It’s almost April as I write this, proof that 2019 is well and truly flying by. After a challenging 2018, I was ready for 2019 and like many people, had considerable goals and plans to chase down. Of course, life had other ideas which forced a change and re-focus before January was over. I was made redundant from a job I took a risk accepting in the first place, and was left scrambling to figure out what was next. In my circa 5.5 years living in the UK, I’d been headhunted for every role I’d had, aside from my first one. I took a risk back in August last year, and moved across to this new role, of which I’d hoped would bring me new challenges and growth. Whilst that did occur (although substantially less than I’d originally hoped), the job was far from what I’d expected and by December I was already looking to move on. Weirdly, two close friends of mine were made redundant from their jobs too (different industries), both in similar situations to mine. They didn’t like their jobs, and had begun to look elsewhere before the news came. In all cases it was a shock. I had good reason to be looking elsewhere, as anyone paying attention could see red flags and issues that do not pertain well for the future. So January 2019, with all the best plans and intentions for the year ahead, I got tested and challenged by life.
This is illustrative to me, as I can always assign lessons and connections to running, particularly ultras. Despite best laid plans, best intentions, all the right preparation etc, “shit’s gonna happen” (to quote AJW). Or as a long time mentor of mine, ‘Mort’ (Australian SAS Sergeant) told me once, “if you plan early, you plan twice”. Life, like ultra-running (or other sports or pursuits) are full of challenges and tests, both known and unknown. Everyone is affected, and no one escapes them. They take all different shapes, sizes and intensities. Losing a job is never fun, and in my case, I can say I was thrown under the bus and not treated with the respect I would have hoped for. Yet that happens, and anytime I started to even feel a tiny bit sorry for myself, I reminded myself that so many others have it so much worse. It’s easy to dwell and focus on the seemingly negatives as they happen. So translatable to running, where pain, a setback, weather, unexpected circumstances etc get in our head. Where we re-assess our training, our approach, and mentally dis-engage from the present. All in a split second, as a challenge is presented. The invaluable process that is so often talked about, but also really misunderstood, is SO important here. For life, and for running. The process is our guide. The day in and day out mechanisms that propel us forward, problem solve, engage, accept and outcome irrespective, continue to take us forward. The process is not weighed down by individual actions (good or bad). The process is what sets anyone up for success, as long as we allow the process to work. Because the process is only as powerful as we allow it. Quite a contradiction, seeing as that process is what is supposed to guide as along, but can be so easily self-sabotaged.
The day to day of training is showing up, doing the work, and trusting that each individual day adds up and compounds to much bigger, grander and powerful moments and events. Whilst PRs, wins, breakthroughs are part of this, they are also only a small part. The process creates resilience, a deeper trust, habits, and a routine of consistent work. What can also be described as ‘Grit’. It is that resilience of doing a workout in the cold, in the dark, in the rain, in the heat, when you’re tired, or at 5AM in the morning. Or just running the same route for the 100th time when you would rather be sitting at home with a beer or wine and watching Netflix. It is all of those things that prepare us for the challenges we face in our lives. The small ones, the medium ones, and the big ones. Losing a job gave me a huge amount of time to really think about who I am, what I am doing and where I want to be going. It still challenges me to think about all of those questions in great depth. It gave me perspective and opportunities to re-assess and grow. I still had to train, to speak to recruiters, to go to interviews, to see friends, and to make day to day decisions about my life. To engage. Everyday I would still go out for my run. I still did yoga. I still maintained commitments to friends and others. I had to adapt and adjust, but the process remained. The process became so important to me. The true value of a process was shown to me in a new light. Some days were tough, and just like in running, it’s often hard to step back and ask for help. It gives you a reason to disengage. It gives you time to dwell on mistakes and perceived failures. Things that are pushed deep down when you are busy and active, but come to the surface more when there is less to occupy the mind. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about my DNF at Rio Del Lago. With legitimate reasons to have called it a day, that shit STILL fucking haunts me. And it remains a lesson and powerful teaching moment.
All I can come back to, is that the process counts for more than we realise. The process is what keeps us moving. Much like a fish cannot breathe if it is not pushing forward in the water, allowing oxygen to pass into its bloodstream, we cannot be close to our best if we don’t engage in the process. Challenges fill our day to day, month to month, year to year. The only constant thing I know is that whether I like it or not, life will throw punches, continuously and without remorse. I have a keychain with the saying ‘ No one owes you anything’ (Thanks Amelia Boone for that quote & Grayson Murphy for making me the keychain when I visited Flag in February), as a reminder that EVERYONE has their battles, their demons, and their challenges, and that none are greater or more important than my own. Whether it’s a bad moment in a long race, or a job that is lost, or any of the billions of things life throws at us, the engagement in the process is a very strong measure of how we respond to any given situation. We don’t always get it right, but the process isn’t about getting it right every time. The process is about creating sustainable outcomes, constant growth and a framework for engaging in this beautiful gift we call life. From the moment I realised I didn’t have a pay check coming in, to the moment I accepted an offer of a new job, the process kept me afloat. Digging into my training became the purest form of that. In fact, running came to mean so much more to me during this time. A deeper love and appreciation for such a simple gift. It gave clarity to everything else, and was the framework that the process of getting a new job formed around. It seems so easy writing it out like that, but the truth of the matter is that it is tremendously more difficult. All I know is that in all occasions when I have truly committed to the process, I’ve never been disappointed with where I ended up. The same in that each time I get back from a run, whilst it doesn’t solve everything, I am always happier, calmer and seeing things in a better perspective.
I’m still fired up about 2019, and look forward to running, racing, earth-raging (thanks Clare Gallagher), and having a heck of a phenomenal time all over the globe, with a host of wonderful humans. I’ve already had an amazing trip to Arizona (which I almost didn’t go on due to the whole job situation), plus got to race a 10km and half marathon in London as part of my training for bigger events. I’ll be in Italy next week, my 5th annual trip out to a race and place that has become such an important part of my running career, the Sciacche Trail.
I also aim to write more, so we shall see how that gets on!