I am still ‘high’ from Saturday, and it is now Tuesday afternoon. I am not sure when I am going to come down again. It was a ‘legal high’ of course, we are not advocating breaking the law here, and it is a high anyone can get.
No, I didn’t take anything, I ran a race. It was quite simply the hardest race I have ever done in my (admittedly short) running career.
It was called the Mount Oxford Odyssey, and was supposed to be 18km and around 4500 feet of total ascent. I say ‘supposed’ because we were told on the start line they had added an extra 2km and it was now 20km!
It was wet and foggy, the terrain was really really steep, and it was a very hard day out. At one point I managed to fall off the path into a tree, cutting, scraping and bruising myself. There were some parts of the course labeled “High Injury Area. Take Care!” I, of course didn’t fall off those bits, that would have been heroic, dashing bravely down the steep and dangerous areas. No, I fell off the path to the bridge less than a kilometre from the start, before we had even reached the mountain proper!
The men winners did it in about 2-2:10 hours, the women in around 2 and a half hours, my daughter and husband in just over 4 hours (Emily beating her dad by less than 5 minutes) and I took 5:38.
I loved it, yes the climb was really steep and I was very glad to see the top (where I was high in at least two senses of the word) and yes, I was so very tired at the end, but what a feeling! I did it, I am so happy, I cannot stop smiling 2 days later.
Some of this is, I suppose chemical, exercise endorphins and all that, but some must also be psychological. It really feels great to do hard things and succeed. By some peoples standards I was maybe a bit of a failure. I was 3rd from last, with a time more than twice the winning time. And I wasn’t hanging around having picnics, I was working hard all the time. I really couldn’t have gone any faster. But by my standards I am a winner. I did something very hard for me to do and I finished it, cuts, bruises and all.
Now I am finding it hard to stop bragging and evangelising! Take up running folks! Be like me! I am a winner! I am a champion! I have to try and keep the lid on, but it pops open every now and again, like in this post!
So what is it? Why does finishing almost last in a mountain race, undertaken in drizzle and fog, and run mostly alone, make me so happy? The endorphins are long over now. Can doing something hard really make you this happy?
And is this the secret to happiness? Pick something really hard, and keep at it until you can do it? Is it actually that simple (simple, but not easy…or it would not be hard, would it?)
I have no idea, and would welcome your thoughts on this.
In the meantime I am off to the park for a 5km fun run. And next week I start training for the Mount Arrowsmith race. Fun!