THE ART OF NOT QUITTING - WHATEVER YOUR GOAL
IT’S 11.40pm and I’m walking through the manicured grounds of Ardingly College, a private school 25km north of Brighton, when I go over on my ankle.
That’s good, I reason, if I am properly injured it means I can stop walking and no-one can judge me.
By this time, I have been walking for 16 hours on the 100km Richmond to Brighton walk, organised by Ultra Challenge, and I am at a low point.
Everything is hurting, legs and feet especially, and I have – inexplicably – had a bister on the back of my left heel since 2km.
This is just stupid, I’m thinking. Why am I doing this?
On closer inspection, my ankle is fine. I have a serious talk with myself and crash on into the woods and the night. Once I reach the 80km point, I am in better spirits, and at 88km, I am feeling positively optimistic as I start a brutal climb up the Downs before the descent to Brighton.
Made it to the end…
Roger Love after arriving to Brighton after walking from London in 25 hours and 23 minutes
I reach the end on the racecourse in 25 hours 23 minutes – three hours quicker than in 2018 – and feel elated, before going to bed for the day.
It’s the low and high points that explain the attraction of these types of event – whether walking, running or cycling (or all three). It’s testing the limits not just of your physical endurance but your mental strength, too.
I got through my low points with a mixture of carrot and stick, telling myself how great I will feel at the end and how terrible – and embarrassed – I would feel if I quit. I also used anger, railing at anyone who has doubted me in anyway in my life.
In practical terms, I knew if I just kept walking, I would get there. One step after another, count off the kilometres. It worked.
That was in May. Later, in July, I am walking up Mount Snowdon in Wales with my big-hearted 16-year-old daughter, caught up in mist, howling wind and driving rain.
We are well-equipped but, three-quarters of the way up, she is fed-up, achy and soggy. I’m not sure we can make it to the top. But we have a chat about how suffering makes us strong and how if we walk 10mins at a time, we will get inevitably there. We do.
What was breaking us wasn’t our bodies – it was our minds – and once we got a grip and came up with a plan, we proved stronger than we thought.
I was reflecting on this as we headed towards September, a month in which people – rested from holidays and perhaps wanting to feel better on the beach next year – start a fitness drive.
There has to be a risk of failure with any goal; otherwise it’s not a goal, it’s a box-ticking exercise, and we are all stronger than we think. So, why not make your goals big this autumn.
It need not be a marathon in sub-four hours or a 100km walk in sub-24. What scares us is relative. I had a client for whom walking round London Fields was a huge challenge; others thought running 5km non-stop was beyond their endurance or could not see how they could lose weight. For another, a single press-up was her Everest.
They all had to be brave to work towards these goals. So, this September, let’s challenge ourselves physically – and especially mentally – and just go for it whatever it is.