Last February (?March?) I volunteered at a weekend race. It was one of the Perth Trail Series races, and required me to be up and about at something like 3am to get to the venue ahead of the runners and do my bit to get it organised. My reasoning for volunteering at the race was born of my shyness and tendency to not believe in my own ability – I wanted to see what it looked like, how it functioned, what the other runners were like, etc., before I jumped in myself and entered. Additionally, I was a very new runner at that time and couldn’t even manage the distance, let alone the terrain. I promised myself that next year, I’d be one of those crazy people lining up to run up and down hills, fall over, bleed, face down dehydration and pain and injury…next year, I’d have a go. No excuses. So as soon as registrations opened for the Series this year, I immediately signed up for all but the first one (I was going to be interstate for that one…something of a geographical challenge, there).
And so, last Sunday, I ran my first ever trail race. It was my third ever actual race (parkruns don’t count…and I’ll talk more about parkrun one day soon). I’d never run further than 5km on trails (that is, a surface that isn’t sealed in some way with bitumen, asphalt, concrete or similar) and as the day approached I became more and more apprehensive about the event. I realised that I’d done a spectactularly stupid thing in signing up for all the races, not just the first one and then seeing how that went. I’d been overcome with confidence in my running ability. That confidence was dissolving alarmingly fast.
Seriously, what was I thinking? The (less than) 5km I’d done in my half-assed attempt to “train” for this series had scared me badly, with a descent so steep that I actually stopped at the top and stared down it, wondering where the ropes were for abseiling. I slid gingerly down about a kilometre of crumbly, deeply rutted pea-gravel firebreak and that day has stuck in my head as being the norm for trail running. If that’s what everyone else was going to be doing, but fast, what was I thinking? I couldn’t do that!
I nearly bailed out on the race. I came so close. I spent the week beforehand having anxiety attacks every time I thought of it. As in, full blown can’t breathe, heart rate goes through the roof, cold sweats kind of panic. I’ve NEVER been like that about things, not to that kind of extreme. It was alarming and I had to go through a lot of self-examination to get myself to that starting line. But got there I did, and run the race, I did, and I actually ran it very well. I was overtaking people all the way, right up until the last 100m, and none of those people overtook me at any point.
I finished. And I didn’t finish last. But most importantly, I had fun…and I believe in myself again.