I went to watch the leading runners cross the A635 / Greenfield Road checkpoint of The Spine race today (known locally as the Isle of Skye.) Fortunately my house is less than 10 mins from this Checkpoint, so we followed the runners using the online tracking and got the hot chocolate ready until they were a few mins away from the road. I run that section recularly, so I had a good idea when they would cross the road.
The runners had set off in some bad weather early this morning from Edale. They face either the full 268 miles of running all the way to Scotland - thats the whole of the Pennine Way - or the Challenger race (the 'Fun Run' option ?!!) which is just 100 miles to Hawes. I walked this when I was 19 in 19 days. Last year the finishing times were between 5 and 7 days (!) for the full race. Back in my teens, people spoke about doing the whole route in about a week as a light weight walk.
We'd have never dreamt it would one day become a race.
As we cheered on the runners and took photos, what struck me was how relaxed and happy the lead runners were. These people are running 100 - 268 miles of wind, ice and snow (yes, it started in the snow this morning)... and they are doing it cheerfully... positively. I wonder if it would even be possible to do the race with a 'glass half empty' attitude. I'd be very interested to to a personality profile of the runners, especially the finishers! I was busy telling my kids how important family / friends / support are in an event like this, and how determination and resilience are the key to it all. That got me thinking about my Chi Running Instructor training. What I think really sets Chi Running apart from other approaches is how it emphasises relaxation as one of it's fundamental concepts, and enjoyment as one of it's key aims. That mind body link is so important. Anyone can move the arms and legs and run. Chi Running agrees with so many other approaches about what makes good running technique ... but it's the eastern philosophy and the training of the mind and body together that really sets it apart.
I have got to the stage now that the section we were supporting the runners on is an easy, relaxed run for me from my home. Quite a few of the runners commented on the run up Black Hill from Crowden as 'really tough.' I'd agree - it's part of the Holme Moss Fell Race and it's a really tough section although the bonus is that it's flagged with millstones. It's nice to feel that I can at least run up those hills. I'm not thinking I could be relaxed and enjoy the whole 268 miles as a race though!
I've heard it said that if you've enjoyed yourself, you've not pushed yourself hard enough. But I guess what I'm saying is that relaxation and enjoyment are really a key part of success in any endurance race. How do us 'normal' runners train and develop some of the mental focus required to do some of these longer events? Chi Running can really help by developing an attitude of mindfulness, which will infuse not only all our running, but the whole of our lives. Forget No Pain no Gain ... as it says in the Chi Running book, Chi Running is all about no pain ... no pain.
Take a moment to look up ... wherever you are in our beautiful country (even on an A road) there is some stunning scenery to lift your soul.
More updates as I follow the race on Twitter.