Exmoor Marathon – April 2017

Kerry Sutton   April 2, 2017

How the Inner ‘Chimp’ got the better of me on Exmoor.

Oh the power of the mind. It’s an incredible force for good but it can also be your down fall. Harnessing it is the answer. Its something some struggle with more than others. I am fascinated about it and here I reveal how my inner Chimp got the better of me momentarily in this race.

I ran the Exmoor marathon because I needed a run that would give me confidence in my running ability and which would convince me that the hours I put in to training and the sacrifices I make as a result are worth it. I had blown up in the last Exmoor marathon due to having a really bad build up and trying to hit numbers that were not sustainable.

Exmoor was never an A race, I wanted to train into it and train after, as I say it was meant to be a confidence giver. My plan was to run within myself, to enjoy it. And a measure of that is seeing James my crew, and being able to smile and say it’s all going well.

I was the most relaxed and well prepared for this race that I possibly ever have been. I had had great sleep the week before, I had eaten well and I had had opportunity to sit between training to let my body recover. I had run some good sessions during the week.

I had placed myself in the middle to back of the pack at the start line. I did not want to know how many women were ahead of me (and so where I was positioned in the race) or even try to keep up with the front runners. I needed to run a conservative race and set off running sub lactate, hitting the formidable and relentless hills with positivity and with a nice steady rhythm. The first 20km passed with relative ease. I was in a good place and though it was insanely hot, the hills were many, steep and long I felt I was achieving what I wanted to.

Then the demons crept up on me. I know that my first port of call when I start hearing negative voices is to eat. It is usually a sign of my glycogen stores running low. I had fuelled well and consistently so doubted that was a reason this time, however I ate another couple of shot blocks to cover that base. So why was I here again? The negative thoughts which go something like this:

I cant do this
I am shit
Why am I not better than this
Why do I find it so hard
I don’t want to race
Why am I doing this
Its pointless
I don’t enjoy this
I am hanging up my trainers after this race – I need a break

Whilst these thoughts are running through my head my pace drops off and the desire to walk starts to creep in. I start to feel overly tired and RPE goes through the roof.

What do I do? I try to replace these thoughts with positive ones. Telling myself I have been in this position before and come through. Telling myself this is about the fun not burying myself in a dark place. I try to look up and take in the gorgeous scenery (hard to do when they course is quite technical and taking your eyes off the path may mean you have a nasty fall) I think of those people who would give anything to be out in the sunshine, physically strong enough to run like I can. I tell myself to take the pressure off, it doesn’t matter, the fact that I am here and running is enough. I tell myself that I am in the top 3 rd of the field, stop being stupid! After a period time I start to listen to myself and my head starts to ease up on me and my running form returns.

What so interesting is that those hard and mentally draining 10kms where I convinced myself I was hopeless and that I was physically spent, were followed by the last 5km when I ran like the wind. There was no stopping me, I glided effortlessly past runners and I headed full of energy, power and self belief to the finish line. I ran across in 3 rd place female, 29 th overall.

What could I do if the inner ‘chimp’ hadn’t held me back. What if I had kept those middle 10km fluid and light. Would 2nd place, 1 st even have been in my grasp?? I take solace from the fact that I know I’m not alone having these thoughts. Many runners including pros experience the same. Sage Canaday said in one of his podcasts that there isn’t one race he runs in when he doesn’t enter the dark zone and tell himself he wants to give up.

Every race I have entered has taught me something. In this way I go about refining my approach to and approach during races. Exmoor reaffirmed my belief in my ability. I must not judge myself mid race. I must run strong and with positivity till the end. Its not until I have crossed the line that I am in a position to decide anything!