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Drawing strength from adversity by Steve Fox

As I start to right this blog, it’s thirteen months and thirteen days since my last one was posted. It feels like the world stopped and is struggling to get going again, much like running up and trying to recover from a big hill.

I have previously spoken about our inherent responsibility to ourselves first, and then to everyone else, to keep ourselves in good mental and physical health. Indeed, the World Health Organisation defines health as, “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

So, as we hopefully crest that hill of the last 18 months trials and tribulations, perhaps we need a checklist that covers physical, mental and social. I’m fortunate to have a large network of family and friends, and have kept myself in good shape (although not OCR fit – more later), so my biggest challenge has undoubtedly been mental.

My last blog focussed on inspiration and from where it may be found. This has been particularly relevant to me as having lost my step-mum to cancer in February last year, I lost my dad to the same wretched disease in December. My dad was my hero and I miss him terribly, but he was also my inspiration.

My dad taught me to stand up tall and take whatever life throws at you, no matter how hard it gets. That mental toughness has stood me in good stead, and it was certainly called upon in my most recent event, 12 hours of Rocket Race, a 10km obstacle course run.

You may think that the idea of completing five 10km laps of an event where most people just do one is a stupid idea, and you’d be correct and right. However, having completed it with four good friends (well three and the one who came up with the idea, social ticked off), it became clear that sometimes athletic achievement is not only measured in how far or how fast, but by simply getting it done.

So, what does that mean? Yes, I ended up completing 51km taking 72,805 steps, and yes it was hard, but it was still in the same ballpark as stuff I’ve done before. A work colleague recently completed a charity challenge of walking 100 miles in June which is something she has never done before. A quick glimpse at my beloved Lockdown Fitness Facebook group finds someone who says they are struggling to find motivation but still find it within themselves to run over fifteen miles on a Tuesday morning. These are prime examples of the mental fortitude that, yes Shania, still impresses me much.

One of my new favourite sayings is “You've got to be so determined to achieve what you set out to do that normal people find it incomprehensible.” Now I know there is a certain amount of hyperbole in that statement, but I really love to see people committing themselves to endeavours that they haven’t done before, believe that they may be beyond them, or that they simply do not presently have the enthusiasm to complete.

There was a hideous hill on each lap of Rocket Race, and in advance of our final lap we said we were going to skip it. As we approached it, I said that the fact that we hated the thought of doing it again so much was precisely the reason why we had to. Unsurprisingly I wasn’t thanked, but there was a real sense of achievement that we didn’t let it beat us. Accomplishment definitely provides a boost to mental health – mental, ticked off.

My dad showed mental fortitude in abundance by having to grieve for his wife in the isolation of lockdown, before spending several months in hospital dealing with his own illness before he passed. I’m often asked where I get my stubborn determination from, that is where.

Quite scarily, my first blog for Sarah was published on 19 November 2019. Much has changed since then, however my love for my first subject has not, OCR - obstacle course running. I recently completed the Spartan Super OCR, an 11k OCR event which was pretty much my first run since completing Rocket Race.

It was extremely hilly course on which I struggled, and I failed some obstacles that I would normally complete. As the initial disappointment wore off, I realised that this presented an opportunity to banish rustiness and the three weeks of exercise apathy that had gone before, physical – in progress. And so, my OCR world has started turning again. I’m moving away from 18 months of training focusing on running to that based on climbing up stuff and getting muddy again. I can’t wait.

My perceived failure has led to the return of my motivation and enthusiasm. Those two sometimes elusives have been fundamental in my determination to try and teach an old Fox new tricks (sorry!). I am taking a week away from my day job (in financial services) to take a Level 2 Fitness Instructor course. In doing so I’m reminded of the final lines of The Next Storm by my punk/folk hero Frank Turner:

But I don't want to spend the whole of my life indoors

Laying low, waiting on the next storm

I don't want to spend the whole of my life inside

I wanna step out, and face the sunshine

My next blog won’t be so long in arriving - its good to be back.

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