Watching the thousands of amazing people take part in today’s London Marathon inspired me so much. What true grit they all had, such determination, mental strength, and phenomenal spirit.
Anyone that has ever completed a marathon will remember their first (and possibly last!) time. It isn’t just about the actual day of the run, it’s the months’ of work beforehand that equally deserve admiration. The terror when you hear yourself agreeing to sign up and then all the work that follows; finding a training plan and importing that into your calendar, seeing all the runs mapped out in black and white in the looming weeks and months ahead, seeing the distance and speed increasing on that plan, and then the reality of actually following it. The painful limbs, the blistered feet, the black toe nails, the sleepless nights dreading the next morning’s scheduled ‘long run’ as you push the distance up and venture into unchartered waters, and the sober evenings out when you have to hold back from the booze because of the looming miles you’ve got to put in the next day.
Then there is the psychological battle; the self doubt of “what if I can’t do it?” The dread of “how much is it going to hurt?” - and it will hurt!! The tears throughout the training, the doubt, the fear of the unknown and the doubting of your ability to rise to the challenge. Oh, and then there is the fund raising for the charity that is so close to your heart, and the pressure of not letting them down.
For all those reasons I applaud every single person that entered the London Marathon - not forgetting those who were due to, but couldn’t take part today because of injuries and illness encountered as a result of the training, and who watched with the mixed emotions of real sadness, envy and perhaps even a little relief.
They can all feel so incredibly proud of themselves. They took it on, worked hard, made physical and psychological sacrifices, pushed themselves, got out of their comfort zones, battled in mind and body and found what they were capable of. Well done to each and every one of them.
But we don’t have to enter a Marathon to do all of that. We can find our own challenge and make ourselves get out of our comfort zones by doing many other things, pushing and challenging ourselves, showing real commitment, overcoming self doubt, and finding out what we are capable of, too. By doing so, we find out what we are made of, feel unbelievably proud of ourselves, come alive and energised and, more than anything, can draw on the accomplishment in the future whenever we have a moment of doubt or fear.
For example, only a couple of weeks ago I was coaching a teenager who had just returned from 5 days in Wales completing her D of E Gold Medal and she proudly told me with a massive grin across her face that “When I first put my huge back pack on I struggled to even walk across the car park and genuinely doubted that I would ever be able to carry it for five days over miles and miles of Wales - but I did, and I am SO impressed with myself.” Quite right, too - she has every reason to be.
It really can be anything - but pushing what we think are our boundaries and limits and finding that in fact they weren’t is such a powerful tool and can help us in the future in so many ways. We can ‘bank’ those accomplishments as credits and draw on them anytime in our future when we have a little (or large) wobble, a moment of self belief, or find ourselves truly out of our comfort zone. It is those times when we can tell ourselves with real conviction, “come on, I can do this - I managed to do XYZ, so I know I can do this….” and it really works. This is probably over-sharing, but I even got through childbirth this way by me drawing on the fact that I had managed to complete a huge bicycle challenge a few years previously, in aid of MENCAP, over 500km in China - so I know this strategy works.
What’s in your ‘bank of accomplishments’ and how many more credits can you work towards investing in the future by stepping out of your comfort zone, challenging yourself in some way, facing your fears and pushing your limits? It is so worth it, both at the time but also for future use.
Good luck and enjoy the challenges.