Lucy Hilton is a mum at the same school as my children and I feel like I struck gold meeting her at the time I did. Not only is she an extremely lovely person, she is ridiculously fit and has been an elite marathon runner, running up at the front of the London Marathon with the likes of Paula Radcliffe.
When we were training for our marathons, my friend Natalie and I asked Lucy if she could give us a few training sessions, which she did. These sessions and all of her golden top tips proved to be invaluable. I’ve run two marathons. The first in 4 hours 28 mins, which I was thrilled with but I ran my last marathon a few weeks ago in 3 hours 54 mins. I put that down to a good training plan and the support of Natalie and my other Sweaty Sisters (my running friends) but Lucy Hilton really played an instrumental part in helping me to achieve my sub 4 hour goal.
Lucy's written a great article for DHB about the importance of keeping fit, so that you can cope with fear and life experiences in general. She also talks about how she was the worst at sport when she was at school but eventually found running at university, which changed her life.
‘Run Towards Your Fear’
I met with one of my clients today and was privileged enough that they shared with me details of an extraordinarily difficult past year, which they and their family have had to go through. Whilst recounting to me all that had happened, one phrase really stood out for me: ‘Run towards your fear’. When speaking about how they had dealt so well with a horrendous situation, my client said that they had learnt at each stage to face fear head on, not to be overwhelmed or conquered by it but to face up to it and ‘run towards it’. Cater for the worst that could happen and live in the light not the shadows as can so often happen when we’re afraid.
In addition he/she had asked me 6 months prior to deviate from their usual format of training and instead to write a training programme that made them feel strong, fit and lean. I was curious about this and when we met today, they said that they wanted to make sure they felt as strong as possible in body so that they felt strong enough in mind to cope with a particular event, which was a pivotal point in all that had been happening.
Two things struck me in what they shared. The first was a realization of just how often I’ve been guilty of running away from fear. Whether it be avoiding certain situations or people, avoiding events or avoiding trying new things. So often avoidance has been easier than facing a fear. I’d never really thought about it in those terms.
Whilst not in the league of their situation, I was reminded of the foundations that were laid for me in sport, how far I have come since that time and the lessons I’ve learnt in the process. I changed school several times between the ages of 5 and 14. Each school had a different ‘primary’ sport – for one it was hockey, another netball and another lacrosse. This meant I never had the time to practice or become skilled in any of these. I started every sports lesson on the back foot, invariably the worst in the class. The same pattern always followed: the two best players would be chosen to pick their team. They’d each take turns calling out the names of people, starting with the best and leaving the ‘worst’ until last; every time I’d get the humiliated, sinking feeling of knowing I’d be picked last……. again.
After time my confidence was reduced so much that I avoided sport altogether, spending every sports lesson hiding behind the gardener's shed. Ironically I was actually quite good at hurdles and athletics but because I wasn’t a ‘recognised sporty person’ I was excluded from all teams and usually had to play rounders as only ‘the best’ were allowed to do athletics.
At university I dabbled in womens rugby and rowing but was never anything special. Then in my final year, my boyfriend signed me up for a 5k race. I’d never run that far in my life but duly went along and ended up coming third. It was such a shock - me who had been the ‘worst’ at sport throughout my life had just come third in a running race. I carried on running but not very seriously. Then, as I ran around Battersea Park one day the UK marathon coach spotted me and asked if he could train me – for free. I thought there must be some catch but no, there wasn’t – and still now, 10 years later he gives me huge support and self belief. This was the first person that had told me I could achieve in sport, who believed in me and that showed absolute commitment to helping me be my best.
In the next few years I ran a sub 37 minute 10km, a sub 3 hour marathon and won all 6 of my overseas multi day ultra races. This is not to beat my own drum but just to demonstrate that is it NOT true that some can ‘do’ sport and others can’t.
I am definitely not saying that achieving in sport is about winning a race. I believe it is about finding what you enjoy and being the best you can be. It doesn’t matter how well others do, there will always be someone faster, stronger, slower and weaker. It is about running towards your fear, trying something and doing the best you can for yourself.
It is said that 90% of doing your best sport is self belief. How many times do you hear people say ‘I can’t run’ or ‘I could never run a mile let alone a marathon’. They have put the brakes on immediately. Yet, if those same people put their mind to it, they can and do achieve these things and so much more. It is about achieving within your own niche, having the exposure to different things to find this niche and about persevering with the self belief that you can be your best. Wherever you lie on the gifted scale, you can still achieve the best for you.
This of course is not only relevant to sport but there is a reason I focus here on exercise, which I feel is so important. Feeling physically strong and fit has a knock on effect in all other aspects of life.
This leads me to my second observation – how my client wanted to feel in top physical form in order to meet the challenge that was coming his way.
It is well known that science demonstrates a strong link between physical fitness and the state of the mind, confidence and positivity. The phrase ‘strong body, strong mind’ is often banded around. I believe it is so true. I think you will also be amazed at the confidence that feeling fit and strong can give you. Improved deportment, physical fitness and physical strength are all vital ingredients in self assurance, walking into a room with shoulders back, head held high and feeling strong and healthy.
I find it so frustrating and upsetting that so many adults ‘hate’ sport because they believe they are no good. So often this has stemmed from school and memories similar to mine, or of freezing cold and miserable cross country runs and so on. I truly believe that there is something in sport for everyone and in that ‘something’, every person can strive to be the best they can be. It is not about comparing ourselves to others, it is about being the best we can do. If sport is a fear for you, then I would challenge you to run towards your fear.
In so doing you will be amazed what you can achieve; you will also be amazed at the confidence feeling fit and strong can give you.
When working with my clients I try to discover what it is that makes them tick, what it is about sport that gives them that positive feeling and a feeling of self belief. I want people to be proud of what they can achieve for themselves, against their own personal scale.
My heartfelt wish for schools is that a more inclusive approach to sport is taken, that children are allowed to try a broad range of things to find their ‘niche’ and that they are encouraged every step of the way to be the best they can be. To be taught that being their best is the achievement, not necessarily being better than others. Perhaps then there will be less adults running away from the fear that is sport.
For more information about Lucy and her coaching: