Do better. Try harder. Go further.

My 2013 running year has been plagued with injuries; minor injuries (phew!) that coach Ian Corless (thank you!) assures me have been ‘sent to test me’. Well, I’ve been tested a-plenty. Time for the Injury Gods to go pick on someone else. Meanwhile, as I’ve spent the year taking two steps forward one back, lots of people have asked me how and why I’m still motivated, why I don’t stop running instead of waiting for my ‘next’ injury, how I can remain positive (mostly) when I’m constantly (it seems) on an uphill struggle with my fitness.

Easy! I simply look around me and steal all the best bits from friends, family and personal heroes. How, then, can I not be inspired to do better, try harder, go further?

My ultrarunning passion started as a dream several years ago as I perused an article on some runner called Scott Jurek (check out his book Eat and Run, too). The article made me sit up and pay attention. It was something about his mindset … his talk about the next race he planned to win, about the strategies he used to go faster, to go further, to explore the limits of the human body, to consistently shut out the little voices screaming ‘QUIT’ and ‘STOP’. His passion and mental strength were mesmeric and I couldn’t help but want to steal a little of that and see what I could do with it within my own private world.

So began a wonderful journey of discovery (culminating frequently in tears, tantrums and the occasional smatterings of pride). The ultrarunning legend Scott Jurek might have lit the spark but ultra-running success (i.e. crossing the finish line even when everyone has packed up and gone home!!) requires as much yin as it does yang. You can have the brightest spark but you have to be completely comfortable with the dark and the shadows, too. I learned that one hero is not enough. I took a more rigorous look and hey ho found all the resources and inspiration and motivation I needed in extremely close proximity and readily accessible. How had I missed this previously? Confession time: I must now admit that I am nothing more than a common thief. I STEAL inspiration if and when required! And if you’re reading this blog then I have probably stolen from you, too!

I owe my ultrarunning ‘reality’ to a certain Irish Aussie (you know who you are). It’s all very well to dream of saving the world, of having super powers and/or hitting headline news for whatever … so ultrarunning remained a dream until I connected on Facebook with an old school friend and discovered that here was a (relatively!!) ‘normal’ person – running these crazy distances. So ultra-running wasn’t JUST for the Jureks of this world. Of course, I now know that he’s not really ‘normal’ at all – but you get my drift. It was only after finding out that ‘regular’ human beings could participate in this craziness that I registered for my first race in an effort to go further.

If my school buddy was my confirmation that ‘regular’ people could chase dreams – others inspire me daily to try and keep my head in the right place and just bloody get on with it! The ‘how and why do you keep going’ bit relies heavily on your comfort with the afore-mentioned ‘darkness’ behind the sparks. For that I draw frequently on one lady’s incredible ‘humanity’ and loyalty and belief in what’s good and what’s right. When you have to spend hours in your own company training for 18-hour ultra races you need to be (reasonably) at peace with who you are! With my neverending room for improvement in this area this Ms W from Woodingdean is a fountain of wonderfulness who ceaselessly inspires me to … do better.

And when the going gets really tough? I think of the friend who has more grit and determination than anyone I know. I draw on what I’ve witnessed in her competitive career, hoping to steal a breath of whatever it is she has that gives her the strength to always ALWAYS find that bit of extra drive and depth of ‘digging’ into the abyss that is that hurt box – to find whatever is left in the human body to push a little further, a little faster, in order to cross that bloody elusive finish line. It’s humbling to witness when you know that your own best efforts have been ‘relatively’ pathetic in comparison. No, no, let’s not get into the ‘you must race to your own ability’ argument. I’m TELLING you that that kind of finishing ‘drive’ is something I am constantly chasing, which I am determined to find every time I hit that hurt box – and which I still allow to drift away each time it really matters. You know who YOU are, Mrs A. You inspire me every time to try harder.

And let’s not forget family – maybe the strongest inspiration of all. Facing down personal challenges would be impossible (for me) without daily motivation and support from husband and children and I am totally blessed that mine are the absolute best of the best and know me so incredibly well. And I can’t possibly write about my heroes and help without mentioning my beloved daughter’s thorough understanding of my mindset – the perfect example of tuning in to what’s needed: Whilst in a blur of tears during a race last year and amidst a thousand ‘comforting’ Facebook messages, Caitriona, my lovely daughter, stepped back from the platitudes and texted ‘Oh, suck it up, Mother. Stop crying in the bloody gym and get on with it!’ That’s the message that got me to the finish! Meanwhile, my husband refused to acknowledge my blubbering and instead just prompted me to get to the next fuel station, the next tree, the next marker … These are my true heroes – the people who just ‘get it’ – who get the fact that this is something that I simply needed to do! No explanations necessary.

So you asked where I get my inspiration. Now you know. From you! All of you!

Oh – and my ‘elite’ heroes? I had the absolute fortune and honour a couple of weeks ago to run in the presence of (I definitely won’t say ‘with’ haha) Scott Jurek, who was in the UK to speak at the Veg Fest. He was wearing a tee-shirt with his own slogan emblazoned on it: Pain Only Hurts! You can only win the most famous 100-mile trail race seven times in a row with a mindset like that. As a runner, how can you not feed off that?

Emelie Forsberg! She smashes records and finish lines with a permanent smile and you can’t but help share her thrill when you read her blogs about her passion for the mountains.

And Kilian Jornet. Wow! Doesn’t the title of his new book ‘Run or Die’ say it all? When people discover a passion, they will often make a list of books they want to read, races they want to run etc. When Kilian started trail racing he sat down and wrote a list of all the races he wanted to WIN! What d’you say to that? Not a lot. Kilian is currently the fastest man in the world on the trails and has won almost every race on that list. Much like Ben Ainsley has an open line of communication with the Gods of the Deep (I’m sure of it), Kilian Jornet appears to have exclusive access to the secrets of the mountains.

These are my inspiration to do better, try harder and go further.

So there! Now you know. My sources of inspiration are no longer a secret haha. So … who are yours? If you haven’t thought about it, then now’s the time. I think you’ll find a few surprises – and many will be so much closer to home than you originally thought. (Note: If I mentioned all my sources this post would be very VERY long!!!)

Draw from your friends, your family, your neighbours, your clients, your childhood romances, your teenage celebrity crushes, your adult heroes and from Mother N herself. It doesn’t matter where it comes from so long as it helps you take a step closer to being the person you want to be. See the hero in everyone. Find it, then let it inspire you … to do better, try harder and go further.

2 Comments

  1. Alison

    Thanks so much for this Amanda. Really addictive read and just what I needed right now. Although my goals at this point are seemingly much simpler than I’ve ever imagined setting (i.e. Simply getting up a few hours before my children so I can exercise at home and get the day off to a more positive and relaxing start), they are nonetheless my challenges at present which would push in another step in the direction I plan to move. It’s always fascinating and helpful to hear how other people find their extra mile. You’re definitely one of my pillars of inspiration. Happy running! x

    • Amanda

      Thanks, Alison. Small kids and complicated goals just don’t match. You’re absolutely right to keep them as simple as possible. And keep most of them achievable but always have one up your sleeve that’s just a little out of reach so you always have something to strive for. x

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