The funniest thing about pushing yourself further than you meant to is that you realise how far you can go.

I’m specifically thinking of the (one lonely) race I did last year. I’d say ‘ran’, but jog, shuffle, or meander probably paint a more truthful picture.

I had signed up to take part in the Windsor Spartan Beast (a type of obstacle course race, or OCR, that involves trail running, mud, and obstacles) thinking it would be around 21km long. On the day, the GPS watch had it just under 28km. A distance I was in no shape to complete (and only managed under some duress).

The first 13km of the race were great: the weather was perfect, the vista beautiful. I found that perfect stride when you feel like you could run forever. At this point though, I hit a stonking great wall, and the negativity lingered for the rest of the race.

It was the sandbag carry. As basic as it sounds – you just heft a heavy bag around a part of the course. I don’t mind carrying stuff: lacking in any finesse or technical skills, basic strength exercises tend to be more my speed.

But this bag was weirdly (and intentionally) shaped so you couldn’t get a handle on it. Add to that the weight, the significant distance we had to carry it, and worst of all, the terrain, and the whole thing became way too significant. We had to trudge through thick mud, over and under branches, and up walls. For some reason, this whole escapade got me down, and despite trying to regain a positive outlook, I couldn’t.

I obviously couldn’t quit the race, so I plodded on, and couldn’t have been happier to have reached the finish line.

The massive upsides to finishing something you find really difficult (even it you failed to pull it off with any panache) are numerous. For a start, you managed to find the discipline to keep going. And now you have that under your belt. This is what helps if I’m doing, say, 10km, and feel like I need to stop.

Injury aside, it’s often not your body that needs to stop, but your brain. It’s amazing how a well-timed mantra can help you push through. Managed to get through a long, hard slog? Tell yourself you can do it, because you have done it.

Not every run, race, or event will be easy. In fact, I find most can be fairly grim. But it’s good to have a really stinker in the bank. I can’t imagine I’ll get so thrown by an unexpected distance or obstacle like that again.


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