Tuesday 23 December 2014

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 in Killarney last month, was one of the runners in Staplestown, Co Kildare last month with Gerry Duffy

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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