So, I’m at the halfway point of my challenge! (Although I still have a few blogs to write to prove it!) Wow and phew and what the heck all rolled into one!
When I launched this challenge, I was nervous. I knew it would be a stretch for me in many ways: not only completing the races, but also finding the time to run and write about the experience, overcome a lack of self confidence in sharing the blogs and taking on challenges that felt beyond my ability. What have I learned from the experience so far?
1. You’re capable of so much more than you think you are.
Had you asked me at the start of the challenge if I’d complete a marathon, or run one of the toughest races through the Welsh mountains in the epic Man Vs Horse, I’d have laughed and told you it was probably just a stretch too far. In many of my challenge races, because they have felt beyond my ability, my biggest fear has been that it would be just too much, I’d fall apart, not be able to finish, and feel like a failure. What I’ve learned though is that every time I’ve felt out of my depth I’ve always managed to finish them, with a smile on my face and a thought to myself, see, you can do it! You never know what you are capable of until you try.
2. You’ll discover fellow adventurers.
I barely knew Gemma before this challenge, but we bonded over her compassion for the cause I’m supporting and our shared love of adventurous running. She’s joined me on quite a few races now, and is one of my biggest cheerleaders. Others have sponsored, supported or encouraged me in ways that have surprised and touched me.
There’s a beautiful soul who follows my blog, Dianne. Though I’ve never met her, we’ve developed a friendship through cyberspace and she’s offered so much encouragement. Diane was so desperate to sponsor me that she persevered through several technical difficulties to become the very first person to donate to my challenge. Just when I was about to quietly fizzle away because I thought no one cared, she gave me the accountability, motivation and self-belief to keep going. Plus, her donation made it real – now someone had put their hard earned cash on the line, there was absolutely no backing out of the challenge!
3. You’ll learn to challenge your definition of success
Constantly entering challenge races has meant that I’ve spent less time focused specifically on improving my speed. Whereas last year as a beginner I was getting faster all the time, this year the gains have been marginal and over longer differences, while my 5k time has stayed the same. I was frustrated by my lack of improvement, until I realised it’s a very different kind of training with a different goal. I may not have seen such drastic improvement as my first year running, but I’ve gained experience of different terrains, doubled my distance, shaved time off several distances, and increased my endurance.
I’d also thought at the start, setting an ambitious fundraising goal, that the challenge would be a success if I raised “enough” money for my charity. I am super aware that there are many brilliant causes out there and lots of people ask for sponsorship, particularly in the running community. I never want anyone to feel coerced into giving to something they don’t want to or awkward for not sponsoring me. The truth is many of us are already supporting charities that we consciously donate to because their cause or work aligns with what is important to us or our family.
More than money, I’ve learned that an important part of this challenge is about raising awareness. Many people have asked me questions about sex trafficking, or have been unaware the extent to which it happens globally. Being able to share information with people as well as keep the issue on people’s radar has been just as important as the funds I raise for A21. Education and awareness are key parts of prevention, proven to make a tangible difference to social issues.
A few years ago, someone who’d recently learned about trafficking at a conference, noticed a group of teenage girls seeming to be controlled by an older woman when at an airport in Europe. When this woman was distracted on her phone, the person went and spoke to the girls, found out that they had been recruited for jobs abroad through an agency, but that they were confused, because they didn’t know where they were going, and the woman had started speaking aggressively towards them and had taken their passports. The airport security police were called over and as the woman noticed she tried to run away. The girls had just had a narrow escape from being trafficked. This is an example of how awareness can make a difference to the prevention of trafficking and identification of victims.
Often, what we think will mean success, such as meeting a specific speed or donation goal, is only a small part of the picture. If we open our eyes a little wider, we’ll see there is so much more we’ve learned or achieved along the way.
4. You’ll learn to keep going & see it through to the finish.
A year ago, I made a comment to a friend about how I didn’t have the discipline to do a Masters. Believing in my capability and knowing my desire to do further study, he replied, “if you have enough discipline to run, you definitely have enough discipline to study.”
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve chewed over his words when I’ve been running or studying. I’d consider discipline and self-control to be two of my weaknesses, so I’ve been encouraged and motivated by his words.
Although there are moments in many races where I think about quitting, so far I’ve never not finished. On the few races where for whatever reason I’ve felt close to withdrawing, I remind myself that even if I have to rope in a spectator to help drag me across the line, I will finish. No excuses.
At this halfway point, I’m renewing my commitment to finish what I started. With just four months left of the year, realistically, I may not fit the remaining fifteen races by the close of 2016 . (Side note, I’ve probably already run 30 races this year, but although I could have already completed the challenge if I’d been less selective, I want to remain true to my original intent that the races be iconic, important or challenging in distance, pace, terrain, etc.) I’m putting my foot to the pedal and I’ve got several more race opportunities before Christmas. I’m hoping to finished by the end of the year, but if I don’t, I’ll keep going into early 2017 until I’ve completed the 30 races for 30 years. And for those of you who want to stay updated, I’ll keep posting my race blogs!
If you’d like to sponsor me, now is a brilliant time! A21, the charity I run for, combats sex trafficking holistically through prevention and awareness, protection of victims, prosecution of traffickers, and partnership with key governmental and international organisations. They rely on donations to continue the incredible work they’re doing. A massive thank you to those who have already supported me, not only in donations, but also all your kind words and for taking the time to read my blog. You guys are the best! 🙂 xx
Races so far:
Muskathon, Bulgaria to Greece (Race 9 – blog to follow!)
Man Vs Horse, Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys (Race 10 – blog to follow!)
Severn Bridge Half Marathon, Monmouthshire/Avon (Race 14 – blog to follow!)
South Wales Trails Half Marathon, Rhondda Cynon Taf (Race 15 – blog to follow!)