What would you do if you weren't afraid?

Posted on: 20 Jan 2018

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

This startlingly provocative question first appeared in Spencer Johnson's 'Who Moved My Cheese', and was later appropriated to decorate Facebook's offices. From the latter, a poster shouting it to the rooftops suddenly appeared on the wall of one of the quiet rooms in my office. Every time I see it, I ask it of myself but never manage to find an answer. This week, in a very small way, I did.

I was out enjoying those soft and muddy forested hills mid week, going easy with frequent walk breaks to protect the dodgy hip in all its spasming glory. And every run has required a ten minute walk to warm up or the hip won't play ball. So I do what it demands as I really need it to cooperate this year(!) and ease into the initial upward climb. Half a mile later it levels out a bit and no clue just how far I get until those steep undulations kick in and I'm trotting up and carefully inching down. And again. And again. Smiling, smiling all the while. The route really is such a spectacular find and I'm so glad I decided to check it out.

Six miles or so later, I'm nearing the finish and looking down the steep initial hill, mostly at the twentysomething guy who'd just careened down it on a bike like a carefree ten year old, then turned around to walk back up and do it again. It reminded me of the video going round Twitter of the dog who took himself sledding - the pure joy of the wind in your face, the laughter as you lose control of the bike and your inhibitions all at once. Flying flying flying.

I eyed that hill and I remembered that poster.

What would I do if I weren't afraid? This...

And off I went, telling myself fasttightfeetfasttightfeetsteplivelysisterstepstepstep and down I went and I was absolutely screaming down that hill and it was one of the most magical experiences I've had in the past two decades. I reached the bottom and passed the guy with the bike, gasping and laughing. With a breathless nod in his direction, we 'adulted' away from one another and got on with our respective days.

But that hill saw it all. That hill will remember. And so will I.

And so DID I. This morning.

After faffing around endlessly, postponing the inevitable exit into the rainy bluster to cover today's mileage, I finally escaped. I wanted to run up the towpath but it was just an extension of the river, so I reluctantly turned towards those paths I'd last seen for the Race for Life marathon. It was, hand on heart, the last place on EARTH I wanted to run today. But I didn't have trail shoes on so it was ye olde flat cycle path, episode 17,862.

The hip of course still doing it's dance, no joy til it's warm and then you wouldn't know anything is troubling it until the actual running starts. But today I thought I'd try something a little different and mostly because I didn't have that lovely forgiving trail beneath me. I knew I'd be doing :60 / :60 intervals, more frequent walks, more rest, and so on and so forth, but to protect the hip I was thinking like a mantra 'tight stride, fast low feet, don't land hard, hold the core'. A minute on, a minute off, lather rinse and repeat and before I knew it 6 of the 11 and a quarter miles had gone...entirely pain free.

I was feeling as if it was an odd looking gait, maybe like a really old lady shuffling to catch the bus, but a look down and the legs seemed to be cycling as they should, arm swing ok, core feeling tight, and a check of the Garmin an agreeable pace mostly between 10:45 - 11:15 minute miles, which is a very decent steady clip for me. I got through the entire run like this and it felt absolutely magnificent. A check of the Garmin later told me the cadence was a whopping 170 on the run segments!

170?! Good lord, what on earth ---??!! My cadence is usually somewhere between mid 150s - 160s, but this felt so easy. Like how can this have happened, I surely don't move my feet that fast? 

Oh but wait! Maybe I DO. Maybe I CAN. Maybe I've just discovered something I've been looking for all along. While I was busy mistaking discomfort for pain all those hills and all those miles were out there waiting for me to pay them a visit. Like this.

Every time out since I started this training cycle has gifted me with another huge lesson, and all because I've chosen to launch that raft and get off the damn island once and for all.

What would I do if I weren't afraid? I'd sail. I'd fly.


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