I’d like to think that I’m a positive person. I certainly have no reasons to be negative.
I live, work and train in a truly beautiful part of the world. However, there’s more to positive thinking than just ‘being a positive person’. The potential positivity that we all have, or can have if we want it, can be used towards achieving goals, becoming ambitious and making things happen.
I’m currently returning from an injury that put me out of action for eight months during 2014. I coped well with not running at all for such a long time. I kept a positive attitude, knowing that I would run again. Twelve years ago I was in a far tighter position; a paragliding accident left me in a New Zealand hospital with a broken back. I fell 30ft and the impact crushed a vertebrae. Being told by surgeons that I shouldn’t expect to run again was probably the darkest moment of my life. I was only 24 years old and, prior to visiting New Zealand, had begun living in the Lake District (UK), where I had just discovered off-road running on fells and trails. It was six months before I could fly home.
But by keeping a positive attitude and a strong self-belief that I could achieve my goals, I have far surpassed anything I would have thought possible ten years ago. Once I got out of hospital in New Zealand I set upon my mantra –I’m going to come out of this stronger than when I went in. I wanted not just to walk again, but I was determined to run again and, furthermore, run stronger than I’d ever done before. Yes it took time, but eventually I got there. Prior to my paragliding accident I finished the 2003 Wasdale Horseshoe race (21 miles with 2,750m of elevation gain over England’s highest summits) in 27th place in a time of 5hrs 17mins. Ten years later I’d won it for a third time (2010, 2011 and 2013) with a personal best time of 3hrs 46 mins.
So, how can you maximise your positivity into better / faster / stronger running?
Don’t think negative thoughts, put them away as soon as they come into your head and replace them with a positive thought. You can only think one thought at any one time, so make it a positive one! These negative thoughts might be about a race being too long or too technical, a training session being too daunting or the weather being too miserable to go running in. Turn them into positive thoughts: the long race is an exciting challenge, the technical race is going to be an adventure, the training session is what will make you strong and the bad weather is a chance to test waterproof kit.
Setting smaller and relatively easy-to-achieve goals will give you short-term positive returns and feelings. These goals might be getting out and recceing an entire race route -even in bad weather -or completing a successful four-week block of training. The tougher goals are the ones that will give you that big adrenaline high when you succeed. I set myself the big goal of winning the 2013 Lakeland 50-mile trail race. I did it, and set a new course record too (7hrs 39mins 26secs). It left me feeling positive for weeks and, more importantly, made me realise you can pretty much achieve anything, even when your first thought is ‘I’d never be able to do that’. When I first heard about Ironman triathlons my first thought was ‘I will never be able to do that.’ I could only swim breaststroke and couldn’t even ride a road bike! Refusing to give in to such thoughts, I have since completed an Ironman distance event. Your Ironman equivalent might be an ultra distance running race like the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) or Lakeland 100, or completing a classic long UK fell race like Wasdale.
Trust and belief
If you trust in your own abilities and tell yourself that you can do it, then you’re halfway there. Practice ‘positive-talking’ to yourself before and during races and training sessions. Earlier this week I was out running with a friend and I asked him about self-belief. He said he had always admired runners such as Gavin Bland (who holds many UK fell running records) for never worrying about turning up at a race when he wasn’t fit. Gavin knew that it didn’t matter what people thought about that day’s result because he had the self-belief that he’d be running strong for when it really counted in the biggest of races.
Enjoyment and happiness
Just enjoy what you’ve got, the talents you’ve been given and appreciate the moments of happiness, even in the toughest of situations. Remember, you chose to be there so it can’t be that bad, can it?