Sunday, 29 December 2013

Using the 'Impossible' to Eradicate Excuses

On New Year’s Day 2013, my cousin and I sat in my flat in Gothenburg in our pyjamas and compiled a list of resolutions for the new year. I’d never gone in for the whole resolutions malarkey before, at least not properly. Perhaps I had made vague promises in my head and conjured some wild ideas, but never anything set in stone, never anything that I would actually go through with. This year was different though; I made resolutions, I wrote them down and I intended to keep them.

One of these resolutions was that by 2014 I would have ran for two hours continuously. Two weeks later, in the early hours of January 14th, I signed up for the Birmingham half marathon, which was due to take place in the autumn. At that point, I could barely run for 20 minutes without stopping, but I knew that if I paid for something and told people about it, then I’d have to go through with it.

Throughout early 2013, I kept on plugging away. In March, I ran my first 10k with my brother in Sweden. By May, I had ran my second. In June, I took part in the Endure 24 ultra event as part of a team, running 20 miles over a 24 hour period. It was fantastic and I felt alive. I was excited for the challenge of the upcoming half marathon and started to aim for a sub-2 hour time, rather than merely hoping to stumble around the course.

Then the summer happened and I moved to France to work as a Keycamp courier. I was living by a beautiful lake in the mountains but, for some reason, instead of taking advantage of the idyllic terrain and using it as the perfect training canvas, I all but stopped running. Sporadically, I would lace up my trainers, but long hours, too many baguettes and too much red wine seemed to take centre stage. When I returned home, it was straight back to university, and I just never quite got back into the swing of it.

When October 20th rolled around, I was woefully unprepared. The night before race day, I sat and moaned to my father, who was also taking part, that I couldn’t do it, that I wasn’t doing it. Stubbornness got the better of me though and the next morning I found myself on the start line, chip laced to my shoe, ready to go.

I took it steadily, very steadily. I just wanted to finish. One foot in front of another, I made it through the first mile markers - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Eventually, after several painful hills, we made it to mile 6 and then mile 7. As soon as the half way point had been reached I knew that I could do it, that I wouldn’t stop. Surprisingly quickly, the finish line came into sight, and the clock said 02:19:08.

I thought I’d be disappointed not to have made my sub-2 goal, especially because it was solely the fault of my own laziness. I wasn’t upset though because something clicked and I was happy just to have finished at all. Twelve months before, that wouldn’t have even been an option. It would have been - to finally get to the point of this post - impossible.

However, a little bit of determination made the impossible not only possible, but almost ordinary. The fact that I managed to complete the half marathon on the back of entirely insufficient preparation meant that it wasn’t just on my horizon now, but it was very firmly in the realm of what I could achieve, and that almost makes it worth so much more, at this point. An added bonus was that if I had ran my sub-2 hour race, I probably wouldn’t have ever managed my running for 2 hours new year’s resolution. Peaks and troughs.

The fact that I ran a distance I once would have called ‘impossible’ hasn’t just affected my fitness though; it has opened opportunities in every other area of my life too. Sport has never been my ‘thing’. It has never been my natural vocation. Yet, I managed to achieve something in that area and if that is possible, then what excuses do I have left not to succeed in the area where I do have natural talent, the activities that are my ‘thing’? None, none at all.

Go out there and do something you think you can’t because, after that, there’ll be nothing in the world that can stop you doing what you know you can.