My seven day mental challenge

Every now and then, I find myself drifting off mentally. Getting lazy. Slipping.

Last Friday night was one such occasion. My son and I were driving home from watching a rugby game and as it was quite late, I was trying to justify to him my intent to sleep in the next morning to avoid going for a run.

As we are in winter, the mornings are quite dark and the weekends are the only real opportunity for me to run. If I was to give Saturday’s run a miss, I was well on my way to do the same on Sunday and go through another week without much exercise.

By the time we got home, we had concluded that getting up early for a run was going to be quite a mental challenge and one that I was determined to overcome.

DAY#1 – SATURDAY – 6 JUNE 2015
So I set my alarm and used all the self-discipline I could muster up to get going. I even put my running gear and shoes out beside me to ensure there very few hurdles to achieving my goal.

I did it! I managed to run 10 kilometres.

When I was done, I realised that I needed to build up my self-discipline even further.

DAY#2 – SUNDAY – 7 JUNE 2015
So the next morning, Sunday, I decided to try to fit another run in before the family awoke. As I had not been running much lately, I was concerned with backing up another 10km run so quickly. But the only way to find out if my body would hold up, was to try.

It also meant a shorter night’s sleep. However, it was the weekend and I could always make up for it by having an afternoon nap.

Once again, I did it! It was not easy. But I managed to get through.

DAY#3 – MONDAY – 8 JUNE 2015
It was a weekday and my family usually go to daily mass each morning at 6.30am which meant I had to have finished my run by 5.45am. A 10km run (on the third consecutive day) was not going to be very quick – given I’m 45 years’ old. I allowed myself 75mins. This meant waking at 4.15 am. I set the alarm in the hope that I would find the fortitude to not turn it off.

I succeeded! I had managed to give up the warmth of the indoors for a cold winter morning run. I took a bicycle torch with me as it was still very dark.

Yesterday was a tough one at work. The limited sleep meant I was fading in the afternoon, especially when I got home. So if I was to do it again the next day, I had to get to bed early – at least 9.30pm…I managed 10pm. But I was quite determined this time.

I remembered the words of Josemaria Escriva who said that the moment the alarm goes off in the morning is the ‘heroic minute’ the time when we are tested for the very first time in the day and how we fare could well define the rest of it.

The alarm buzzed. I awoke. I sat up and debated the next step. Should I, shouldn’t I? What would it matter, I had done three days in a row – surely that was enough. Would I get injured? Would I put too much strain on my knees?

But I pushed through!

I was quite sore afterwards and limped my way through the day, but with a sense of satisfaction that I won the mental challenge.

I woke up a few minutes before the alarm went off. My body clock was adjusting to the routine. Today, I didn’t take a torch. I had run this course enough and the moon light and street lights were enough for me to get through. Further, I wanted to get my sight acclimatised to the darkness.

My body was sore. My calf muscles were unbearable. I had to stretch after my run for a few minutes just to get going. But I was on a roll.

When I awoke, I couldn’t find my running shoes. It was 4.20 am and it seemingly disappeared from the place I usually leave it. What should I do? I looked everywhere trying not to wake up the family. But they were nowhere to be found.

I best give it a miss, I thought! Then I realised I had an old pair in the garden shed. I grabbed my torch and went out looking for them.

Having located them, I now had no excuse. I had to finish what I started.

DAY#7 – FRIDAY 12 JUNE 2015
This was the last day of what I decided was going to be a seven-day mental challenge.
Waking was easy – almost routine.

My body was clearly not up to it. I could hardly move. I knew that something was going to give way…but I decided I would go ahead and try.

If I made it, it would be 70 kms in seven days. Something I never knew I could achieve before.

But I would have to be careful. I started slowly as every part of me ached. I just had to get through it without causing any permanent damage.

Mid-way I could feel my ITB (illotibial band syndrome) hurt. I’d had ITB issues before in my thirties but as I was not running anywhere as much recently, I had forgotten how bad they could be.

I decided that I would complete the run. If it did inflame, I could rest for a few days and do some exercises to remedy it.

I finally finished my run.

I’m glad I did. I wanted to push myself mentally so I would not fall into a rut. To wake up my senses.

I did enjoy the time alone each morning. It gave me an opportunity to think. I listened to books – and whilst I often drifted away mentally on various things that came to mind, I did catch the most of two books.

Will I do it again? I hope so. I’d like to take a break for the body to heal and perhaps try each month to give myself a jump-start for two a three days a month at 4.15am. But today (Satuday), I slept in until 6am and enjoyed it!

Photo – Shelly Boardwalk – Canning River © Nick Marvin