Life is a challenge. There are always tasks to do, something to save for, things to buy and replace. Then there are the real challenges like illness, loss, poverty, fear. So why is it that we feel the need to add extra challenges to our lives?
I pose this question after completing my first Century cycle ride at Ride London. A ride which was an amazing experience, if painful at times. It took me out of my comfort zone: a) I have never cycled that far and b) I have never cycled that far with thousands of other riders. Needless to say, I found it quite daunting. I discovered I’d got a ballot place in the middle of training for London Marathon, so as chuffed as I was, I paid my fee then parked the idea of training for it until after the marathon. Then came another marathon a month later and only once I had recovered from this, did I decide to start thinking about putting some cycling training in.
What followed was a bit like cramming for an exam: cycling in Ireland, cycling up a mountain in Majorca, two local Sportives and as many miles as I could cram in around running and work. During this time, I’ve had backache, neckache, bum ache and fatigue but each ride has got a bit easier, so on I’ve pushed. But why? I’ve already completed two marathons this year in Good For Age qualifying times, why did I need another challenge?
I read in Iron War by Matthew Fitzgerald that some people belong to a pain community, especially triathletes, whereby they feel an adrenalin surge when they’re hurting in a race and a release when it’s over. He quotes research by Michael Atkinson that “The finish line feeling satisfies a need to challenge the body and mind in a way that every day life no longer does”. I can completely relate to this, as there has not been one Marathon where I have not felt pain or not wanted to give up but something has made me push through and get that finish line feeling (which feels even more satisfying if you’ve suffered to get there). At 30 miles of Ride London, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to finish, due to pain in my left leg and negative thoughts in my head telling me I hadn’t done enough training. But I did finish, I had a pit stop at 48 miles where I stretched, fuelled up, talked to my husband and other cyclists. Suddenly there was a mental shift, I was going to push through the pain and finish.
What can I say about that Finish line feeling, it was amazing. The Surrey Hills were tough in the middle of the race (because we have to suffer) but then it felt like I was whizzing along, so when the embankment came into sight, the feeling of achievement was immense. The sprint down the Mall was incredible and the smiles on everyone’s faces said it all.
So there we have it another challenge is completed and as I sit here working, it’s with a smile on my face. Challenging myself feels good, if a little crazy to understand at times.
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