I have always been a fairly self-depreciating kind of guy, which is odd in a way as I am somewhat of an optimist and have a pretty positive outlook on life in general.
Being hard on myself has always been there and I have no idea where this stems from. I suppose some people are satisfied with where they are at in life and then others who strive for more. Moderation has never been an easy thing for me to deal with and whilst I now channel this positively, it has taken me down some pretty negative roads in the past, particularly my early to mid 20’s. During these times I was very hard on myself and the cycle became constant drawing me down and down.
Running, for the last few years, has been my outlet and to an extent, my salvation. However, it wasn’t until I discovered ultra distance events and trail running that I became truly hooked and made me realise I had found where I belonged. I suppose I was looking for something that helped me get away from reality and also a way of beating myself up physically as opposed to mentally, with the difference being the hurt is a brilliant one, a hurt that I am proud of and not ashamed of. This hurt makes me stronger and has without a doubt made me a better man.
As well as the running, I find the writing about this path I am on extremely cathartic. I am fortunate that I get to share my experiences with both fellow ultra runners, shorter distance runners and non runners alike through this blog. Hearing from other people how I have helped them to decide to take on a challenge that they thought beyond them is an amazing feeling and every race I enter, I have no idea whether I will finish or not or in what time or position. For me, it has never been about my placing in races although I would be lying if I said I wasn’t competitive or wanting to improve. It is more about the experience of having done something and experience something epic and out of my comfort zone.
And it is my writing and my general love of this sport that has led me to having just been sponsored, as opposed to my running ability.
Last week I received an email from Buff requesting that I join their ultrarunning team for the 2014 season. Going back to my self-depreciating side, my very first thought was not “wow- this is amazing, look how far I have come” but, “wow- who have I taken a place away from and what will people think of me?”.
I have had a few days to digest and yes whilst I am still embarrassed to an extent, I am also honoured and excited to have this opportunity presented to me. No, I am not the best runner or even a natural athlete, but I do simply love this sport and if my sponsorship helps other ‘normal’ runners become inspired and realise it is not just the very best who can gain sponsorship in this fast growing sport then that can only be a good thing.
So when I turn up at the start of the North Downs Way 50 again in just over three weeks time, head to toe in Buff gear I will be self conscious for sure, but I will also be thinking that it has not even been two years yet since I ran this event as my first ultra in August 2012 and how far I have come as a person and as a runner.
Having had the perfect start to the season at the South Downs Way 50 two weeks ago, I will be fired up to run this race hard and get a PB on this course. Having now run both events, I do think the North Downs is a tougher course, so if I can finish in around eight and a half hours I will be absolutely delighted. But as always, it is not my finish time but how I enjoy the day that really counts and as long as I run to the best of my ability on the day that is all I can offer.
Based on previous race results, I will also be giving around a third of the field the chance to finish and say, “Sweet, I beat that sponsored runner so it must have been a good day…”.