This time last week I was making the final preparations for the Ring O Fire (RoF) ultramarathon. Deemed to be one of the toughest ultras in the UK, RoF is a 135 miles of coastal path, travelled over three days.
I underestimated how difficult it was going to be. Despite the challenge of the distance, I did not consider the cut offs particularly seriously, nor the terrain. Now I know!
It was tough! The toughest of the 30 odd ultras that I have done for upandrun. But now, that makes it one of the most satisfying to have completed. In the end 96 people started RoF and 53 finished.
There are several reasons why I was able to finish. I will come to that shortly.
For two years I ran monthly ultras for Understand Pain, and called it upandrun. The purpose was and continues to be raising awareness of the global problem of chronic pain that affects millions of people (and their loved ones) and costs billions. The aim is to erase suffering.
I maintain that this enormous social problem, for it is embedded in a society, is largely due to the misunderstanding of pain.
What is pain? Can you answer that question? You know it hurts and what it can feel like from a personal perspective, but what actually is pain? This is a question that scientists and philosophers have been trying to answer. Now we have some really good ideas.
Are we there yet with the understanding? Absolutely not. But our role is to keep the momentum going and build onwards.
What about now? We can offer help, guidance, support and encouragement to people suffering chronic pain in many ways. Many are simple and low tech, meaning they can be used by many to help many. Pain Coaching is my way of helping.
And we really can help and make a difference. But it starts with the person understanding their pain. This means taking the knowledge and skilfully passing it on in such a way that the person can make sense of their experiences and see a way forward.
Again, we can help them by sharing practical ways of living best lives, building health, and dealing with challenging moments. All of these are skills that can be learned and honed.
The two years of ultras took their toll. I was not well organised with training, made many mistakes and didn’t adequately recover. Add in a few trips and falls, and I found myself accumulating significant aches and pains. I needed a break and a training programme. I needed a coach.
So I let things settle down, taking it much easier. And being much easier on myself. The influences on running had been all about constant pushing and pushing. Then I was introduced to the idea of happy running via my now coach, Damian Hall.
The Happy Runner is the book by David and Megan Roche. The concept and approach resonated with me. I wanted to enjoy running again instead of it being a chore. Becoming a happy runner was one of the key ingredients for success at RoF.
Back to the reasons why I finished.
The two other main ingredients were my training programme and the people I ran with. There is also a dose of luck, which I believe we feed into with our own personal approach. So maybe it’s not luck after all, and certainly not pure luck.
I will not give you a detailed outline of my programme, designed by Damian. It was not stand alone from his encouragement either. Suffice to say, it was all about complete (and happy) preparation for the journey.
On completing RoF I sent Damo a message.
He replied, Impressed but not surprised. What a super encouraging response. And suggesting I make notes on how it went. Now that’s a great idea.
Because it’s all about learning. What did I learn? I’m sharing a few things here and maybe some more in weeks to come.
Now, the people. To me this is what really makes ultrarunning.
A few days before I did not know a single person. Now I have made connections that I hope will remain for life. Because of what we achieved together.
Togetherness and interbeing are insights I often work with people I see as a professional helper. Within these connections sit the richness of life. Sharing this experience makes it what it is; so special and so powerful.
For hours we trot along, sometimes talking, sometimes in silence. But together. You are backing someone and they you within just a few hours of meeting. And it is natural. This is what we are meant to do, not just in an ultramarathon, but in life.
The emotion on finishing was overwhelming. Because of the connections and the fact that we had done it together. I did not complete that course on my own. It was with superb people, four in particular: Helen, Lou, Hayley, John and Gavin.
And the support people and all the other runners. Everyone played their part in creating the conditions for what was to happen.
And what happened, it was the only thing that could have happened.
Are these experiences life changing? Absolutely. But only because of the people and togetherness.
upandrun ~ encouraging you to be active in your own way, and supporting The Green Runners (make your pledge!) and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) (see future posts for my work with MAP that is coming up soon).
** If you have enjoyed this and want to keep up to date with Understand Pain and upandrun, please do subscribe.