All the feels
April 08, 2024

All the feels

The feeling when you know you can just go all day. Nothing will get in your way. You are free, it’s hard but it’s easy. It’s a state of flow.

I had not felt it consistently. I had blown up in key long runs. Even easy runs felt harder than they should have. But I had felt it in stages. I knew what it felt like. I knew it was good. I had to reconnect with it.

“When in this block have I felt the feeling I want?” I asked myself.

The answers came fast:

45 x 200m on my 45th birthday in December.

12 days of “Ultra Trackmas” in December.

800s in Jan

21.1km race in Feb

The 10km run off the bike in X terra in March

What was “on” my mind in these sessions? What was “in” my mind in these sessions? What really was the feeling?

I didn’t have all the answers but I had a few and that was enough. We often are greedy and want all of our questions answered. I figure that if we can get clarity on a few things and roll with them then we will move forward. So that’s what I did.

My training (with the help of the ever supportive Tom and Rob Foster) was made based on running a sub 3 hour marathon in Milan on April 7th. (as well as doing all the other fun stuff along the way that I love)

I knew this. I knew that my legs had endured what was necessary from a running stand point to put me in the right position to achieve my target.

What I knew above all was that the running is only one piece of the puzzle. Of course another piece is relaxation on many fronts. And perhaps the most important thing is the purpose.

The purpose intersected the feeling. The time lines stacked up. It came on my birthday just a few days before I would fly back to the UK to spend the last few weeks of my mother’s life with her. The purpose was her. I could diverge into many of the feelings I had and still have about mums fight with cancer but that’s for another time. She gave me purpose, she always has and she always will.

When I was connected with the feeling, which was happening increasingly, I had not a single doubt in my mind that I would run sub 3. But not everyday was perfect, even the final ten days leading into the race were up and down. Never the less I felt no pressure. That was one of mums amazing qualities. She would be over the moon if I ran sub 3 and continue to love and support me unconditionally if I didn’t, so long as I gave it everything I had. A unique quality.

As happens in a taper, you go through rough patches as the body is adjusting. In my case to lower training volumes and the way that impacts processes in your body. It’s mayhem but it’s essential. I knew this. I thought about the feeling, at every chance that was presented to me.

We are savage to each other really in these things without meaning to be. We are what feels like constantly reminded of the goal, as leading into a race everyone asks what it is. It’s only because they care, and I appreciate that, but the response has to be the right one for the mind as you will use it over and over. And no, it’s not to reiterate your planned time. That’s the outcome. More than ever we have to remain focussed on the process and of course super relaxed.

5:30am, 15 minutes before my alarm I was up. I could feel it and as the day broke I knew it, she was there, purple sky, absolutely beautiful. This was going to be the day. It had everything I needed, all I had to do was run.

I actually have very little to write about the run that’s interesting or I haven’t mentioned above. There is a reason for that. From about 3km when things settled down, it all just felt like a float, exactly what Rob had messaged me the night before.

I was running with Cathal who also wanted to run sub 3 and had dedicated immense time and effort to his goal. Inspiring to watch on so many levels over the last 12 months. We didn’t talk much. We didn’t need to. He was relaxed and grateful and from time to time shared some good words. I checked on him occasionally as we made our way through the streets of Milan, he was perfect.

32km and I could feel him closer on my heels. I wanted him to go, I didn’t want to hold him back. Without saying a word he went and I could not have been happier for him. I knew that I could hold 4:15 but I also knew that I did not have much more in me.

“X Terra” I thought to myself. I was reconnected with the feeling. The feeling that I could tolerate the pain in my legs that was increasing step by step. I had run well off the bike in the X terra race a few weeks back and I knew I was no worse now than I was at the start of that run. Easy peasy!

A strong mindset does not erase pain, it’s having a system to deal with it that makes it tolerable. A system that with 8km to go was having a workout of its own. I kept coming back to the fact that we had run a good race to this point and I knew I could hold the pace I needed. I was doing it. Maybe I had the added power of Mums spirit with me. It was better than that though. Dad and Holly were there in spirit too. We were together and strong just as we had all been together in December. The images vivid in my mind as they often are.

Just a few kilometers from the end I saw a big sign that said “f**k cancer.” I smiled peacefully. I felt no anger but I felt power, the feeling, it was there, I could do anything.

I looked up as I crossed the finish line. I was light but heavy. Happy but crying. Short of breath. Stumbling. It was all sorts of everything all mixed in to one.  It was a gift from her to me and a gift from me back to her. A moment in time I will never forget.

There is a lot, it is still fresh but I keep coming back to the same summary. When there is purpose there is performance. When the purpose does not exist nor does the need for performance.

This one was special. My Mum was and will always be special.

I love you Mum xxx