Marathons, mindsets and mushrooms.Jun 03, 2022
This is a long one; make yourself a cuppa!
Last Sunday, I ran the Mt Macedon marathon, my twelfth marathon distance.
A race close to my heart because this is where our farm is situated, and the training has helped me connect to the land of what will be our forever home.
In March 2020, I was going to run the 50km distance, but it was cancelled. I kept training because it was the one thing I knew would make a difference in how I would navigate lockdown; moving my body. The race was then rescheduled for mid-2021, but a few days before race day, lockdown 67,908 happened.
I decided to run 50km over the following weekend to utilise my training and put a ‘full stop’ to the training block.
Then I continued training for the following date (whenever that would be), but every run became more challenging, not physically more difficult, but emotionally more challenging.
I would find myself dreading going for a run. Many people can relate to this, but that is not my relationship with running; I love running. I have never found it hard to motivate myself; in fact, motivation has never been something I needed to tap into; it was just something I did.
But things were changing. It used to be that going out on long runs alone was fulfilling and freeing, but suddenly those runs felt heavy and lonely.
When the race eventually had a third date, in November 2021, I could have physically completed a marathon, but mentally, I knew I couldn’t. Instead, I ran the half marathon and thoroughly enjoyed being in a race environment again.
I knew I would attempt the marathon again in 2022.
But it was strange.
Usually, when I commit to a race, I visualise myself running across the finish line with a smile on my face, my arms in the victory salute. There was no such visual for this race.
This race felt different. This race had baggage.
In the weeks leading up to the race, my PT Jess would ask me, “How are you feeling about the race?” I would say, “I’m not sure I will finish this one. This could be my first DNF.”
A DNF in running terms is ‘did not finish’, and when you have run endurance races for a while, everyone clocks up some DNFs; it’s part of the adventure.
A part of me felt the lockdown baggage would be too heavy to carry for 42km. And then I realised that was the reason for the race. That was why I wanted to finish. I wanted to let go of the lockdown heaviness of the last two years. I wanted to run, hike and sweat, cry and laugh it out of my body.
The night before the race, my three trail sisters, Jacqui, Bich and Lucy, stayed at the farm (it had been too long since we had all been together). I shared that this was the race that I may not finish. They looked at me as if to say, well, they did say, “That is not going to happen”.
This is why one needs trail sisters!
We went to bed.
We woke in the dark. We drove to the start line in the fog. It was cold. I was not nervous as usual.
This race was different.
It was a small gathering, maybe twenty-five marathon runners (eight women); the endurance race industry has been hit hard; we had the race briefing and headed to the start line.
When I was about 15km in, I realised that although I thought I knew about 80% of the trails I would be running on, it turns out I knew about 20%.
Mindset Shift – I had to let go of what I thought I knew and be present with what was before me.
Every time another muddy and slippery hill presented itself (the race had 1500m elevation), my first reaction was, “Seriously?” “How can there be another hill?” “What?” and there were a few “Fu%K’s.”
Mindset Shift – Affirmations: “You love hills. (I actually do) and one step at a time.”
Around the 25km mark, I asked another runner, who was in another distance, “What happens after this descent?” Her reply, “You just go down here, turn left, you’ll see the aid station, then you loop and come back up towards the finish.” That felt great to hear, but it was not true. What followed was about 8km of hell because I kept looking for the aid station, expecting it to be around every corner. It was 8km away.
Mindset Shift – Everyone’s perception is different. Beware because holding onto someone’s truth may have a negative impact on your own.
When I was about 30km in and had just climbed and descended the highest climbs and deepest descents, I ran to my trail sisters in tears, saying, “I can’t do that again. You have no idea how hard that was, and I have to go back that way.” They hugged me. They fuelled me on many levels and then sent me back out.
Mindset Shift – They believe you can do this. They have your back 100%. Trust them.
And then things got dark.
Literally and figuratively. I was in a dark pine forest—roughly 5km of continual descent and ascent, short, sharp, and brutal descent. I had to crawl on my hands and knees in some sections. I was not in a good headspace.
Then I realised that all around me was a carpet of the fairy-tale toadstools, the bright red ones with white spots (Amanita Muscaria), and it was magical. I was pulled out of my darkness for a moment when I noticed I was in a magical fairyland—my moment of awe during the run.
Mindset Shift: -There can be moments of awe-inspiring magic and delight even in the darkness.
And then I realised that if I ate one of the toadstools, it could all be over. The exhaustion, the tiredness, the pain.
Mindset Shift – DO NOT EAT THE TOADSTOOL!
As I made my way out of the forest, I knew I needed help. I had been in my thoughts for 38km, and now I needed a mental boost that I could not provide for myself.
At the final aid station, I saw my trail sisters for the last time, and I declared, “The only thing that will get me through the last 4km is “The Greatest Showman!”. I plugged myself in, waved them goodbye and stomped up the hill singing my heart out.
Mindset Shift – Sometimes in life, you need Hugh Jackman!
In that final 4km, I sang and danced through pain. The sun was setting, shining on my back, and I cried tears of joy and deep gratitude. I kept saying, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
I also sobbed tears of release and grief over what has been lost over the last few years.
The last 1km was challenging. I was so close.
As I crossed the finish line, my arms stretched out in a victory salute; I said, “It’s done. Leave it out on the trail.”
And I did.
This marathon was different. This marathon was a symbol of grief and loss.
A marathon of endings. Of new beginnings.
When I arrive at a start line, I always say that I will be different when I cross the finish line. Every race leaves me bolder. This one also left me lighter.
Wishing you a weekend of lightness and Hugh Jackman if you are so inclined!
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