Thoughts from a run, and another run and another run . . .

So, this July, I embark on my toughest challenge to date.

 

15 ultramarathons in 15 days

Averaging 35 miles each day

Running around Scotland’s iconic North Coast 500 route, i will run daily for over 2 weeks to raise money 4 mental health UK.

As a designated training run for this challenge last Wednesday night, I took on the David Goggins 4 x 4 x 48 challenge.

Author: Nicky Forster

This challenge requires a participant to run 4 miles, every four hours, for 48 hours, totalling 48 miles.

It’s challenging not just because of the distance but the mental strength it takes to complete without getting a proper rest.

To fit in with work commitments I started the challenge at 10.00pm.

This would allow me to run to work at 6.00am and complete another run within a designated morning break at 10.00am.

 

The full run list was a follows:

Run #1 – Wednesday – 10.00pm – 4 miles.

Run #2 – Thursday – 2.00am – 8 miles.

Run #3 – Thursday – 6.00am – 12 miles.

Run #4 – Thursday – 10.00am – 16 miles.

Run #5 – Thursday – 2.00pm – 20 miles.

Run #6 – Thursday – 6.00pm – 24 miles.

Run #7 – Thursday – 10.00pm – 28 miles.

Run #8 – Friday – 2.00am – 32 miles.

Run #9 – Friday – 6.00am – 36 miles.

Run #10 – Friday – 10.00am – 40 miles.

Run #11 – Friday – 2.00pm – 44 miles.

Run #12 – Friday – 6.00pm – 48 miles.

 

It was both brilliant and horrible, and I’m still paying for it now nearly a week later.

But there is much to take from this challenge, about life and how to make small adjustments to manage the stresses of life.

I thought I’d share a few of those thoughts with anyone who wants to read on.

No worries if it’s not for you, thanks for reading this far.

 

1)  The Silent Saboteur: How Sleep Deprivation Wreaks Havoc on Your Mind, Body, and Life

Without doubt, the challenges that I’ve done that have been longer than 24 hours, the thing that gets me more than anything else and affects me more than anything else is sleep.

The challenge itself was tough but adding in the sleep deprivation compounded that significantly.

As a lover of all exercise forms, I would love nothing more than to place exercise as the number one pillar of health, but research as taught me that this prodigious title by some way goes to sleep.

Tiredness affects performance as we know, but it also affects mood, concentration, reaction times, and a whole host of other things.

Former teammate Stuart Fleetwood contacted me at the outset saying the distance isn’t the problem, it’s the lack of sleep in the latter stages and he wasn’t wrong. The first day night and day were tolerable, but the second day a real challenge. Energy levels, motivation, food selection was all compromised, resulting in slower runs feeling immeasurably more difficult.

 

Takeaway

If you’re going to prioritise one area in your life for improvement, then I would always look at sleep habits first. If your sleep is not in good order, then make changes. Routinize your sleep and wake times, set a good bedtime routine, limit coffee from midday, reduced blue light at least an hour before bedtime.

Create good habits and you will feel the difference immediately.

Even at 2.00am you stop for a red light.

2)  Feed the Body: Strengthen the Mind

Nutrition and hydration are the cornerstone of any endurance challenge.

Get it right and your will suffer, get it wrong and be prepared to suffer x 10, both physically and mentally.

The first 2 days I got both spot on, but the last day I took with optimistic arrogance and as a result the last 2 runs were by far the hardest when they should have been the ‘Lap of Honour’.

 

Takeaway

Don’t underestimate the importance of good nutrition and hydration habits. Eating poor quality processed foods will see a short rise in energy followed by a huge crash. There are obviously times in life to enjoy our favourite food and drink but as a rule, try to adopt a 4:3 or 5:2 approach of days eating clean and drinking plenty of water – the higher number being clean days obviously.

Carbs onto top of carbs

3)  Break It Down: Small Steps to Larger Goals

Breaking goals down into small steps is a powerful strategy that can greatly enhance productivity and increase the likelihood of success.

