I'm a cyclist. Few things make me happier than the freedom I feel being on two wheels. I cycle for the sheer love of it. So what on earth has convinced me to swap two wheels for two shoes at least 3 times a week?
One of the things that has happened during my illness has been an almost complete loss of self confidence. I have my thoughts as to why this has happened, but I'm going to hold back on pointing fingers and instead focus on how I can begin to rebuild my shattered self-image.
Cycling is my first love. I'm a reasonably capable cyclist and enjoy the challenge of riding and racing. But I know this and cycling isn't going to provide the challenges I need to put my confidence back on track. What I need is a challenge that's outside of my comfort zone. To achieve at something that I've not done before. Something that I'm not very good at. That something is: running.
So what is the challenge I've set myself? I don't really do anything by halves, at least when it comes to physical challenges, so earlier this year, inspired by a colleague Kenji Jesse, I signed up for 'The Race to the King': a 84km (52.4mile) ultra-marathon set in the heart of the South Downs in Southern England. That's the ultimate goal, but I've also filled my year with other challenges. 1 week today I will run my first marathon, in the exotic commuter town of Milton Keynes. I also want to run a sub 20min 5k and a sub 40min 10k. And my new found running buddy Luke Tyberski has tempted me to run the Trail Verbier St-Bernard with him, a brutal 61km Alpine race over several large mountains!
There are other reasons I chose running, besides being rubbish at it. My father used to run and I have happy childhood memories of going to half-marathon's in which he raced. He's always been there for me, celebrating the good times, picking me up and putting me back on my feet when I've fallen down in the bad times, so this is a way for me to connect with him over a passion of his.
Cycling demands a certain level of concentration, particularly on the streets of London, which can be consider akin to certain forms of meditation. A singular focus on staying upright, avoiding the near constant threat of an accident from lemming like pedestrians with their eyes glued to their phones, seamlessly controlling the machine under me through near telepathic manipulation of the gears and brakes and maintaining pace with the endless traffic. There is little room in the conscious mind for little else.
Running is different. It's slowler, repetitive, less dangerous and meditative and really just a sped up version of a subconscious movement: walking. There is ample spare mental capacity to apply the mind when running. On long training runs, anything over 5km, I usually plug in the earphones and load up a podcast of a similar duration as I plan to run. I find this time incredibly productive for self development and planning. The idea for this blog post came from listing to a podcast by Tim Ferris whilst out on a 3hour run.
My hope is that after I complete all these challenges, I will have proved to myself that I can achieve anything I set my mind to and that I can not only overcome my depression but build a stronger, fitter and mental tougher version of myself.
That's why I run.