Where's Your 100%?

Posted: 23rd May 2011

About 10pm on Saturday night my other half, James, reminded me that the following day, Sunday 22nd May, was the date of the Llandudno 10 mile run.

Since I retired from sport in 2004 I have done a bit of jogging to stay in shape and maintain a base level of fitness. Most of my runs are between 2.5 and 4 miles which I can complete comfortably, although I hadn't done one of those for over a week.

As a past elite cyclist people assume that I find any kind of physical sport easy but there is a world of difference between 200m on a bike and 10 miles on foot. Still, the challenge appealed and I declared I was going to run the next day. I decided I'd not aim for a specific time but aim to complete.

I woke Sunday morning still keen to run, ate a good breakfast, grabbed a bottle of water and drove out to the race HQ at Venue Cymru in Llandudno to sign on. If I'd known in advance I was going to do this, I might have put in more prep and altered my diet prior to the event but hey, how hard could it be really?

The answer to that question came at about 3 miles when the "What have I done?" and "I can't believe I'm only a 3rd the way round, do you think anyone would notice if I just stepped out at M&S and took off my race number!" started.

The course is almost completely flat but yesterday's wind and rain combination made sections of it totally miserable, especially by West Shore at 8 miles. The effects of the hard surface moved round my joints as the run went on. First ankle pain, which disappeared and became knee pain. That in turn vanished on the onset of hip pain and so on. As a cyclist I used to consider effort pain as one of two types; it was either your lungs or your legs that hurt. For the first 9 miles it was definitely all in the legs. My breathing was so comfortable I could have held a conversation. At the 9-mile point the route takes the runners down the only little downhill section and then it's flat and fast along the promenade to the finish. With a tailwaind and the finish looking so close (it wasn't) I upped my pace for the last stretch, at which point my lungs hurt too.

It's funny, the games you play in your head doing things like this. How you break down the times, the distances, mini milestones, how you cope with the discomfort, the motivation, the dips and surges.

I might have saved myself a few seconds with my late surge but it has cost me dearly since the finish. Today I can barely get in and out of a chair. Walking up stairs is on all fours and don't even mention coming back down again; that's even more painful! But anyone who has felt this kind of "challenge" pain will tell you it's a bitter sweet thing because it reminds you how hard you had to work to get it.

At 5 miles I made a promise to myself that I would never do anything this stupid again. However, I know enough about human behaviour and motivation to realise that one day I will forget how much this run hurt and will plan to tackle another. It has also dawned on me how much respect and preparation I need to give to the Manchester 100, a 100 mile cycling reliability ride I have already signed up for in September.

I finished in 1.37 something and I'm pretty pleased with that. Most of all I'm proud of the fact that I got round. It seems a strange thing to do to put yourself through a voluntary hell for the fun of it, but I think it's good to be reminded where 100% is. Most of us cruise through life content with supplying just the minimum effort required to get through the day. When you have to push a pain barrier, your joints are locked, you have a gale force wind up your nose and you still have 20 minutes to go, you take yourself to a place that teaches you so much about yourself and what you're made of. When was the last time you reminded yourself where your 100% is?



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