The UK trail running championships 2015
Strength of mind.
As runners we have good periods and bad periods of running, years when achieve PBs and feel strong and worthy winners and then years when life gets in the way and it doesn’t all come together as it might. 2015 was been one of those years when my personal life has taken its toll on my running achievements. Instead of flying as I had hoped I have had to lower my sights slightly.
I have raced much less this year than usual. My training has been less consistent and I’ve logged many fewer miles. Interestingly though the races that I have entered have taught me so much and in a twist of fate I believe I have taken more away form the races this year than previous ones.
I entered the Ridgeway Ultra last year with the intention to win. At the time of entry I had set my goals high and was excited about the challenge. However, as the race loomed large on the horizon and with very little running in my legs, I was puzzling over how to approach it. Do I not do it, – I have nothing like the miles in my legs required to do the trail justice. Do I go and run the first 30km and pull out after that I’d at least have done a good training run or should I just go and run and see how far I can go – I have nothing to loose…..
I settled on the last option. The first 30km I ran strong and was comforted that the first half of this race was the toughest in terms of terrain. If I could feel good on this section, things might be ok. I was being met every 10-15km by James my trusty support crew. I like to keep a careful eye on my fluid and food intake and like to be met at these intervals during my long races. I then use the aid stations to “top up”, generally grabbing a handful of jelly babies and a quick slug of coke. I don’t stop at aid stations, preferring to run through them.
After my positive start things started to get a wee bit harder between 30 – 40km and this was entirely due to my head. I lost confidence, I began to doubt I could do this. The demons started to speak to me. I was listening. So I allowed myself to drop the pace and try to reconnect with my positive voice. It was at this point that I was fortunate to spend time running alongside a young guy who was also having a momentary wobble. We shared stories, he confided in me about his struggles with cancer and that he felt this was his last race as his body couldn’t endure the physical stress brought on by running ultras. How can you not love this sport being surrounded by such inspirational people. A pep talk from James at the next refill and my confidence returned. My parents also appeared to lend their support at intervals over the next 30km which I really valued. After that slower 10km, I was back up to racing speeds and I felt better than ever. Understandably I had dropped crucial places in the field but it was in my hands, I just had to get on and give it my best shot.
This positivity never left me again, I raced with confidence and strength, climbing back up the field and managing to finish 4th behind some amazing women, the strongest field to have run the Ridgeway.
Post race I starting thinking, how did I do it on so little running? And the answer I believe is in the ‘mind set’. That and some muscle memory built over years of running! I believe strongly in the power of the mind and I have spent a lot of time over the last few years working on my mind set. I have always believed it is a runners’ most powerful tool, harness that and you can achieve almost anything. I have spent time watching how my mind affects my performance and developing strategies to harness it during races. I spend time training my muscles to run and at the same time I believe I train my mind to accept and understand the different types of pain. It’s whilst training that I become better at understanding and can reading my perceived levels of exhaustion. I also lean how to push though when I really don’t want to go on. I have phrases, mantras, that I have built up, games I play, tricks I use to keep me going mile after mile. Ultra running is after all 80% mental.
When I dipped in this race my body wasn’t failing me, my mind was. My ability to finish the race strongly after 17hrs of running proved that. So next time I will be even stronger and those demons are going to have to work really hard to be heard!
Kerry Sutton – Ridgeway Ultra 2016 UK trail championships.