The One Thing You Must Have to achieve your desires
'But you don't run? And it's only 6 months away? And you're about to go backpacking for 3 months? I'd just got off the phone to Salisbury Hospice, having agreed to run the New York Marathon for them and was telling my partner my exciting news.
Two years earlier, my mum had passed away at Salisbury Hospice. It was the year of the hospice for the London marathon, but Salisbury Hospice never received any places. This had been a topic of conversation at the time. I told them if they ever get a place in a marathon, I'd run for them. Looking back, it must have been grief talking because I did not run at all. When that phone call came offering me a place in New York, I was taken aback, but I knew my answer had to be yes.
A week or so later, I sat in my kitchen, completing the entry form. One of the questions was, 'What time do you expect to complete the marathon in?' It had lots of different time options. I didn't have a clue. At that point, I didn't even run for the bus. I didn't know how long it took to run anywhere, let alone a marathon. I just ticked any box and sent my form off.
My partner's comments about how I was going to train for it were valid, but I always figure you can work stuff out. My mum's answer to everything had been to get a book out of the library on the topic. So I did. My book had training plans for every week, easy, right? I had no space in my backpack for both running trainers and hiking boots, so I came up with the idea to buy off-road running shoes that could double up as hiking shoes. 'How will you know where to run when you're in countries you've never been to? I was asked. "Oh, that's easy,' I replied. 'I figure if I get a map every time we arrive at a new destination, find a lake (going round in circles) or a river (running up and down next to it), I can't get lost.' Sorted.
My friend and I flew to Thailand and started our 3-month trip together. I would get up at 5am, put on my running shoes. I'd read what my running book told me I needed to run that day, and go do it. Some days my friend would come with me, some days she'd stay in bed. On the days she'd come, I'd be running while she'd sit on a bench and smoke a fag. She’d tell me how well I was doing and I loved her for it.
In cities like Phnom Penh, Hanoi, and Hoi Chi Minh, the roads were packed with others exercising. It was incredible. There were outdoor aerobics classes, tai chi, yoga, weight lifting, running. I'd never seen anything like it. After I finished a run, I'd go back to our room and get ready for the day. When we went back out, all of the exercisers had gone, and the roads would be busy with traffic. You'd have no idea this other world existed. In Hanoi, an old-looking man used to sit by a house and would put his thumb up at me every time I ran by, and I'd do the same back. Magic.
In more rural places, I'd be running alone. It was in those moments, I would picture myself running the marathon. See me at the start line, running through the different boroughs of New York and crossing the finish line. I'd keep replaying it over and over again in my head.
By the end of my trip, I could run about 12 miles, which I thought was pretty good going. I still had a couple of months until the marathon, which I thought was plenty of time. Though gauging the expression on others' faces when I told them what distance I'd got up to, I don't think they thought the same.
My last run before heading off to New York was 15 miles, I was ecstatic. 15 miles, I never knew I could run that far. A colleague asked me how my training was going, and I told them I could now run 15 miles. I'll never forget the look on their face. 'Isn't a marathon 26.2 miles?' they said. 'Yep, and I figure adrenaline on the day will find the other 11.2 miles for me'. They just stared at me. I know they were thinking, 'How much adrenaline do you think your body makes?'.
I set off for New York. When I signed up, I thought I'd be going on my own, but my partner had booked a ticket while I'd been away backpacking. I couldn't wait.
I felt nervous at the start line, and I mingled amongst other runners. Then someone approached me and told me I needed to move to the front. 'That's very kind of you, but I'm ok here' was my response. 'No, you need to move to the front,' they said. 'What for?' I asked. 'Because you have an 'F' before the race number on your top, which means you're a fast runner and need to be at the front.' 'How did I end up with that?' I asked. 'It's based on the time category you ticked on your entry form.' I thought back to being sat in my kitchen, completing the form, not having a clue what time to put down, and ticking any box. At that moment, a four-letter word went through my mind, it began with the letter 'F,' but it wasn't FAST.
Runners moved out of the way to let me through, I was cringing. I kept insisting I didn't need to go further forward, but they wouldn't have it. I felt sick.
The marathon began, we ran over Verrazzano Bridge in Staten Island, with Franck Sinatra being blasted out through speakers and fireworks going off. It was surreal. For the first 10 miles, I was loving it. One of the best things I'd ever done. The support from the crowd was phenomenal. Bands were playing along the way, people cheering, I felt on top of the world.
About the 13 mile mark, I needed the toilet. I tried to ignore it but the sensation but it wouldn't go away. I decided to stop. Big mistake. When I started running again, I didn't feel the same. My left knee started to twinge, and I didn't feel good like I had before. I put more weight on the right side to give my left knee a break, then my hip started hurting. I was about the 14-mile mark, 12.2 miles to go.
As I ran, I thought back to my experience with Salisbury Hospice. My writing isn't good enough to be able to express my love for the place or the staff. My mum had been diagnosed with cancer and hadn't been given long to live. When mum was taken into the hospice, I knew our time together in this realm, was nearing the end. My mum's health declined, and she slipped in and out of consciousness. The nurses started checking on her every 15 minutes. I knew mum could leave us at any moment. I sat by her side with my brother and my godmother. It was the 28th of October, and the next day was my 31st birthday. I willed and prayed for my mum to stay around for it. The nurses told us to go and get some sleep, and they'll call us if needed.
When I entered my mum's room the next day, I stopped in my tracks. My mum was sat up in bed, really lucid, chatting away. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. My prayers had been answered. The nurses said I could invite friends up to the hospice and have a party in the main lounge to celebrate my birthday.
