What a feeling it was to cross that finish line on Saturday after four hours and thirty kilometres of soft sand, unforgiving hills and endless boardwalk. I had conquered my first ever trail running event AND without falling over or injuring myself #winning. My knees hurt, I was chaffing in places I do not wish to disclose (hello 30!) and I'm pretty sure the second toe nail on both feet were about ready to fall off but although my tank was well and truly empty, my heart was so full.
If you'd asked me how my training was going six weeks ago, I might have given you an eye roll or a "this is my first and last trail run!" You see, I'm not always one to step outside my comfort zone and after signing up to the thirty kilometre Coastal Classic before EVER running trail (idiot), I could have easily pulled the pin on the whole thing after week two of training. Surely everyone on social media would forget I ever mentioned it, right?
For the next three months when I'd be packing a Clif bar into my backpack and laying out my ugly trail shoes, I'd project myself to the finish line; imagining a Saturday morning with more cinnamon scrolls and much less running up hills. Even though I always felt good after a training run, I couldn't help but go into each one with a bad mindset and although picturing the finish line drove me through the low points of my journey, it also prevented me from living in the moment.
When the big day rolled around, I felt sick with nerves but as I got caught up in a sea of people at the start of the track, I heard the familiar voice of one of my clients up ahead and suddenly I felt overcome with gratitude; gratitude for the weeks of training runs with great people by my side who encouraged me, built me up and listened, without judgement to all my bad dating stories. That feeling of community and belonging made me realise how lucky I am and that I wouldn't have achieved what I had so far without my crew running next to me.
At that moment I also knew that no matter the outcome of the event, I had come this far and that was bloody amazing so I put one foot in front of the other and even on the last stretch of beach with sand whipping up and hitting me in the face, I didn't give up. I powered on feeling stronger than ever and as I came hurtling towards the finish line, (and the sausage sandwich tent) I couldn't help but feel proud; proud of myself and proud of the people around me. The mental and physical toll the run had taken on my mind and body was far greater than I had expected but the reward of accomplishing something so epic was even greater.
I've learned a lot in the last three months but the most important lesson has been realising that a journey like this is meant to be enjoyed and crossing the finish line is just a bonus. So whatever you're working towards right now, make sure you take a moment to stop and smell the roses. Look around you and enjoy the friendships, experiences and even the low points because those are the memories that will stay with you forever.