Taupo, New Zealand
“Slight change of plan,” Sinead said as we sat in a cafe en route from Auckland to Taupo yesterday. I was feeling tired after the AXA speaking tour, so had fallen off the no-sugar wagon and was eating a muffin. “Somebody has had to drop out of the relay team, so we’ve had to rearrange the runners.”

“Errr, yeah?” I said. I’d be training specifically to run the 7.5km home strait. That was what I was prepared for – physically and mentally.

“So now you’re going to doing one of the walking legs. You HAVE to walk – running not allowed.”

“Oh.” I was crestfallen. I’d been psyched for running – and was looking forward to a good workout.

“Or maybe you could do Pete’s run? He’s got a bad back.”

“How far is it?”

“14km. You OK with that?”

Twice as far as I’d trained for. Twice as far as I’d run since last November. Errr…. I looked guiltily at the muffin crumbs on my plate. Guilt can be a powerful motivator.

“Sounds good to me. Sign me up!”

Once we got to the team house, though, I started to wonder if I’d been rather hasty. Who, me? Rash? Sign up to do something without knowing what I was letting myself in for? It wouldn’t be the first time….

It now turned out that my 14km leg would start at midnight – not exactly my peak hour. And it would be largely uphill. and probably into a headwind. And, as I was dropped off by car for the start of my run, it started to rain. Oh joy.

Luckily I’ve been spending my whole week talking to AXA staff about how to tackle seemingly impossible challenges. Keep your eye on the goal. Take it one stroke (or one hill, or one step) at a time. Focus on the process. Believe you can succeed.

And so I coached myself through it. I knew from Sinead’s description of the course where the uphills and downhills were, so even though there were no kilometer markers I knew how far and how fast I was going. Mentally I ticked off the kilometers, then counted the strides to the next landmark.

By halfway I knew I was going to make it. The final stretch, described in the course notes as “undulating” seemed more like an uphill to me, but by then I knew I was on the home stretch.

My goal had been to run the whole way (I imagined Rob Hamill’s voice in my head, telling me “Just DON’T STOP!”) and ideally to finish in under 1:30 hours – Pete’s original estimate for his own completion time. I did indeed run the whole way, and finished in 1:20.

OK, so I wasn’t breaking any land speed records, but I had run double the distance I had trained for, and had managed not to let the team down. I had, once again, got outside my comfort zone and risen to the challenge, and BOY did it feel good!

And then a vacancy arose for another leg – the final leg, the one that I had originally trained for. That will happen at 5pm this afternoon. And I seem to have accidentally volunteered for that one too….

photo: Team Taupo bringing it home – the team join me (wearing the race number) for the end of the final leg.

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