MAY BLOG BY COACH SAFF – ULTRA RUNNING

Ultra Running & “Meeting Yourself”

It’s no secret that I’ve recently gotten super into running as I’ve been banging on about it to anyone who will listen. In 2022 I was amongst that group of people that despised running, I’d never do it on my own, I’d hate every second of a 400m thrown into a workout, “runners high” was something I was absolutely certain was a myth. Then one random day I’d had enough of hating it and being bad at it (I think the two and two went together) and decided I would TRY and get a bit better at running. I threw myself into it, tried to learn as much as I could while getting some guidance and programming that specifically focused on lifting damn heavy and running damn far (I didn’t want to give up the gains). Little did I know I’d eventually fall completely in love with it and even decide “runners high” was very much a real thing and I was very much experiencing it.

Fast forward just over a year and I have completed a few training marathons here and there, a 12 hour ultra marathon in which I ran 85km/53 miles and am currently prepping for my first official race at the end of the month which will be a 50km trail race. More to the point I’m not sick of it, completely the opposite in fact, but why?

 

There’s something that I’ve found mostly in endurance training and events, a sense of reward, of overcoming something huge, of meeting a part of yourself that only comes out during your hardest times.

When you’re 4 hours into a “no earphones” solo run and all you’ve had to listen to is your own thoughts, you could be having a great time or an INCREDIBLY tough time depending on how your’re currently talking to yourself. And I would always welcome both of those voices. Both the “yes come on you’re smashing this” and the “what are you doing, you can’t do this, now is the time to quit”

It might be odd to some to say I welcome that voice telling me that “i can’t”, but the most rewarding runs and the times I feel most ecstatically proud of myself are the ones in which I hit rock bottom, meet that side of me and talk myself around, push through and make it to the end. If you don’t go through those hard times, where are the lessons? If you never hit “the dark place” how do you ever truly appreciate all the light?

There’s nothing more satisfying than the voice telling you “you can” winning the argument over the voice telling you “you can’t”. This happened multiple times during the 12 hour effort. So many ebbs and flows. Each time I hit a high I felt accomplished and proud at overcoming the previous low, and each time I hit a low I knew it wouldn’t last forever and that I’d get myself back to that high eventually. I welcomed both and accepted the emotions that came.

While for me, it usually (but not always!) takes a long endurance training run or event to get that argument going in my head and to get to a point that I’m at my lowest and having to pick myself up, that isn’t the case for everyone. Running is relative, it’s your own personal journey. Dependant on where someone is on that journey.. someone’s 5km could be my marathon which could be someone elses 100km run through the mountains or someones run across Africa. We could all be equally as nervous, we could all be reaching those points of wanting to quit, going through all of the peaks and troughs, but we are also all choosing to do something that pushes us, challenges us to be better. We are all building resilience, both mentally and physically.

 

It’s also not always about pushing yourself through hard times with a Goggins attitude. In my opinion you have to be kind to yourself to get through an ultra. You have to listen to your body, fuel it properly, keep it fed and watered. You have to know how your body reacts to certain foods, know how to care for yourself when things aren’t going right. You need to know when to ease off, when you can push, when you just need to walk and revaluate for a second. You need to learn about how your mind works and figure out when it needs to be nurtured or told to get on with it. If you try to sprint 100km without taking these things into account “you’re going to hit a wall” would be an understatement.

As someone who has struggled to be kind to and care for themselves in the past, I’m finding this to be such a big part of bettering myself and growing. And a huge contributing factor to every day happiness.

 

So to summarise why? Because it’s hard. I feel better prepared to deal with not just these physical tests but the mental ones in every day life too. And I’m starting to really love the me that comes out of the other side of each challenge. You need to push yourself and you equally need to be kind to yourself. I’m enjoying meeting myself on each of those runs! It is a privilege to get to run and so I will keep doing it until I can’t.

 

It’s been wonderful to see so many people recently getting into running or asking about starting, we’ve had countless people join in with the Run Club that were really apprehensive and in their own words “can’t run”. After some gentle persuasion they’ve come away feeling proud at having run further than they ever have and more to the point ENJOYED it. It’s also been great to have lots of meaningful conversations and hear stories from those that are seasoned runners. One thing i’ve noticed is that I’m yet to meet someone that regretted starting…

 

Side note: for those interested in the Run Club the dates and info are posted on our Instagram page (@huntsmanrunclub) and on the whiteboard at the front of the class. Feel free to ask me anything about running as well!

 

Saffron x

 

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