Roger Love reflects on setting goals, risking failure and pushing through

IT’S 11.40pm and I’m walking through the manicured grounds of Ardingly College, a private school 25km north of Brighton, when I go over on my ankle.

That’s good, I reason, if I am properly injured it means I can stop walking and no-one can judge me.

By this time, I have been walking for 16 hours on the 100km Richmond to Brighton walk, organised by Ultra Challenge, and I am at a low point.

Everything is hurting, legs and feet especially, and I have – inexplicably – had a bister on the back of my left heel since 2km.

This is just stupid, I’m thinking. Why am I doing this?

On closer inspection, my ankle is fine. I have a serious talk with myself and crash on into the woods and the night. Once I reach the 80km point, I am in better spirits, and at 88km, I am feeling positively optimistic as I start a brutal climb up the Downs before the descent to Brighton.

I reach the end on the racecourse in 25 hours 23 minutes – three hours quicker than in 2018 – and feel elated, before going to bed for the day.

It’s the low and high points that explain the attraction of these types of event – whether walking, running or cycling (or all three). It’s testing the limits not just of your physical endurance but your mental strength, too.

I got through my low points with a mixture of carrot and stick, telling myself how great I will feel at the end and how terrible – and embarrassed – I would feel if I quit. I also used anger, railing at anyone who has doubted me in anyway in my life.

In practical terms, I knew if I just kept walking, I would get there. One step after another, count off the kilometres. It worked.

That was in May. Later, in July, I am walking up Mount Snowdon in Wales with my big-hearted 16-year-old daughter, caught up in mist, howling wind and driving rain.

We are well-equipped but, three-quarters of the way up, she is fed-up, achy and soggy. I’m not sure we can make it to the top. But we have a chat about how suffering makes us strong and how if we walk 10mins at a time, we will get inevitably there. We do.

What was breaking us wasn’t our bodies – it was our minds – and once we got a grip and came up with a plan, we proved stronger than we thought.

I was reflecting on this as we headed towards September, a month in which people – rested from holidays and perhaps wanting to feel better on the beach next year – start a fitness drive.

There has to be a risk of failure with any goal; otherwise it’s not a goal, it’s a box-ticking exercise, and we are all stronger than we think. So, why not make your goals big this autumn.

It need not be a marathon in sub-four hours or a 100km walk in sub-24. What scares us is relative. I had a client for whom walking round London Fields was a huge challenge; others thought running 5km non-stop was beyond their endurance or could not see how they could lose weight. For another, a single press-up was her Everest.

They all had to be brave to work towards these goals. So, this September, let’s challenge ourselves physically – and especially mentally – and just go for it whatever it is.

Roger Love is a personal trainer based in Netil House E8.

Images courtesy of Roger Love