Everyone needs a break every now and then, be it from a hectic life, a stressful situation or just a multitude of negative feelings. These breaks can sometimes be deliberate, like a Sunday afternoon walk, a meal out or a spa weekend being rubbed up and down by a bloke with an indeterminate sexual preference. Or, sometimes it’s accidental, like a few posts back where I wrote about walks that unexpectedly turn out to be great. An accidental break came for me on Sunday. I’ve had, quite honestly, a testing few weeks, the last two being particularly full on for many reasons and finding myself flung out in the face of adversity. Luckily, for the most part I have stayed true to my beliefs but I’m also very aware of the long-term implications. It’s worth pointing out that this break was more of a break from a spiralling mental state than a day trip down to Weston-Super-Mare.
On Sunday morning, in the grip of the washing machine that has been my life for a while, I had my first running event of the year; the test to see if my fitness has held up over winter. The early signs weren’t good as I was in pain during the warm up, so just decided to do it and see how I ended up, and accept it. Before the race I spotted a friend of mine through the crowd, and was amazed to see he was talking to a guy who works in my office, whom I only know by sight. To put it in perspective, there’s a thousand people at my place of work, so it is a small world indeed. During a brief chat on the start line, my friend turned to my distant colleague and said, “This is the guy I tell you about who runs in the military fatigues!”. My reputation is spreading.
This particular race is cross country, very muddy, and has a very challenging start, with steep hills. Feeling in pain from the starting gun, by mile five I’d consigned myself to the fact that I was just going to have to suck it up and go with it and just float along and see where I ended up. I had an energy gel, moved slightly over to the left to allow runners to overtake and plodded on. Shortly after, my mate from the start caught me up. We had a chat, comparing ailments and apparent plummeting fitness levels, whilst being overtaken by the race’s fastest female (who, incidentally, had a chest infection). I’m not entirely sure what happened after that, maybe it was the energy gel working, or maybe it was a second wind, but either way, I found myself tightening the screw, dropping my friend and overtaking all the people who had sailed past me. Long, boring story short, I finished with a narrow personal best and finished 42nd out of nearly 500 people.
It could have been negative feelings and thoughts pushing me to dig deeper, or it could have been sheer determination. I know that after a couple of weeks floating in a wilderness of self-doubt, ever-lowering self-esteem and wobbling life compass, it was just what I needed to lift me up and help me feel useful and purposeful again. Knowing what I have ahead of me this week also, feeling like I’m standing in the shadow of a huge cliff wondering if I have the necessary kit to get me up and over it yet again. Remains to be seen.