Each small step serves as a building block towards the ultimate goal.

Tallying the runs up on my arm provides a visual of representation of progress which creates a real sense of accomplishment, focus, and motivation.

It provides a clear roadmap to achievement.

It a powerful tracking tool and one of the highlights of this challenge was marking another run on my arm.

Takeaway

Define your goal, break it down into smaller tasks, create a tally system and begin to track completed tasks.

Stay accountable to this tally and celebrate milestones like reaching half-way.

Give it a go and see how it helps with consistency.

One step at a time.

4)  Embrace the Winds of Change: Why a Fresh Start is as Rejuvenating as a Well-Rested Mind

One thing that helped enormously was to mix up the runs.

Most of the runs were on the roads surrounding my home town of Oxted, Surrey, but the evening runs at 6 pm took me to the trails in the woods which was a welcome break from road running. Yes, it was slower and as a result took longer, resulting in less rest between that run and a 10.00pm run, but it was a change of scenery and was far more enjoyable.

Less road traffic, less noise, increased audible, visual and smells increased pleasure and this really has parallels with everyday life.

We are creatures of habit, we do the same things with the same people, wear the same clothes, eat the same food, and that monotony of life can sometimes create.

 

Takeaway

Although habits and routines make up a large part of all our lives and are important in certain areas, like we’ve touched on with sleep, exploring new experiences stimulates our senses and broadens our perspectives. It encourages personal growth and prevents us from falling into a stagnant fixed mindset. By embracing change and actively seeking new opportunities, we open ourselves up to exciting possibilities and ultimately create a more fulfilling life.

Trying something new on a daily basis, teaches us to live outside of our comfort zone. Try a new coffee, take a different route to work or home, eat in a new restaurant are ways in which we can expand our horizons.

 

5)  The Unexpected Twist: When Reality Defies Expectations, Life Gets More Interesting

The thing that struck me more than anything else with the challenge was that the times when I thought I would struggle the most, I didn’t, and the times when I thought it would be at its easiest were much more challenging.

Both 2.00am runs were counterintuitively surreal and amazing experiences, almost ethereal.

Deafeningly quiet, just me and the world to myself, in the south-east of England, that’s almost impossible.

The 6.00am run to work, I thought would be easy but in fact both days were really challenging, partly due to the hilly run and largely due to being under a tight timeline to get to work on time before my first client of the day. This increased pressure to maintain a tempo whilst still tired from the nights broken sleep.

 

Takeaway

I think that is a great metaphor for life because there are times when we think we will enjoy things and find things easy and they’re not, and other times when we expect a struggle and it’s not as bad as we perceive it to be.

This is the basis of reward prediction error, the difference the between received and predicted rewards.

As a goal setting coach this is a common coaching point with my clients.

This involves cultivating flexibility and adaptability to embrace the idea that things may not always go as planned and be open to new possibilities.

Practicing mindfulness and self-awareness can help us better to cope with disappointment or frustration and find constructive ways to respond.

Focussing on the process rather than solely on the outcome emphasises the value of learning and growth that comes from experiencing the unexpected. Each challenge presents an opportunity for personal development and improved resilience.

 

6)  Contrary to Tik Tok and Instagram: It is Possible to Out-Train a Bad Diet

The challenge was 48 hours in duration but spanned over 3 days in effect because I started the first run at 10.00pm to enable me to schedule the runs around coaching clients.

The first day therefore only consisted of the 10.00pm run, the second day had 6 runs in total and the final day has 5.

I worked out that on the second day I consumed in the region of 4500 calories and yet lost four pounds from my starting weight in the morning.

Even after this huge intake of calories, I actually lost weight, where it may be the case that such a diet is not sustainable nor a healthy way to live, it does demonstrate that weight loss is a result of ‘calories in versus calories out’.

 

Takeaway

To lose weight, it is essential to create a calorie deficit, meaning that the calories burned should exceed the calories consumed.

This principle is the fundamental rule of weight loss.

If you consistently consume more calories than your body needs, the excess energy is stored as fat, leading to weight gain.