We ordered an Indian Takeaway. When we walked into the lounge area, the nurses had decorated it. They'd put out a table cloth, balloons and found a couple of bottles of wine for us. I was choked. Writing this now, I'm choked. All these years later and I have tears welling up thinking about my birthday. That the nurses could go to such an effort for us is beyond words. The nurses wheeled mum into the lounge in her bed, and we had a fabulous evening, the best birthday I've ever had, and yet at the same time, I was crying inside. I knew it was the last birthday I'd ever have with my mum. As the evening came to an end, the nurses wheeled my mum back into her room. My mum slipped back out of consciousness and died a day later.
Back in New York, I kept running.
But now everything was starting to hurt. I can't tell you the number of times I was tempted to call a taxi. It was like running with the devil on my shoulder. 'Go on, just jump in a cab, there's no shame about it. Just think, if you quit now, you could be back in your hotel room within an hour having a lovely bath’. On and on it went.
I kept running.
I thought back to when my dad had passed away five months before my mum. Both my parents being diagnosed with terminal cancer and dying so close together was tough. My dad had passed away in a hospital. The staff had been great, but it was such a different experience to the hospice. There was no privacy, just a curtain separating you from other patients and families. My brother and I took our sleeping bags to the hospital. We'd sleep on the floor on either side of our dad. We never wanted to leave his side.
I kept running.
I remembered the time my mum had asked the hospice staff if they could find a painting she'd done a couple of months earlier. My mum had started going to the hospice to attend painting classes after her diagnosis. The nurses went off and managed to find one of mum's paintings. They put it up on the wall where my mum could see it; she was so chuffed. When the nurses changed shifts, a new nurse came into mum's room and saw the painting. 'Ah, did your grand children paint this for you?' she asked. My brother and I looked at each other and had to look away. But we couldn't hold it any longer. We laughed and laughed and ripped our mum about it who did see the funny side, eventually.
I kept running.
Now the New York Marathon is a funny one. It's held at the start of November, and the weather could be in the late twenties, or it could be freezing cold. The year I ran, the temperature was about 27 degrees. I have the palest skin ever. Factor 50 and I still fry in the sun. I wasn't wearing sunscreen, and I didn't have a hat on. It wasn't a good move. To avoid the sun, I had to start zig-zagging down the road, so I was in the shade. That voice inside of me, enticing me to jump in a cab, grew louder.
I kept running.
The hospice had volunteers who would bring tea and cake to my mum's room. How amazing is that? I didn't want to leave my mum, not for a second. I wanted to spend every moment with her. This simple act of bringing us food and drink allowed me to spend more time with my mum. I used to think of the volunteers as angels. It was such a simple act, but so special. When my dad was in the hospital, you had to leave to go find a cafe to get food and drink. I didn't want to leave him. I tried to grab every moment. I had so many things I wanted to tell him. I didn't have time to go off to cafes.
I kept running.
Actually, that's not true. By this stage, I'd describe it as walk, run, stagger, walk, stagger, walk, run. Something like that. When I saw Central Park, I felt euphoric. I was nearly at the end. Or so I thought. It has to be said, 'How big is Central Park?' It went on, and on, and on. When I finally crossed the finish line, I couldn't believe I'd done it. My partner was there. He had loads of shopping bags with him. 'I can’t believe you managed to get so much shopping done while I was running?' I said, 'Well, I did have a lot of time on hands' was his reply. Fair comment. I had taken quite a while :-).
Reading this, you've probably figured out what that one critical piece is to achieve your desires. Yes, it's your EMOTIONAL WHY.
Having a desire on its own doesn't get you there. To achieve anything, you need commitment and consistency. But they're not enough. It's your Emotional Why that will be the driving force. It will keep you going when things don't seem to be working out. It's what gets you out of bed when you want to pull the quilt over your head. It's what keeps you going when others don't have faith that you'll achieve what you want.
So how do you find it? It's quite straightforward. Decide what your desire is, then say to yourself, 'I want this because…… 'And finish the sentence. Then take that sentence and say to yourself…..' because….' and write out your answer...then do the same again. Keep going until you find that emotional, heart driven reason you desire it. You'll know when you've found it because you'll feel it. Really feel it. It's all about the feeling.
Once you find that feeling. Hold onto it. All the time you're working towards your desires, go back to that feeling.
For me, it was all about the work of the hospice and how their support made one of the most painful periods of my life a little easier. It goes further than that. I have fond memories of my mum's passing. I know it sounds odd. We have many happy memories in the hospice. So many funny things happened. I actually cherish that time. How mind blowingly special is that! It's the work of hospice staff and volunteers that enabled me to have that. I don't have those feelings about my dad's passing. It was so different. That's what makes a hospice so precious. I want others to have those experiences, too, when their loved ones pass. It's that emotional why which made a non-running, backpacker, don a pair of running shoes and get out of bed at 5am to run in countries she's never been to before.
I hand it over to you now. What's your desire, and what's your emotional why? Find it, and you'll soar. Honestly, they'll be no stopping you. You don’t need to figure out how you’ll achieve your desires. Thinking you need to have everything mapped out before you begin will stop you in your tracks. You’ll get stuck in overthinking. Fear will take over and in a years time you’ll be in the same place you are right now. The path will unfold for you the moment you start. But you must start with your Emotional Why by your side. Then the magic will happen for you beyond your wildest dreams.