Last September one of the Directors of Ultimate Resilience, Dr Felicity Baker, decided to put her resilience skills to the test by entering the Equinox 24 hour race at Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire. We wanted to share her account of this huge achievement and the challenges she encountered along the way as a testament to what you can achieve when you put your mind to it.
“The course is 10km in beautiful Leicestershire countryside. The idea is to complete as many laps as you can in 24 hours. As a team of six people, we decided to run one lap each and then repeat as many times as we could between midday Saturday and midday Sunday. This would mean not only running every five hours but continuing to do so right through the night. Entering as part of a team of six, with a year to prepare, I felt pretty confident of managing a good number of laps.
“With my good friends around me and a support team of children, partners and dogs I thought that I could manage five laps.
“But then two months after signing up I developed an injury, which despite endless physio, consultations with doctors and finally osteopathy, did not resolve. This sent me on a year-long roller coaster of on/off training and uncertainty about whether I could still take part in the race. I bounced from negative thought to negative thought, worrying about the impact on the team of me staying in or dropping out, the long-term consequences for my running if I tried to run with an injury, and whether I could build up enough strength and stamina to even manage just one lap.
“Not only was I facing a race that would push me to my limit, now I also felt the pressure of having to make the “right” decision about whether or not to compete at all.
“Naturally the first thing I did was to stick my head in the sand and avoid making a decision at all! As race day approached I knew that this way of coping was not helping me or the team. I knew I was going to have to use all of my knowledge about resilience to get me through this challenging time.
“After initially deciding to pull out, I returned from holiday in mid-August with a new plan. If it was ok with the team, I would reduce my expectations. Using flexible thinking I decided to set myself a lower target of two laps, to allow myself to do a combination of walking and running whilst also keeping in the back of my mind that if I was feeling ok after two laps, a third would be the ultimate goal. This allowed me some flexibility on the day but also gave me an achievable goal for training.
“Two laps was way lower than what I had hoped for when I originally signed up, or that I had managed at previous events. But, I found having self-compassion and acceptance of my situation helped me to feel ok about this. I had a more balanced view of the challenges I faced and was able to tell myself that even two laps would be an achievement given the problems I had been having – and was certainly much better than not competing at all! I kept in mind that this problem would pass, it was only a problem for this year’s race and I had plenty of time to build up to do better next year.
“Thankfully my team mates were really supportive. They were happy with my plan (although it meant that they had to pick up an extra couple of laps) and genuinely keen for me to remain part of the team. Having the support of family and friends around me helped to build my positivity and optimism that I could take on this challenge and meet my new target.
“In the weeks leading up to the race, I gradually trained myself to be able to run 5km again, then 10 km and finally 2 lots of 10 km in one day. Although I was not able to fully run, I managed the distance using intervals of walking and running. At times negative thinking set in. Was I really cheating by walking and running? Would my lap times be really slow? Would I make my injury worse? Again, by using flexible thinking, I was able to recognise that thinking this way was not helping me to build confidence and was undermining my resilience.
“Eventually race day arrived and, full of nerves and excitement, I found I was able to overcome my negative thinking and hold onto a more balanced belief in my ability to take part in the best way I could.
“I realised that, for many people, competing in this type of race is about overcoming your own inner obstacles and facing your own challenges, rather than competing with others. It was truly inspiring to see so many people facing their own challenges, meeting their individual goals and using amazing powers of resilience to keep going and achieve great things for themselves.
“As part of a team, the strong relationships I had with my co-team members were an essential ingredient in keeping me going and helping me rise to the challenge. Their belief in me and encouragement to press on with the new goals was a huge support, and gave me confidence that I could do it. And I did – three times!”