Don’t stop me now


So this is finally it. My last post before the Super Spartan on Sunday. The end is near, or should that be nigh? I almost called this post ‘I started something I couldn’t finish’ because it’s a great song, but decided not to tempt fate.  Despite all my fears, lack of self-belief and procrastination tactics, I am more determined and convinced than ever that I will finish this race. And gasp!   I might even enjoy it a bit.

It’s been a long time (and 50-something blog posts) coming. Although back at the start of this journey I confidently asserted that I would finish it even if I had to crawl round, it’s only been in the last week that I have really believed that. Or at least believed that I could do it without having to rank up the burpee penalties. This is a major shift.

Only a few weeks ago, I was panicking that I might only be able to manage about half of the obstacles, giving me a potential tally of about 300 burpees. Feck knows how I managed to come up with that, when I don’t even know what most of the obstacles will be. Right now, I am certain that there at least two I can’t do: monkey bars (forget it & absolutely no way) and the rope climb (there’s a slim possibility and I will give it a red hot go). As for the rest, who knows? Running for 500m to a kilometre at a time: check. Carrying heavy shit while walking fast: check. Wading through water: check. Walking up hills carrying stuff: check.   Crawling through mud: messy but check. Rope ladders: check. Shouting and swearing while getting it done: check.

Practicing for the fire jump on Troon beach yesterday
Practicing for the fire jump on Troon beach yesterday

Alright, I’m not getting over an eight foot wall unassisted, but the point is, I don’t need to do it unassisted. My plan for that obstacle is to say to the person behind me: I don’t care what you grab, just get me over the damn thing. This may be a red rag to any Spartan perverts, but I just don’t care. Burpees must be avoided as far as possible. In return, I will be happy to do whatever I can to help anyone else. I reckon I’m strong enough to lift a few skinny folk when they need it.

Getting over my fear of the aerial circuit last week has helped a lot. I can’t overstress how convinced I was at the start that I couldn’t complete it. There’s a great quote from Nelson Mandela: ‘it always seems impossible until it’s done.’   So my Queenly advice of the day is, do something you think you can’t do. It might be a horrible and frightening experience, but the results are worth it.

One of my team mates has been trying to convince me to just relax and think of it as fun for some time. I kept telling myself to think this way, but the message just wasn’t going in. There’s just been too much stress in my life this year. When things are like that, it’s hard not to take everything too seriously. That doesn’t mean I’ve spent the last six months walking around like a dour faced bastard; on the contrary, apart from friends and family, sometimes the ability to laugh long and hard has been the only thing holding me together.

Despite this, I’ve been seeing the Spartan race as some kind of test of my integrity, guts and fighting spirit. And yes, perhaps it is. But the point is, that getting on with life as it is, has shown me that all these things have been there all along. They’ve just been hidden for a while. Buried beneath a pile of shit, partly of my own making. I think many of us have been in that situation and there are numerous ways to claw ourselves out. None of them are easy.


I started writing this post in my lunch hour today, when I had started to feel kind of okay about the whole race thing. Saying I was looking forward to it is a bit strong, but I certainly wasn’t dreading it anymore. Then late this afternoon, the organisers posted a bunch of photos of the farm where the race will be held. It looks beautiful, but we are talking about loads of long, slow hills and lochs (could we be doing some rowing?) – full on hard graft. My first reaction was a sinking feeling in my stomach. The goalposts had moved again and I started to get anxious about just managing the running, never mind the obstacles. Then I took a deep breath. Remembered that I am a hill walker and if I don’t attempt to waste my energy running, these are like the easy bits of a hard hill walk. Rowing on a loch is fun, if a little slow in my case. The whole thing might take a little longer than I anticipated, but who cares? It’s like a fun afternoon on the hills.

Actual long slow hill for Sunday
Actual long slow hill for Sunday

There are a few other motivational tricks up my sleeve. Firstly my son, who I think might now be coming to watch me and cheer me on. Even if he doesn’t, I will think about him and his energy the whole way round. I want him to be proud of his crazy mother. Even if getting covered in mud and bruises is a rather strange thing to be proud of.

Secondly, my badges. This is a bit random, but at the festival last month, I went to a talk by the fantastic Scottish crime writer Denise Mina. She read from her next book, and she had forgotten to bring her promo badges, which she offered to post if we sent her a tweet. I duly did; she replied and sent them the next day. The badges have got feck all to do with the Spartan Race but there is something cool and a bit radge about them. I told her I would sew them onto my top for the race, so sew them I shall. For some reason I see them as a good luck charm.

hell yeah badges
hell yeah badges

Finally my attitude. Often when I see the gym workout posted the night before, and think how tough and horrible it looks, I dread it. I turn up in the early morning, thinking I am too tired and will never get through it.   But I pretty much do the same thing each time: get stuck in, get sweaty and out of breath, turn purple and just do it. It might not be my best time or performance, but I get through it anyway. It’s this, plus the encouragement of the team and every other crazy person on the farm that day, that will get me my medal.

On Saturday morning, when I was humming and hawing and generally feeling shit about myself, a good friend sent me this poem by Wendy Cope. It’s called the Ted Williams Villanelle and it’s about an American baseball player. I know sod all about him but the message is clear:

Watch the ball do your thing

This is the moment. Here’s your chance.

Don’t let anybody mess with your swing.

It’s time to shine.

You’re in the ring, Step Forward.

Adopt a winning stance

Watch the ball and do your thing,

And while the ball is taking wing,

Run without a backward glance.

Don’t let anybody mess with your swing.

Don’t let envious bastards bring You down.

Ignore the sneers, the cant’s.

Watch the ball and do your thing.

Sing out, if you want to sing.

Jump, when you long to dance.

Don’t let anybody mess with your swing.

Enjoy your talents. Have your fling.

The seasons change. The years advance.

Watch the ball and do your thing,

And don’t let anybody mess with your swing.

So Spartan race, bring your hills. I’ll see you on the other side.

Until next time,



Add yours →

  1. We are rooting for you. Have fun out there

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hollycooksthebooks July 17, 2015 — 7:23 am

    You will do it and you will be awesome!! Good luck! Can’t wait to hear how it went xx

    Liked by 1 person

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