It's a state of mind
This time next week I’ll be carb-loading (by which I probably mean downing industrial quantities of moules frites) ready for my second attempt at the Dodentocht.
My second major challenge of the year (the first being The Forces March), the objective is to complete the full 100km in 24 hours. Last year I only (!) managed to complete 50km after arund 11 hours and cosmically failed the mental battle to carry on past the half way mark. The rows of chairs for those waiting for the bus back to the start were calling out to me, and I gave in.
This year I have more respect for the challenge : yes, it’s ‘only’ a walk and yes I ‘only’ have to keep going for 24 hours, and yes it's ‘only’ Belgium and it’s flat, but that’s no reason to be blind to the need to plan and prepare.
Additionally, this year I am carrying The Baton. Made from a stretcher handle used on the battlefield in Afghanistan it is a symbol of hope and courage, and in the same way that the stretcher actually carried the wounded, dying and fallen to Camp Bastion, The Baton symbolises the practical support that we wish to give to current and former servicemen.
So, stopping half way this year won’t be an option, just as it wouldn’t have been an option for those carrying their brothers in arms back to safety.
I was also privileged to receive The Baton from a Royal Marine. The Royal Marines tag line is “It’s a State of Mind”.
So, advice from a Royal Marine who has roller-skied 1,664 km from John O’Groats to Lands End or traced Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition or completed a 179 mile run has to be useful. Did I just say ‘useful’? I think I meant to say essential.
And for all his training and 30 years as a Royal Marine Commando, what was the most important thing WO1 Gray told me?
Have a plan. And stick to it.
What’s the plan? Walk for an hour, rest for five minutes. Times 22.
How easy is that? All the other advice (don’t set off too quickly, eat and drink when your body says you need it, carry several pairs of dry socks, cashew nuts, pasta, baked beans, jelly beans, stay warm and stretch when resting) is secondary.
Walk. Rest. Repeat.
Isn’t that just stunning in its simplicity? But just like everything else in life, we sometimes want or expect things to be much more complicated. Those with vested interests might want to make us believe it’s much more complicated. There’s nothing wrong with simple, or embarrassing about how simple something can be.
But simple is not easy. And that’s where the state of mind comes into action.