"It's Not The Destination, It's The Journey" – Women's Running UK

“It’s Not Just The Destination But The Journey…”

Author: Clare Steel

Read Time:   |  December 8, 2016

“It’s Not Just The Destination But The Journey...”

Well it’s over! Project Trail has been completed and the challenge has been met!

It’s now just over two weeks since the Hilly Half marathon, and I have had time to reflect not only on the race but on the whole Project Trail experience.

I like the saying, “It’s not just the destination but the journey that’s important” and I think this helps me describe how I feel about the last four months. Yes, of course the race was important as it was a culmination of four months of preparation, but I also know that, for me, the four months preparation have been more significant, in terms of what I’ve learned, than the run itself.

Without a doubt, on the day, I felt that the race was physically the hardest thing I have ever done and, to be honest, I underestimated just how challenging it would be. I had hoped to be at the ‘peak of my physical fitness’ by 13 November but, in reality, I felt very far from that having been unable to train for the two weeks leading up to the race because of an injury to my right foot. In fact, I hadn’t run a single step over those last 14 days as I was so afraid my foot would still hurt. Anne Marie strapped it for me and I wore an ankle support but I was still conscious of it from the start. It wasn’t enough not to run but it was enough to worry me!

“It’s Not Just The Destination But The Journey...”

Digging deep

However I was determined to complete the challenge, come what may! And goodness what a challenge! I had read the information about the race, watched the video and, to be honest, I was pretty complacent and thought, “It will be OK, I’ve trained on hilly runs and I’ve done nine and 12 miles without too much difficulty. However I didn’t anticipate the extent of the hills or the difficult terrain – stony and rough as well as muddy and slippery! As one person wrote, “If you haven’t done a half-marathon before, make sure this isn’t your first!” I ignored this, too. Although during the run there were many times I felt I couldn’t do it, I did finish and, with encouragement from my son and brother (who came back and ran the last mile with me) and the sight of my parents cheering me on at the end, I even managed to run across the finish and smile!

Unfortunately I must admit I didn’t feel as elated after the race as I hoped I would as it didn’t really go to plan! I felt relieved I’d done it but disappointed I had taken a good 20 minutes more than I had anticipated and I walked a lot which, in my mind, I wasn’t going to! And my foot hurt! And, on top of that, I felt really sick – Anne Marie said it was the build up of lactic acid. So, all in all, I felt pretty rough and then Monday morning I was back in school by 6.30am – hobbling well!

However, over the last two weeks, I have reflected a lot about the whole experience and I realise I have learned so much about me and my running. I know now that I enjoy trail running more than anything else – I enjoy it for the peace and tranquillity it offers me, the opportunities to be running in beautiful places I wouldn’t usually go, to run with people I wouldn’t normally meet, and because it makes me appreciate the body I have. Running hasn’t made me as thin as I want to be and, despite Anne Marie’s best efforts, I still don’t pay enough attention to my diet but it has given me the knowledge I need to get that right!

The Project Trail experience has made me look at my lifestyle and accept that, if I don’t make changes, then I cannot expect my body to cope with extreme races like the Hilly Half marathon. But lifestyle changes are not always easy to implement and I love my job and that means I will continue to work crazy hours so I have to accept that I am going to find hilly half marathons tough! However I do know I can run and I can train sufficiently to allow me to do anything from weekly parkruns with a reasonable PB to nine-mile trail races, and even the occasional 12-mile run in the woods with my dog when I choose to! And that’s what I want – I don’t want or expect to win races – running is something I do for me and, fast or slow, it’s got to be about enjoyment. I didn’t enjoy the half-marathon at the time as I was frustrated with myself and felt I’d let myself down but I now realise I didn’t – whatever the finish time, it was a huge achievement and, as soon as my foot recovers, I will get my trainers back on and get out on those trails again. In fact, I have just treated myself to some lovely new trail shoes in preparation for the next challenge – the Seven Sins, consisting of seven muddy miles and seven steep hills on 28 December in the Forest of Dean.

“It’s Not Just The Destination But The Journey...”

Clare’s spirits are lifted upon seeing her family at the finish

Thank you Women’s Running and Project Trail – it’s been an amazing journey and one I feel extremely privileged to have been on. I’ve met some great people and I have had the opportunity to tackle something I wouldn’t have tried on my own. The four months of training were so enjoyable. I had some fantastic runs in the summer with my brother and son and a particularly memorable weekend when new friends from the Project Trail team, Stephanie, Abbey, Anne-Marie and Liz, came to the farm for a weekend of training and running. I am hoping that we will all get the chance to do something similar in the future. I have also done runs on my own that have inspired me and I have learned I can run hills! I have learned how to use my TomTom watch to track my movements and motivate me and I love the Bluetooth headphones so I can listen to my running tracks with minimum fuss!

Overall I feel the experience has done what I hoped it would do – give me some time to focus on me and learn more about me as a runner, both the good and the bad! It has also made me realise that we are all human and, even with careful planning and preparation, things don’t always go to plan. On some days you might fly and on others you might crawl but, as long as you’ve given it your all, that’s all you can expect of yourself. So at the end of any run just smile and be happy, for we are truly lucky to have the ability to put on our trainers and get out there!

WATCH Clare and the rest of the team in our Bath Hilly Half ‘best bits’ video, put together by team coach Anne-Marie Lategan:

Clare Steel

Meet the team

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