So, it has been 6 weeks since I was accepted to take part in the Mind Hike 2017 - a 40 mile trek through the Lake District to be completed in 24 hours, and about three weeks since I have got over the shock of actually have to train for it! Aside from Toughest last year and a couple of 100km cycling sportives, I have never trained for an endurance event before and found the prospect beyond nerve wracking. Since leaving a very difficult job last month, I have found locating the necessary motivation to plan and undertake an increase in training very difficult. Some days I could barely get myself off the sofa and really was only inclined to eat a lot of toast. As the days passed and the kind donations started to roll in, I felt like a fraud. I had written so passionately about my reasons for undertaking this challenge and I was imploring people to get behind me, but I could not get behind myself.
I woke up one morning and lying in bed decided to re-read Wild by Cheryl Strayed. If you have yet to read this book I insist you do so immediately. Cheryl, having lost her beloved mother to cancer decides to walk eleven hundred miles of the Pacific Crest Trail on the West Coast of America alone. When asked why she impulsively decided to undertake this challenge with no training or experience, Cheryl answered that she wanted to walk herself back to the person she once was. I cannot tell you how much this resonated with me. Although I would never have the audacity to claim that what I was going through or what I was intending to undertake was even close to the scale that Cheryl had experienced, I felt so close to that feeling of wanting to take literal steps back towards a person I had lost and the person I knew that I am capable of being.
Within that morning read I found the small spark I needed, so I made a plan. I would stay consistent with my strength training and try to up it to four to five sessions a week and then undertake a long distance walk per week, increasing in distance every two weeks. I have generally stuck to this for the last three weeks and feel I am making some progress despite period anxiety attacks that this is all too much and I should run away (that is something I am very good at sticking to). Yesterday I undertook my longest walk to date - a 17 mile hike around the National Trust Ashridge Estate (you can do the same walk here).
Prior to starting I was nervous - not nervous that I could not complete it, but scared of what thoughts might rise up as I went. Walking alone for seven hours is probably the most time I have ever spent entirely in my own company with no distractions. There is a reason I meticulously plan my days, my anxiety becomes harder to deal with when I am not doing something. as I walked though I began to realise that getting comfortable with the uncomfortable was going to be a necessity to completing this and any other challenge I might choose to set myself in the future. Through strength training I have become adapted to being physically uncomfortable, but the mental aspect was something I had yet to tackle head on. In the quiet though, as I methodically put one step in front of the other, I did not feel scared. For the first time in a long time I felt safe in my own mind. If I take anything away from the this process it will be this - that my body will carry me anywhere I ask it to take me, but it is my mind that will get me there.