I woke up last week and my knees were swollen, right on the kneecaps. I didn’t think much of it, went to move and it was excruciating. Damn it. I went downstairs, same thing, the movement sending a shooting pain through my knees and around the whole joint. If I’m honest, I was gutted.
I’ve got a huge ultra-marathon in July, 145 miles non-stop that I’m training for and right now, I’m not sure why on earth I thought it would be a good idea to do it. I feel, in truth, somewhat unprepared. Everything in me hurts. My joints, my muscles, even my stomach, and oh boy, I’m so tired.
It got me thinking why do we do what we do? What motivates us? Why, indeed, do we keep pushing forward even though sometimes it really hurts? Yes, often, we should stop and we do – I do, well, okay, I don’t, rarely in fact – and yet I think this human ability to drive forwards is what makes us, well, human. It’s what helps us not only survive but, eventually, down long road and up steep hill, thrive.
There’s something built in us humans that strives to constantly push. Trouble is, when life gets too big to hold, we often feel as if we aren’t moving at all, so heavy are things, so overwhelming can it feel at times, so much does it all, well, hurt. Yet, we carry on, don’t we? We carry on and, often without realising, win at little the things we often either disregard or not even notice at all. Getting out of bed, win. Feeding the kids, win. Catching up on some sleep, win. Even these actions, small and almost as insignificant as they may seem, all count in moving forwards.
I think it’s the cumulative effect of these day-to-day things that propel us constantly on. Yes, great big extravagant strides are absolutely to be wonderfully celebrated, and so too must the small things. Because it’s these pebbles that get metaphorically stuck in our shoe – pebbles that hurt, that are hard, that make life feel laborious and dare I say it, boring – that, together, end up making us trained and skilled at rebuilding the damn when life, in its wisdom, creates a little flood.
Me, well, I had to strip everything back training-wise, and take an honest look at what I was doing. I’d been running mainly on the road and that was taking its toll on my knees, for sure, my weak ankle preventing me from hitting the bumpier, albeit softer, trails. So I worked the problem, hauled my butt to the sports shoe shop in Gloucester and got a new pair of trainers that not only are relieving the pain now on my knees, but they are helping my hip, too (my days, I sound so old!)
We are our own built-in motivators. And the proof comes in the form of us showing up to each day, no matter how we feel or what we’ve dealt with. That’s how we push forward, even though it might hurt, for the cumulative effect of all we do lies in who we are. And, then, emptying out the pebbles and lacing up our shoes, and with creaky knees, we get up and we move forwards.
Nikki Owen is an author and endurance athlete living in Stroud.