Friday 9 October 2015

Friends can help you succeed in the face of adversity

Gerry Duffy

Published 03/06/2014 | 02:30

Legendary ultra-runner John O'Regan, seen here competing in the Wings For Life World Run

Last week I mentioned that I took part in an ultra- marathon event on May 17. It was organised by a man steeped in ultra-running in Ireland – Anthony Lee – as well as members of the ever-growing East of Ireland Marathon Club (EOI).

That Saturday morning, Staplestown in Co Kildare saw 18 competitors arrive for a 7am start. Amongst the congregation was legendary ultra-runner, John O'Regan as well as Portumna 100km champ (2012) Ger Copeland. The distance we planned to run was 50 miles (80km). There was also a 50km and full marathon distance as well.

I was there because of an ambition to do the 'Connemara 100 Mile Run' in August. I felt this timely event would add great value to my preparations. I believe there are two things which happened on the day that are worth sharing.

As mid-morning approached – and as the temperature passed 20 degrees – I crossed the marathon mark (26.2 miles). At that point, I still felt reasonably good but as I climbed beyond 30 miles, I started to feel the strain. Perhaps it was the result of a slightly ambitious pace in the early stages, the hot conditions, or a busy week just catching up on me. Regardless – by mile 35 I resembled a hamburger that has been on the barbeque for too long. I was overcooked. By mile 40 I was reduced to a shuffle in order to just move forward.

At 44 miles I returned to the race headquarters with one more lap (six miles) to run. I decided then, I was going to call it a day. My logic was simple. My legs had become extremely sore and I felt I risked injury if I continued. It was a stepping stone after all and not my main event of the year.

After I stopped, I lay on the ground to combat the wave of nausea which always hits me after an event. To help recovery I raised my legs so as to get the blood flowing back to the top half of my body. There I lay for 10 minutes and by the end of it I felt much better. As I stood up, the nausea had disappeared and to my surprise, so too had most of the pain in my legs. Just then, Catherine Guthrie – a fellow runner but supporter on this occasion – passed by.

"Why don't you continue?" she questioned.

"You'll regret it if you don't".

Until then, I hadn't given such an idea any thought whatsoever.

But as Catherine repeated her encouragement, she offered a glance of inspiration which was difficult to ignore.

I examined my body, surmised I felt fine again and so immediately made my mind up to continue. Something had been reignited and I felt completely re-energised again.

Less than an hour later, I crossed the line.

More importantly, I now had – for my August ambition – 50 miles of apprenticeship in my legs.

What's more, I felt like I had the ability to continue.

This gave me a huge boost of confidence as I travelled home.

Perhaps the moral of this story is twofold.

Firstly, often we have the power to motivate others just by a few simple words. I am certain that this is the reason I went on. At the finish line, I went and embraced Catherine in a show of gratitude.

The second was this. Often we hit a wall and feel like we don't have the ability to continue. Perhaps just taking a breather even for a few moments before starting again can be a clever strategy. This can work in ultra-marathons, mini marathons – or anything when you think about it.

If you arrive at this moment sometime soon, I hope my experience of last week is of value.

Twitter: @32marathons

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