by Ali Wyllie
“Success is no accident” this is the title of a recent post on social media by Leszek Stelmachowski of Fitness Soul. This post caught my attention and rings absolutely true. In this post Les goes on to talk about the misconception between people being labelled as gifted, talented and naturally fast. When in actual fact, people who are at the top of their game, in their chosen sport, work damn hard, relentlessly, passionately and wholeheartedly. Les goes on to quote Pele by saying “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” You can read his full post here.
I found this article particularly salient after the first race of the 2017/2018 FoxTrail Winter Running Series today, I took part in the 13k trail race. There was also the option of a 5k trail race. I passionately love this race series. I love everything about it. The trails, the fun and friendly community atmosphere, the organisation, the fact that they allow canicrossers (running with dogs) …. the list of why I love this series goes on.
Had I done enough training to continue to live up to the perceived expectations of others? I say perceived expectations for the simple fact that going into the new season as the previous series winner, I feel the pressure and expectation to podium. I worry that if I don’t achieve a podium I let people down. Yet, I am very aware that it is all about who turns up on the day and where everyone is, in their own individual running journey at that present time.
I am bad at training. Yes, I run a lot and I love to run, but I lack structure in my runs to be able to see any real gains and improvements and this is my own responsibility. I cannot rely on “natural talent” as outlined above. I need to focus and work hard. I need to make more sacrifices and I definitely need to add in some interval sessions (Cath – my training twin – you up for this?). On this one occasion, I managed to hold my own and bring home 3rd female, but I can’t be complacent with this and I need to make a few wee changes to my “training” in order to try and stay up there in the medals this season.
Nicola Duncan scooped up the 1st female place. Nicola absolutely fits Pele’s definition of success - and rightly so. Not many people will have known that as we toed the start line today, Nicola’s legs were heavy with race wins! In the past 2 weeks Nicola has completed 2 ultra-marathons - winning both - and achieving a new course record in the Jedburgh Ultra. In actual fact, technically she will have the course record for the Ultra Tour of Edinburgh, given it was it’s inaugural year, and she still managed to scoop a win today, with all those miles of racing in her legs. This is another level of running and is inspirational, yes, she absolutely does meet Pele’s definition of success. She is not handed this on a plate. Nicola works hard at her running and it is lovely to see her reaping the benefits.
So are there any Instagram fans reading this? This is my new favourite social media platform for both Run the Sights @run_the_sights and my personal account @run4thesights. Have you noticed how lots of runners do that thing where they lay their race attire out the night before, all nice and tidy, take a picture and then pop it up with a profound blurb full of hopes, dreams, aspirations, nerves and excitement. Well, that’s not really my style, I like to add a bit of a twist to things. As I was pondering how to capture this, my loveable German Shorthaired Pointer caught my eye ….. what a fool! He won’t be doing that again if he see’s me looking for ideas. Thank you to Zac for being a good sport. What a great way to showcase my race attire, as opposed to it all folded up neatly, laid out nicely...... sorry Zac - my poor suffering loveable son replacement.
The start of my day was the same as ever. Up, get dressed, dogs fed, me fed, head to race. Now, that all sounds very normal doesn’t it. But most normal people don’t arrive at 7.30am when registration doesn’t even open until 8am. I HATE being late. This also meant I got a choice of parking places (well I was the ONLY car there!). I’m such an eejit, my promptness is always remarked on by the organisers, who I swear think I camp out overnight like an excited child (not far from the truth).
I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it was to see so many familiar faces from the last season, as folk started to arrive. This included all the folk who attended the monthly Foxy Trail Runners runs over the summer – these are a fun, free and friendly set of trail runs organised by Owain and Mandy Williams and myself to help get people out on the trails. Find us on Facebook here and come and join in the fun. Whilst there are no formal Foxy Trail Runs again, until after this series, there are plenty of informal runs and running chat being posted up there. We are absolutely for all abilities!
There was the usual chatter at the start line with the regular faces; including Owain Williams; last season’s series winner, exchanging pre-race banter and war talk. Nicola and I huddled together and talked trainers. Then we were off, “run your own race” kept going through my head, courtesy of Abby Fraser-Davidson. It wasn’t long before Nicola was but a dot in the distance - to be fair, she is beautifully tiny, so that could have been her meters ahead of me - but in fact - she was far far away in the distance. I was in 2nd lady place up until just over a mile, however that changed as Joanna Brown breezed past me, effortlessly and looking strong. I encouraged her on and told her she was running into 2nd place, putting me in 3rd. This order did not change throughout the race. I toyed with trying to fight it out with Joanna, but I really didn’t know how I would fare with a 7-mile fight. So I chose to “run my own race”. I focused on my form and I felt really strong and more importantly I felt happy. I worked on my arms and footfall. I have a tendency to run like a chicken with my bum and elbows out. I ran tall and kept my strides short and cadence high, tucking my tail in and keeping my elbows by my side. At the point where we doubled back on ourselves, towards the other runners, I was overwhelmed seeing so many running friends and hearing the comments of support "Go Ali", "well done Ali" - it really spurred me on. We really do have such a close-knit community with the FoxTrail Winter Running Series!
The route is new and improved. I love soft, sandy trails and I particularly love the roller coaster style, single track trail, in the last mile. At this point, I felt I was gaining on Joanna as I was having so much fun over the trails I was positively bouncing. But the gap between us remained and she bolted home in a 25-second lead, with Nicola having arrived home 1.36 minutes before me. I was delighted with my run and really chuffed to gain a podium. I honestly feel I am living on borrowed time for my FoxTrail podiums as there are so many amazing, speedie runners coming along, which is brilliant. If I want to continue to gain podium places, I realise I need to take a leaf out of Nicola’s book!
So was anything different this year to last year? It’s the same ethos and race identity of course, which is what we all love and are drawn to. I would say there is a small difference – John, James, Cal, Mandy and Kate – the key organisers and all their crew - seemed SUPER CHILLED. As in really relaxed, confident and on top of their game – guys you were positively horizontal – in a good way. I guess you can do this malarkey blindfolded now.
I love seeing all the happy smiley faces of people crossing the finish line, exhilarated by their run and embracing other runners like long lost family. You cannot bottle this connection and feeling. The FoxyTrail Winter Running Series does a finish exceptionally well!
Sadly, not everyone’s races went according to plan. Poor Jodie Dunz went over on her ankle causing a fracture and ligament damage! Sending out a big hug and get well soon wishes to Jodie, who was running with Bailley (he is not to blame!).
As has become standard, I took my K9 kids for a run after the prize giving, I was joined by a few friends, which was fabby. It was a lovely opportunity to chat, introduce some friends who had never met each other and loosen the legs off. Not to mention the fact that watching my dogs playing on the beach and running like pros, is one of my favourite things in the world! I tend to do this after every race so if anyone ever wants extra miles, hang around at the end and join us, you would be most welcome (not happening on the night race I'm afraid).
One last thing …. If I still have your attention. Abby Fraser-Davidson and Anna Cathro came down today to see us all finish. These ladies run Project Awesome, which is an amazingly fun, FREE, inclusive and friendly fitness session on a Wednesday morning in Edinburgh. It is for ALL abilities, so if you are looking to add to your fitness social life and start hump day with a giggle, some unicorn magic and a bit of sparkle – check them out here.