If you consume fewer calories than you burn, your body taps into its fat stores to compensate for the energy deficit, resulting in weight loss.

51k Step Day

 

7)  Embracing the Struggle: Loving the Inherent Challenges of Life

The toughest parts of this challenge were to prepare for what is to come in July with the nc500run, but in truth this challenge doesn’t come near to the relentless test of an ultra-marathon a day for over 2 weeks.

There is something in human suffering that I am fascinated by, perhaps the reason for me reading David Goggins book and discovering the 4 x 4 x 48 Challenge in the first place.

Pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, I feel increases personal growth and resilience. By voluntarily subjecting myself to physical and mental challenges, I learn to confront and overcome adversity, building a sense of inner strength that can be applied to various aspects of life.

 

Takeaway

Suffering can enhance mental toughness, discipline, and determination, traits that can be transferred to other areas of life, such as professional challenges or personal relationships.

Enduring and conquering these challenges can help with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, boosting self-esteem and self-confidence.

Accepting that we are going to struggle every single day at different times is accepting our own vulnerability, something we don’t like to do because we see vulnerability as a form of weakness. But in truth we are all vulnerable because life is unpredictable.

Cold showers or HiiT Circuits are a great way to take ourselves into a place of stress which is why they have such health benefits beyond the obvious.

These managed stressors improve our resilience and mental strength to cope with life’s unforeseen struggles.

 

8)  Find Your Own Path in Life: You’re going to have to in Tandridge

My 6.00 am run each morning and 2.00pm run each afternoon took me from Oxted along the A25 to my studio in Godstone and back again.

This busy A road runs parallel to the M25 motorway. There are paths available but are so overgrown that there is no other choice than to run on the road in the cycle lane towards oncoming traffic.

Not an ideal scenario and I spent much of these moments waving my arms franticly bringing attention to oncoming traffic of my presence. Not a real issue as I did increase my pace at these times, but children walking this path or a parent with a child in a pushchair would be deeply worrying.

 

Takeaway

Tandridge District Council, please take note.

 

9)  Now for Something Completely Different: An Unexpected Twist

One extremely concerning thing that I noticed, not only from this challenge, but regularly as the weather improves and I’m out running, was the amount of cannabis that can be smelt from passing cars. We all know the dangers of drink-driving and as a parent I preach to my grown-up children about it, but there seems a greater problem with driving under the influence of drugs. A sobering thought when I have a 12-year-old son crossing these roads daily on his way to school.

 

Takeaway

Don’t smoke cannabis and drive. Full Stop

Lecture over.

 

Conclusion

Life is tough for everyone, not all day every day, but in varying amounts and degrees, no one lives a life of eternal happiness, a life of perfection, it simply doesn’t exist.

Because stress affects us all, at different times at different levels with different results, and the reality of stress is that we often don’t talk about mental health in our workplaces until it’s past the point of help, a third of us now will suffer increased anxiety, stress or mental health issues within our lifetime, they are responsible for 30% more absences in the workplace than any other reason, 30% more, and yet We Struggle In & We Struggle On.

 

Mental health is extremely complex, and I’m not for one minute saying that I am an expert, but we all have mental health, and this much we do know, nobody wants to struggle with mental health issues, nobody wants to be off work with mental health issues, nobody doesn’t want to live a life of fulfilment because of mental health issues, they don’t want to struggle with the routine of life, they don’t want to find it difficult to speak about their issue, for fear that no one will listen, or will not understand, or will manage them out of their positions, the worry about support and a support system within an organisation is very real.

So rather than struggle in and struggle on, I run, and run, and run some more.

Raising money in the process seems a worthy cause.

That’s the ‘Why’ behind the nc500run

For information on this event and how to sponsor

https://www.justgiving.com/page/nickyforsternc500?utm_source=copyLink&utm_medium=one_page&utm_content=page/nickyforsternc500&utm_campaign=pfp-share&utm_term=3bce7917b49b4c1baa434b27be4a68c8

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