Posted on October 24, 2012


I listened yesterday to an interview on TRN with a super cool chick called Jamie Walker. She’s a US-based ultra runner, coach and all-round rock star who recently attempted her first 100 miler.

My biggest takeaway was this: a big race is only partly about the running.  There are so many other things to consider and one long race can mirror a lifetime of highs and lows, calm seas and rough storms. Most, if not all, of these considerations boil down to three categories:

1)   Muscular skeletal issues … dealing with pre-race injuries or indeed new ones, physical aches and pains etc

2)   Stomach issues … overcoming GI problems, keeping kcal intake high and regular, getting the right balance between race food v normal food, staying hydrated, getting in sufficient electrolytes etc

3)   Mindset … where you are with your head space …

The conversation went on to how we should constantly assess these three categories on a scale, our own defined range to know where we’re at … a range where 1 equates to feeling great with no major issues and 10 sees you in the worst possible state.

The questions then raised were …

  • At what combined number would you pull out?
  • And do you place equal rating on each category?

The consensus on the podcast was that an acceptable number to pull the plug is 21 (hence the title of this post) but that doesn’t necessarily mean a seven all round. You could reach a 9 and a 9 on the muscular-skeletal and stomach scales but if still retaining a strong and positive mindset, you can continue to survive and thrive.

The conversation led my thoughts back to Racing the Planet Nepal when I was surrounded by so many who were astounded that I managed to continue. Where I found the strength I don’t know … the mental strength to just plod on and the physical strength when I was literally running on such low fuel. It’s very difficult to gauge on the scale a tummy bug unlike a physical injury where you can make a more practical call re whether continuing might cause a longer-term, more serious condition.

I guess, ultimately, it comes down to hope.  I never lost hope. And provided you don’t lose hope, the mind and body have an unquenchable spirit to defy the odds and rise to whatever challenge lies ahead of you. I guess we only really appreciate it when that ghastly challenge sits right in front of our very eyes.

But back to blackjack.  I think this is a really valuable exercise to think about ahead of future races, regardless of whether you run, cycle, swim or all three. It’s also worth discussing, if applicable, with your pacers or support crew. Consider what each number on the scale feels like and visalise how you would handle those issues because hours into a race, when faced with the same, it becomes very hard to make informed, common-sense decisions.

As for me, I write this just a week before hitting the majestic mountains of Manaslu for the Action Asia Nepal 100km so have the perfect opportunity to play a little blackjack myself. Post-run game report will follow …

I will be running in the aforementioned race as an ambassador of Rahhalah. We’re a match made in heaven thanks to our shared love for exploring all four corners, pursuing adventures, raising the bar and having the courage and confidence to reach new heights. Click here to check out their amazingly, awesome, life-enhancing adventures … and sign up … you won’t regret it!

Posted in: uncategorised