Andy Hawthorne

Andy Hawthorne

Projects, photos and running

09 Jun 2020

Running a Long Way

Reading time: 3 minute(s) - 600 words

Running long distances requires a certain mindset, as much as physical ability.

My legs stopped working about three hours ago. As I moved along they were firing pains like a misfiring engine.

I’d been running for 10 hours. I’d only stopped for a quick drink before getting back on the muddy trail. I was going to keep running for many more hours. Whether my legs worked or not.

This was a 24-hour ultra marathon. I entered for one reason: how far could I run? How long could I run for?

The weather turned to shit not long after we started. And that meant the trail around the farm we were running around turned into a quagmire. Which is why my legs had stopped working.

As day became night I was learning all the time. I was learning that running a long way only needs one thing. Well, two, if you count a body to keep moving with. But it’s the second element that’s most important.

The second element is this: mind over matter.

I can hear the sighs.

I thought he was going to reveal something major. Something groundbreaking. Instead, he comes up with that old chestnut…

It might be nothing new. But when it comes to running a long way, mind over matter is a thing. An important thing. I’d argue almost the only thing.

See, when your body says no, it’s your mind that continues to say yes. During that ultra marathon, I felt myself getting stronger as darkness fell.

I saw better runners than me starting to struggle. I saw runners much faster than me starting to slow down. And I saw people give up.

I understood all of that. But my mind kept pumping out the same simple message:

You want to know how far you can go? Keep going…

During that event, my favourite time was around 4am. The rain had stopped and the sun was coming up. It was a glorious morning.

My body ached so much I couldn’t work out which bit hurt the most. The soles of my feet were riddled with blisters because of the mud and water all around the course. But my mind was alert and fresh. Sunrise was like an awakening in more ways than one.

I’d had to walk as many segments as I was running through the night. But I was still moving. And that’s all that mattered.

When I watch elite runners finish a marathon in close to two hours I’m truly mesmerised by their achievement. They’re so quick for such a long way. I try to imagine what it must feel like to run that fast over that distance. I have no idea.

But long distances don’t frighten me anymore. If fact, I like them. I love the idea of running from one town to another - just because I can. Running long distances for a runner like me is not about speed. I wish it was, but it’s not. It’s about going the distance.

And that’s the most important thing about learning to run a long way. One foot in front of the other and repeat. It’s as simple as that.

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