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Not All Walls Are Stone – Mañana – Medium

9 times out of 10 I am a big fan. know, as big a fan of walls that you reasonably can be. They keep us safe, they keep up the roofs over our heads and hey, they even stop balls flying over into other people’s gardens. What’s not to love? Well Mexicans might disagree…

Too soon? Sorry, this isn’t going to be another political post, as much as I enjoy writing them but if I went into Trump and the current mess of the so-called “greatest country in the world” then I might lose any shred of sanity that I have remaining ( which after all the training I have been doing isn’t a lot, I assure you).

So yes, walls. Let’s assume we are all fans and have got the merch’ to prove it but the canny amongst you will have noticed that I didn’t say 10/10 ( give yourselves a metaphorical pat on the back for spotting it and reading this at all really) . That’s because not all walls are helpful, just as we don’t build all walls with cement and stone.

As you will have probably noticed, I have rarely mentioned running in recent months except to joke about how I wasn’t writing about running. How original. For those of you that know me, I am a master of procrastination and avoidance. Seriously, the stories and justifications that I can come up with would astound you but, I’ll tell you a secret. There is an easy way to tell when I’m avoiding something and it really isn’t as sophisticated as I have made this seem. I will just not talk about it…at all. I will not bring it up, I’m the Mr Zulu of changing the subject ( i.e. I do it at lightning speed) and I will do almost anything else just to distract you ( and myself) from the blatantly obvious fact that I am avoiding something. Works pretty well , …until it catches up to me.

It’s 2 months to go until my half marathon. Umm when did that happen and umm where do I get Hermione’s time-turner cos I need to fit in some much needed training ? So, with 2 months to go, it was safe to say that I was nowhere near where I needed to be in order to actually pull this off and finish the darned thing. Naturally, the panic monster made an untimely experience. If you don’t know what I mean, see this Ted Talk video to provide further context of my current mental state.

Why am I Tim Urban??

It’s not like I had just been sitting around doing nothing for the last two months…or at least that isn’t all I have been doing. Between Game of Thrones, the Clothes Drive, working and writing- I have managed to be just as busy as usual. I was loving every second of it but somewhere out there the Panic Monster was lurking in the background. Sometimes, I would listen to him, I would sit myself down and told myself I needed to run. I would tell myself off: you are better than this, you must do better than this and I swear that I always had the best intentions but then out of nowhere, I would find a reason, an excuse not to.

Although, the Panic Monster is always hanging around me ( as it does for most people with anxiety), it grew impatient around the two month mark and I realised that I had to get serious about fitting some training in. I decided to do some research ( it is me after all ) and see what the best kind of training strategy would be. I landed on running 5 times a week, with a rest day so that my granny limbs could recover. This might sound quite strict but it was necessary and allowed me to slowly build up my capability. Fitting this around yoga, working and writing wasn’t the easiest task and finding the motivation to keep going has been no cake walk either. However, with this new sense of focus, I was feeling optimistic about actually finishing this thing. It is only for 2 months after all.

I thought that once I started my new training schedule, the Panic Monster would retreat back into the abyss where it belongs. Yet, every time I went to sleep, it would torment my thoughts. I’d be lying awake and worrying about what would happen if I didn’t finish this, how would I feel if I failed? How embarrassing it would be to fail so publicly and how disappointed in myself I would feel. The progress I was making was so slow, I was terrified that even if I did improve, it just wouldn’t be enough. What if I just couldn’t do it? The idea of failing is enough to keep any awake at night, I’m sure we have all experienced it this time or another. I told myself it was only natural and reminded myself of a quote from one of my favourite childhood movies: the Princess Diaries.

“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear”

It didn’t help. Instead the panic was starting to affect my running too. I would be running and I would get to a certain checkpoint where I have stopped in the past. Fitness wise, I knew I was perfectly capable of going further but some switch in my head would just flip suddenly. One second, I would be running along, quite happily, and then the next I would feel like I was having a stroke. My right foot would cramp up, the sweat would be streaming down my face and it felt like someone was punching my chest repeatedly. For the first week or so, my training would roughly all go the same way. I’d get to that same point and like clockwork, I’d have to stop-like I had hit a wall. It was starting to feel hopeless. Despite all the miles I was running, it didn’t feel like I was actually going anywhere…figuratively at least.

Then something happened last week, something that even as I’m writing I am struggling to believe actually happened. I was running along one of my favourite spots along the Union Canal. Normally, I only see one or two people, it’s a pretty tranquil spot with only a few buggies and cyclists around. I was coming up to a local café which is about 4 miles in to my run. In the past, this is where I have started to feel tired. This is where my wall normally shoots up and where my brain tells me I should stop. Just when I thought I was about to hit the wall- my breathing was getting heavier and I was getting slower- I saw a figure in the distance. I wish I was making this up because it would seem more poetic but this really did happen. I kept running towards this blurred figure. The closer I got, I started to make out that the figure was actually a man in a wheelchair who was racing along the canal towards me . Quite frankly, this man was putting me to shame. He had 1 leg and was at least 3 times my age and there he was with the biggest smile on his face, flying along and loving every second. He shot me a wide smile and an ever warmer hello and carried on racing past me. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself ( which must have been pretty creepy for any passers by) at how bizarre the whole exchange was. Here I was feeling so sorry for myself when this man, with arguably so many more walls to contend with than I did, was happy and smiling and pushing even harder. So, I ran, I smiled, I was happy and I pushed harder. That was my first 10k. The furthest I had run. I had not only climbed over the wall, I had smashed through it.

Look how proud of myself I am

I think of it as a bit of a turning point. It made me realise that perseverance- trying and trying again is the only way to beat things that previously have beaten you. I’ve always been someone that hated doing the things I was bad at, I would quite happily stop and never try that thing again so long as I lived. However, I’d then have to live with the fact that I gave up, that I didn’t try and that I quit. No matter how hard it is, ( and sometimes it really is hard- I have the battle scars to prove it) I know that I will get there if I keep trying…and trying…and trying again.


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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !

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