Well, it’s now just a few days away from the biggest physical challenge of my life to date. A few people have asked me in the last week whether I am nervous. In truth I’m looking at nervous in the rear view mirror and it is pretty distant.
I am scared.
There are so many ways things could go wrong. And as much as I accept the occasional failure as an inevitable consequence of challenging myself, I will be devastated if I don’t complete this.
I wrote recently about Ben Hirst’s courage in knowing when to accept defeat in the insanely difficult Downunder 135 trail race. For all our best intentions, it does little good to blithely pretend that I shouldn’t be disappointed if I fail. As much as we know our defeats don’t define us, it doesn’t stop them hurting when they arrive and I know in myself it would hurt bitterly to not complete this race.
But scared as I am, I'm here. Unprepared as I am, I'm here. And I am going to give it all I have.
Of course when you are most scared is sometimes when you forget how many positives you have in your favour, so I am determined not to make that mistake.
I am very lucky to have some incredible sources of inspiration to help me get there. James and Matt- two irreplaceable friends- are lost to me, but their values and their courage stay with me. It is from their treasured example that I made the commitment to seek out greater challenge and try to emulate their bravery in the face of adversity.
I draw further resilience from my association with Just Like Jack- an amazing group of people dedicated to showing that people with disabilities can overcome all manner of obstacles with the right support. When I was first invited to join the group, I believed I was doing so for what I could give, but what I did not realise was how much stronger I feel when I represent Just Like Jack and I am thankful for this added sense of strength this week in particular.
As I go through my final preparations, hundreds of kilometres from home, I will feel anything but isolated. My wife and her unwavering belief in me is always a powerful bulwark when my courage threatens to fail me. Her emotional and logistical support have given me an enormous advantage, and one that I do not take lightly. Added to this are the sincere well-wishes and encouragement I carry with me from so many friends and family. Your kind words and thoughts will be another source of drive for me this weekend.
So, as scared as I am now, as exhausted as I know I will be in a few days’ time; I know I will not have to look far to find the courage to do what I have to do.
I would also like to add a post script and recognise that it is easy to get caught up in our own seemingly momentous challenges and lose a bit of perspective.
I admittedly haven’t slept that well for the last couple of weeks and my waking moments have been tinged with a low grade anxiety. No doubt on Sunday I will be pushed close to my breaking point and have to find a way to persevere when I don’t think I can take any more.
But by Monday it will be all over.
However many people, including a number of friends dear to me, experience anxiety, stress and struggle as part and parcel of their daily life, without a clearly defined finish line. I consider myself very fortunate that I have not had to personally fight the spectre of mental health difficulties and most of the challenges I have faced have been of my own choosing..
So to those friends who have confided their mental health battles to me, I will also be thinking of your struggles and appreciating your enduring courage as I fight my way to the finish.