So I have been asked a few hundred times - why do you want to run 100km?! And not just any 100km race, but one of the toughest (if not THE toughest) 100km race in the Australia?
As you know from my previous blog "When Day Dreaming Becomes Reality" I have had the idea about running The North Face 100 since 2009. Without going over old ground, it was always a "stretch goal" one where you think "when I get time" someday I will commit to training and running it.
On the 26th of April last year "someday" arrived. It was the public holiday for ANZAC day, my mobile rang and it was my step mum Rhonda. My dad had just been involved in a very serious accident at work and had suffered life threatening head injuries. He was being airlifted from the mine to the Mackay hospital. Rhonda wasn't sure if he would be sent to Brisbane or if they could stabilise him in Mackay. Dad had a very large skull fracture, a fractured back and internal injuries. They tossed up about putting a plate in his skull, but ended up leaving it to heal itself. It was pretty intense there for a while.
Bel's dad had suddenly passed away the previous December and it was very confronting to think that we might also lose my dad. As we took turns sitting by dad's side watching him sleep during his weeks in hospital - I spent a lot of time reflecting on my own mortality. Sure I had been focusing a lot of effort on being a dad, trying my best at the balancing act of a new job, new business etc, but was I really happy? What if I died, what would be my legacy, if I was in his place would I be happy with my life and my decisions?
Dad's life had been so focused on work, he has an unbelievable work ethic - really old school, no sick days, hardly takes holiday (you know the type). Dad didn't "waste" money on holidays or stuff, he spent his money on practical things, and is always saving for the rainy day.
Watching dad slowly recover, two steps forward one step back - it made me evaluate what I really wanted out of life. What IF my time was up? I guess we all think about this at times, have a mortality check and change tact in life.
What I decided was that I was going to commit to running one of my dream races. In all honesty I was a lazy trainer and an ordinary marathon runner - I loved it, but I was never going to reach my potential. That was until dad's accident made me think that I was wasting my 30s, wasting my best training years on just going through the motions.
Dad's accident provided me with the fuel to completely tear myself down, and rebuild myself as a new runner. My little sister actually went the opposite direction, dad's accident and living in Brisbane so far away from him stole her running mojo. She spent most of 2011 not making any real running gains, PBs were few and far between.
Monica has re-invested energy into achieving one of her stretch goals, which is to run under 2hrs for the half marathon. She will do it this running season, I am as sure of that as I am of anything in this world.
As for my stretch goal - running TNF on the 19th of May will mark the end of one chapter of my running career. Whatever the result, I have already decided it will be my last Ultra for sometime, not saying ever, but for the next few years. The other part of the journey is the commitment, it takes a whole lot of commitment from everyone in my family to make it happen. Not only the time and money, but emotionally it is very draining riding the roller coaster of bad/terrible races, self doubt and constant TNF talk.
One of the things I often feel on a long run is a sense of guilt that I should be at home with the boys and Bel. It really isn't normal to be out running for 6hours on a Saturday morning, was this any better than my dad working a Saturday. Is my obsession for running healthy for our family unit, was my intense focus the glue holding us together or a wedge which may split us apart?
The great benefit and curse with running for nearly 3000km is that you do a lot of self reflection. What will I have to show for the effort, what if I don't finish? What is next? Did I find what I was looking for, my purpose?
Honestly I can, hand on my heart, swear that it has been worth it. That's even before I get there to run. You see I am out there living my dreams, they aren't in an Orange folder under the bed anymore, I am ACTUALLY living it.
Your dream might be to run a 10k or a marathon or a 100km or do an Ironman. What ever you do, don't leave that dream stuck in a folder or hidden away. Turn it into reality, you wont regret it, not one bit. I promise.
A goal is a dream with a plan. Live it.