I’ve made no secret of the fact that recently I have felt rather uninspired about my running and the races I have been doing.

I’ve been signing up for races left right and centre and then spent a lot of time asking myself why I had even bothered?

Deerstalker is a prime example. I ran this for the first time in 2016 and hated every single second of it. I returned this year just to prove to myself that it wouldn’t break me again. It didn’t, so surely that’s me done with it? Turns out, I have a Wave 1 spot for next year secured. Why? Because apparently saying no to races just hasn’t been an option recently.

And then I woke up the day after Runstock and couldn’t walk. 24 hours later I had had my pelvis put back into place and was on a strict running ban. “But…but…what about my races…?” I said. “You’re just going to have to miss them…” the physio said.

That was three weeks ago. I tried to run yesterday and managed a mile before my pelvis reminded me that being indestructible isn’t within my skill set, and I hobbled home, deflated and in pain. Looks like I might not be running for a little while yet. Lifting and working on core and lower back strength have stepped up to the plate as the staples in my regime for now. Which is fine, I don’t really like running anyway to be honest.

This weekend past we were at Total Warrior, and I wanted to run so bad. So bad. Watching everyone start and hearing about the route and the obstacles and watching the faces of people at the finish line made me jealous.

But not in the way you might think.

I wasn’t jealous because they had run and I hadn’t. I was jealous because they had enjoyed running (most of them anyway), and that is something that has been missing from my OCR experience for some time.

I came into OCR by accident, I’ve mentioned it a few times I’m sure. A late sign up to the 2015 Tough Mudder Scotland threw me into a state of complete unknown and discomfort. I did things that Saturday at Drumlanrig that I had never done before. I cried more than once, I panicked more than once, I swore at a complete stranger for daring to offer me help going over the peg wall, and I skipped King of the Swingers because there was NO WAY I was jumping off a platform that high into water. I crossed the finish line and felt the biggest sense of achievement that I had ever experienced. And I wanted more.

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Tough Mudder 2015

Total Warrior followed two months later, and then #30for30 was born, which in turn brought with it Dirty Weekend.

Dirty Weekend v1. was the ultimate test in facing my fears. I don’t like heights, I don’t like being suspended over water, I don’t like firemans poles or water slides. And yet I did them all at Dirty Weekend, with a little help from the wonderful Lee.

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Dirty Weekend 2016 heroes

Then something happened and it became less about facing fears and having fun, and more about speed and position. Bing Blazer 2016. It wasn’t a race I enjoyed. It wasn’t a race I really felt challenged at. In fact, the 5km run followed by a few obstacles then a 5km run back home left me feeling nothing short of uninspired (this year was much better FYI) but yet I qualified for the European OCR Championships. So it had to be positive right? Who hates the race that throws them in the ring for Euros?

Me, as it turns out. I do.

I started stressing out about races. For the first time ever I would stand on the start line feeling sick, unable to talk to anyone, worried that I had to perform, or that somehow I had failed if I didn’t run well. And I’m not even very good at OCR! Races became more about where I finished in the overall standings than whether or not I had actually enjoyed the day or not, and towards the end of 2016 I stopped enjoying races altogether.

Until Runstock benched me I was considering pulling out of everything else this year. I was still not having a very good time at races, still not feeling as though I was achieving anything and left with a quite profound feeling of “what’s even the point?”

And then I spent two days at Total Warrior, not running. And it reminded that in fact there is a whole lot more to OCR than winning, or being the best team or falling into a qualifying group for your age category. Sure, for a lot of people thats what it is about, and those athletes are incredible and deserve every single ounce of that respect and praise. I wish I was as fast, and as strong and as capable. But for the most of us, that’s not what OCR is. And that’s ok too. Not everyone wants to win, not everyone wants to ‘race’, hell you could be a super fast runner and not care about running in wave 1. God forbid eh?

Podiums and qualifying certainly isn’t what OCR means for me. Yes I want to be the best I can be at any given point, and yes I want to be able to run fast (or at this point just run). But I also want to be able to complete Kong without falling off, I want to get to the top of the rope at Spartan and I would like to complete the pillow jump without having a minor panic attack before hand. If that comes with another podium finish (to which I only have one to my name) then great. If not, then great. Getting a podium finish at Bear Grylls hasn’t changed my life anymore than taking 5 hours to complete the Spartan Beast has. Both races were as incredible as each other, just for different reasons.

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The Beast, hardest race to date.

I’d much rather come over a finish line thinking “god that really challenged me” than “I wonder if I made top 10”.

It took being taken out of the race to realise I didn’t want to be in the race to begin with.

I’m currently trying to ensure I drum into my 8 year old that racing is all about the fun, never the winning, so it would be pretty hypocritical of me to be solely focused on standing on a start line trying to beat her over there, and her, and that girl over there too. It isn’t about being faster than the other people in the field, it isn’t about being stronger than them, its about being as fast and as strong as YOU can be on any given race day, and if that leads to winning then great, but never at the detriment to enjoyment.

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The 8 year old…

And now, I’d quite like my pelvis to heal, so I can sign up for another Tough Mudder, or even a wave 3 spot at Nuclear so that I can go back to enjoying OCR as it was meant to be enjoyed, to push the fear barrier and have some fun.

Oh and I also have no plans to run Deerstalker next year. Why? Because I hate hills and I don’t want to. Easy decision really when you break it down to the simple question of – do I actually want to do this race?

OCR is a sport that has created community, and memories, and friendships and is currently inspiring my children. There is no i in OCR, and there never will be. For a start, there aint no one (ok maybe someone) that can get over those hero walls at Tough Mudder on their own…

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Team Shark…