Between a suspected case of exercise-induced asthma and over-pronated feet, as well as chronic laziness and a genuine mistrust of the gym, I had let the enthusiasm I’d had for sport as a teen evaporate completely as an adult.

After all, exercise is hard, and the people who do it are annoying.

Throw in the chaotic lifestyle of the distance commuter and you have the entire litany of excuses when it comes to attempting anything physically taxing. I had these excuses down cold.

So what actually spurred me into action?

Cold hard fear. One of the most powerful motivators.

For some very stupid reason quite unbeknownst to myself, when a couple of my friends suggested doing something that I really didn’t want to do, I said yes.

That something was the Spartan Beast.

For the uninitiated, this is what’s known as an OCR, or an obstacle course race. A trail run with natural obstacles in the form of lakes, hills, and variable terrain, and manmade obstacles including monkey bars, log carries, and spear throws. It’s a fairly new sport which is becoming increasingly fashionable and well known (the most infamous being ‘Tough Mudder’-a contentious race that seems to divide opinion within the vibrant and growing OCR community).

A couple of years ago, after my sister had been bitten by the OCR bug, myself and a couple of friends signed up to run the ‘sprint’-a mere 5k plus (that ended up being closer to 8k) that took us a couple of hours. We entered a later (and therefore slower) heat and took it easy. It was a fairly enjoyable way to pass an afternoon. The next year, we decided to step up to the ‘super’-a 15k plus race (clocking in at an estimated 17k-see where this is going?). With tonnes of water to wade through, loads more obstacles, and longer trails, this took us over five hours, and was less enjoyable. We hit some pretty bad times during that race. Underprepared and unfit, I vowed never again to take part in something so genuinely, and thoroughly, unenjoyable.

When this year rolled around and the same friends suggested taking on the ‘Beast’ (advertised at 21k, so who knows how long it actually will be…). I brought out my best list of excuses, but nothing stuck, so I coughed up the exorbitant entry fee (swelling the coffers of mega corporation Reebok at the same time) and made plans to train sometime in the future.

Well time inexorably stravaged on, as is its wont, and I found myself starting to panic about my non-existent fitness levels. I had signed on to run the equivalent of a half marathon (up and down hills, no less) with the added complications of substantial lake swims, obstacles, or even worse,penalty burpees, all thrown in for good measure.

A daunting task for someone who couldn’t run for 60 seconds without feeling a serious burn.

With about four months to go, I downloaded the well-known Couch to 5k running programme – a series of podcasts designed to get inactive folk like myself running (shuffling may be more apt a description) within a small time frame. The programme alternates running and walking until you are running for 30 minutes nonstop.

I actually completed the programme and completed the Beast ( but that’s a story for another time).

Despite hating the running element, there was at the same time, a small…satisfaction, maybe? An unimpressive as it sounds, the first time you run 20 minutes straight during the C25k programme, the achievement feels akin to, I don’t know, reaching the summit of Everest. These tiny successes can become a little bit addictive.

So while fear got me to put on my trainers in the first place, chasing each tiny new milestone makes me pull them on time and time again.


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