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What I learnt from my first 50km run

For so many things that happen in life, it has always been easy to take the small things for granted. The fact that we wake up each day, to be given another chance with new adventures and possible new journeys, to the people around us who live, work and smile with, we often forget how fortunate even in such trying times, we all are. At least for me, it is a reminder of how every situation that life throws at us is its way of either testing us or perhaps just simply reminding us that we should be thankful for the many things we have and for the people around us.


How often have we stopped and given thanks for the things we have in life?


I finally knocked off another milestone in my ultra journey on our National Day. In my previous post, I set out clear outcomes for myself to chart my progression. From 10pm on Saturday evening to the morning of the 9th of August, the 50km run was finally in the bag but while so many things ran through my head during the course of my adventure, there was one thing that stood out quite clearly.

WHILE STAYING THE FIGHT, BEING GRITTY AND PERSEVERING ARE ALL TRAITS I CAN STRONGLY RELATE TO, IT ALL BEGINS WITH GRATITUDE.

Everything has a reason. We can’t stay in a fight or have grit without a why.


Here’s what I learned during the course of my 50km journey:


1. The WHY before the GRIT – There are only so many times you can tell yourself to suck it up and keep moving forward before your mind starts to ask you why you’re doing this and stages a larger fight against you. Like people, it needs a reason to push forward and this requires us to have a purpose for the drive.


2. Stay thankful – In my own journey, there is so much I am and should be thankful for. When I was grossly overweight, I was blessed not to have many other accompanying medical ailments (diabetes, heart disease) or other long term conditions that would change my current situation. Yes I did have the occasional scare but these did not persist and has allowed me to find new meaning. There are many others who are not as fortunate as me.


3. Smiling makes it hurt less – This is a true reinforcement of what I mentioned in my previous post. To add on, it's easy to forget to stay positive when everything hurts. Make a conscious effort and it will become habit.


4. Stronger than we believe – I remember wanting to turn back at the 12km mark. Having done a run on the same morning, my legs were already hurting and the temptation to turn back was real. At this time, I noticed a taxi parked along the bus stop and was immediately reminded of how fortunate I am to be doing all of this for leisure while there are others out there who toll day and night to make an honest living. Unlike me, they can’t choose when they get to turn back but keep moving forward in order to bring food home to their families. The same applies to our front line workers who work day and night to keep us safe from COVID-19. Turning back for me, was no longer an option and once we tune that part of the mind off, we fall into a zone.


5. Make friends with your mind – For me, anything past the 24km mark soon becomes a conversation I have with my brain. This ongoing tussle to stop, continue, push harder or start walking becomes a real conversation and where I used to force him to carry out my instructions, it has now become one of relationship building. In honesty, for most of us except the elite few, it is hard to push a pace throughout a long run and what our minds are actually telling us is to regulate yourself.


The idea behind this is to understand what the mind is trying to do and to almost trick it into pushing that little bit more before giving in a little. For example, at the 24km mark, alarm bells were going off all over the place to slow down, walk and maybe even take a breather but I pleaded to go a couple more clicks before stopping and that eventually converted to 5-6km before I started slowing down the pace. This is not a new mind trick and many others like David Goggins often uses this in his own trials but I found it effective. It does however, require us to have conversations with our minds and not simply drive it to slavery.


6. Hydrate and hydrate often – I’ve always been tormented by cramps and hitting the wall during the longer training sessions and decided that I would leave nothing to chance. One of the wonderful things about Singapore is that our beautiful country always almost has a 24 hour store with easy access. I made it a point to hydrate with a carbohydrate and protein solution every 45 minutes after the first 70 minutes and even managed to indulge myself with a caffeine spike halfway through the run. Happy to say I didn’t cramp or hit the wall during the session and perhaps this has been the issue that has plagued me for the longest time.


7. The last stretch – All I can say is that the last 10% of the race is where it really gets hard. After covering 45km, we would think having to pace through the last 5 would be easy when we consider the relative distance covered. This cannot be further from the truth and I found my energy and emotional levels on a perpetual roller-coaster. It helps to focus on the small things such as moving one foot in front of the other, taking stock of the early morning scenery, counting lamp-posts etc. Do whatever it takes to release your mind from the stress of having fought the entire run and it’ll pass faster than we expect it to. Your mind will also thank you for it.

Almost 6 hours on the road resulted in me completing my first ever 50km run as part of my ultra journey.


When I tapped my watch to end the run at 50km, it wasn’t jubilation or happiness that overwhelmed me but instead a sense of gratitude to all the forces around me that kept me in one piece during the occasion. So many things could have happened over 6 hours but I managed to stay in one piece (relatively) and share this story with all of you.


There is truly so much in life that we should be thankful for and in this appreciation, it is only right then that we hold ourselves accountable for ensuring this gets paid forward and that others understand the true meaning of gratitude while they too are making positive changes in their lives.


Onward.




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