Fear and excitement, anticipation and trepidation. Racing has the power to evoke a kaleidoscopic medley of emotions. Within the context of a race I can experience all extremes — passion, beauty, heartache, pain, tears and joy. This is part of its appeal. It reminds me of my fragility and my vulnerability. And yet I learn also to feel my strength and power.
As Carl Sagan said: 'We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.' Racing and the training it demands force me to ask myself questions. To find the time, the discipline and the motivation to train I have to decide what among the myriad of obligations of daily life is most important to me. It cultivates self-awareness, I start to become more mindful.
Racing can give me a focus. It can give a direction to and motivation for my daily run. There is, of course, a time for everything. And racing will only ever be a part of my running. But sometimes I need what it is a race can give me – something to absorb my effort, my attention – moments where I am forced to step outside what is comfortable, time after time after time. I'm forced to focus on what I am feeling, on what I am enduring in the here and now, whether that is keeping warm in the cold, keeping cool in the heat, eating, drinking and looking after myself. Despite my physical effort, sometimes during a race I experience the moment where I am resting in stillness; I've stopped doing and I'm focused instead on being. And that is when I feel free.
But of course the race itself is the smallest part of the story. It is the journey that is important; the everyday, the day in, day out. Start and finish lines are just steps on that journey. The prize is not a position, or a time; instead the getting to know myself, the work and the training must be its own reward.