You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need (Keith Richards/Mick Jagger)
What I wanted was to run over 200km and to get kind of close to the 220km World A Standard mark. At the previous 24 Hour World Championships in April 2015 I ran an amazing 230.244km and finished 6th. This time around things were different. Later that year I discovered a lump in breast. Early in 2016 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. All of 2016 was consumed with treatment and recovery but my intention was always to get to the IAU 24 Hour World Championships again.
When you are diagnosed with Breast Cancer you are put in the care of a team. My team of health professionals was extensive and I sought from each and every one of them treatment that had me returning to running and indeed training as soon as possible. I worked with a Sports Dietitian, Sports Psychologist, Podiatrist, Physiotherapist, my GP, Surgeon and Oncologist. It was great to hear from my Oncologist that for me as an athlete my running was just as effective as chemotherapy.
I arrived in the UK the Saturday evening prior to the race and stopped overnight briefly at a hotel near the London Heathrow airport. Sunday morning I enjoyed a run and found some trails adjacent to the airport easily accessible from my accommodation. That run felt good and I seemed to have handled the long day travelling well. I set off for Dublin and enjoyed some casual runs along the River Liffey, walked and rested. Dublin was the perfect venue for a few lazy days.
I caught the train from Dublin to Belfast in typical English weather (it was raining). I was met at the airport by a volunteer on behalf of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and before I knew it I was crammed into a vehicle with a bunch of Canadians, I was in good company and was soon settled in my accommodation at the Event Head Quarters the Queens Elms which is student accommodation for the nearby university. I was excited to be amongst athletes preparing for the World Championships and to reconnect with those I had met at the previous championships and other international events that I have attended in the last 2 years. I feel extremely fortunate that my running has presented me with these amazing opportunities and experiences and brought all sorts of awesome people into my life. My life is certainly richer and fuller for it.
The usual pre event activities included a walk to the local supermarket for extra food, water and any other race essentials, a few easy runs around the surrounding area and the Opening Ceremony is always a highlight. The Event Organiser did well to attempt to say hello in all the languages represented including an Aussie ‘G’day’.
So did Breast Cancer detract 50km from my potential performance. Probably not entirely but it certainly has impacted my performance. There were other factors and external stressors which I certainly didn’t need. This time I traveled without family. While I am happy to travel solo and have traveled to 3 out of the 4 previous Championships on my own on this occasion when I realised everyone else had someone close to them around I felt really isolated. While I have made some really strong connections with my team mates and consider them practically family I still felt something was missing. Race morning I was not the usual happy relaxed person. Some issues I had tried to sort out a month or so prior were unresolved. However, once we made our way to the start line I focused on my run and enjoyed the challenge, camaraderie and soaked up the atmosphere.
So as I have alluded to in an earlier blog Breast Cancer has been a major speed bump in my race through life. As an athlete I have lost a little of the speed I once had. A few additional injury niggles have troubled but not stopped me. I sought regular treatment from Paul and the team at Body Leadership Physio. With their support I was able to be competitive and to keep on top of the niggles. I certainly tested the limits of my body over the last 6 months.
I worked really hard for what I wanted, that World A Standard, a result I have achieved on 2 occasions. I know now that I didn’t have enough time to rebuild from the ravages of my Breast Cancer treatment. I had no way of knowing or information to gauge how an athlete competing at my level as an ultra runner might recover from the treatment I received. I worked hard to get to these Championships in the best possible shape, while the result wasn’t what I wanted I am extremely grateful for the honour and proud of my achievement. We compete as individuals and a team at these Championships and it is the team effect and the support of fellow Australians and friends from around the World that keeps us going or helps us to push through the discomfort to achieve what we do.
I feel I just need time. At these Championships it had been just over 12 months since I completed my Breast Cancer treatment. Since then I have struggled with adjusting to life as a survivor consequently diagnosed with an adjustment disorder, a mild form of depression. I have always remained positive that I could return to running and to once again be competitive on the World Stage. I do still have the best running ahead of me. Stay tuned.
What’s my next adventure? I have been offered an opportunity to return to China to race. You bet I will be seriously considering that opportunity. I continue to live life to the fullest, one run at a time.