James Stewart, ultrarunner

Doubt


“Ah cannae dae it!” Roughly translated as, ‘I cannot do it’. Or, depending on the circumstances, ‘I’m shittin’ it!’

A little bit of doubt is not a bad thing. It can be the antidote to complacency. I had some serious doubt recently. As part of the Pyllon Endeavour I knew I was going to have to do two things I wouldn’t look forward to. One was getting up a height and onto some trails that might have some serious drops. I don’t do well with this at all. On a recent trip to Lanzarote I ran up a tough climb and to get to the top I had to scramble with my hands and run across some very thin trails. Trails so thin they made the plot of John Wick look like a Coen Brothers film. Once atop, I looked down and very nearly emptied my bowels right there. I had to sit down and compose myself. I wasn’t far off Googling “Mountain rescue Playa Blanca”.

The second, and much more concerning issue was crossing rivers. I hate open water. I hate the thought of it. There’s things in water that can kill you. Snakes, snipers, bacteria and sharks. I had visions of me and a running partner getting to a waist deep river and me wishing them good luck as I sat and cried whilst they took the tracker to the next checkpoint. 

I was genuinely nervous about this. 

“The part where we were going to cross was deep. I mean chest deep“

The thing is though, both of the above areas of doubt became some of the most memorable moments of the endeavour. As Grant and I ran up into Glen Affric at 1am, on the Saturday, I could see a big drop off to my right but I was living my best life. The trail was ace and the conditions really good. And, perhaps the lack of illumination meant I couldn’t see the drop below at its fullest. However, I really want to go back to that trail after just how much we enjoyed it. 

The river crossings thankfully didn’t get too bad. The main one as we headed down to Poulary which was described on the Walk Highlands website as “often a ragin torrent in winter that is impassable for chubby 40 something Croy boys who are feart of water”. It wasn’t raging. And perhaps I have embellished that description. 

The part where we were going to cross was deep. I mean chest deep (or waist for Grant) but we made our way upstream and found something that was below baw height and therefore acceptable to our future familial aspirations. Well Grant’s as I have had *that* op. 

It got me thinking about how anticipation is always worse than reality. Our minds, if left to wander, can turn a stream into an Amazon, and a dip into an abyss. We often stop ourselves before we start by allowing doubt to become can’t rather than turning doubt into a search for a solution, a way to overcome. 

Doubt makes you challenge yourself if you have the right mindset. It can force you towards discomfort and out into growth. I say don’t be overcome with doubt, but instead recognise it, compartmentalise it and beat it to a pulp. 

And thanks Grant for holding my hand on that particular river crossing. 

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