s not such a bad thing…don’t want to injure yourself.”) It’s the voice I hear when someone starts opening up a gap on me in a race, even when I know I should push it a little bit to keep up with them (“Hey, they look quite fast, you should back off. Don’t want to blow up, do you?”)
In truth, that little voice of doubt doesn’t just pipe up when I’m running. It’s never far away. At work. Around friends. About myself.
So running The Hillary is a way for me to earn a victory against that voice. And we need those victories – at least I know I do.
These days, we have lives of utter convenience. Everything is set up to make our lives easier.
Eating too much junk? Simple: “Yes please I’ll have fries with that – oh, and don’t mind if I do upsize too, thank you very much.”
Becoming a couch potato? Piece of cake: “Would sir like to choose from the 14 million channels of meaningless drivel on the square box tonight?”
Even being a workaholic is easier than ever: social media, emails and apps that supposedly improve our productivity are constantly at our fingertips on our omnipresent smartphones.
So racing The Hillary is a way to prove to myself that, yes, I can fight the power. I can at least attempt to be healthy. I can commit to being active and fit. I can disconnect.
And what better course to do that on? Actually, it’s not about disconnecting. Out on the Hillary Trail is the perfect place to re-connect: with what it means to be alive.
Ok, sounding like I’m on waaaay too many endorphins here. But it’s true. You can’t stand at the top of the Whatipu cliffs and not be in awe of nature (even if you are puffing and panting at the time). You can’t run through the Pararaha Valley at Christmas time and not fall in love with the Pohutukawa blossom (it’s also an excuse to stop and slurp from your hydration pack). You can’t tip-toe along the clifftops of the Te Henga walkway and not marvel at how lucky you are to be alive (in my case that I haven’t tripped on flax and done roly-polies down the cliff).
So, why race The Hillary? To prove something to myself. To vanquish the chicken within me. To luxuriate in the joy of living.
Update: in my original pitch to become an UltrAspirer I mentioned the beard growing out of control on my face. I can’t bring myself to tame it until after The Hillary, despite the pleas from my family. Wild man and all that.
I’ll admit that it is becoming unwieldy and I’m in desperate need of a trim to rid my face of the ginger and grey mane. I met up with a cousin recently who said, “What happened? Did you dip your chin in the cat’s milk bowl?!” Harsh, but fair, since the grey patch on my chin is dangling further each day. In the sea, it feels like seaweed is swaying from my face.
Anyhow…here’s hoping it won’t slow me down on race day
And that if my wife, Suzanne, turns up to the finish line with shears, that they’re at least sharp.