Running, Travel

Ninja Turtle versus the Weather God

Here are some quick stats for the Ninja Turtle concerning racing this year. Number of races registered in: 8. Number of races completed: 7. Number of races in which there was no rain: 3. Number of races in which weather conditions were ideal for racing: 0.

Come on, it’s mid-July, and without really wanting to sound like a cry-baby, it’s about bloody time the Ninja Turtle got to enjoy a race properly, don’t you think? And by enjoy, she means drinking in the scenery while focusing on pushing herself to new performance outcomes, not struggling with physical limits imposed by meteorological conditions.

Shortly after having licked her wounds over the first DNF, the Ninja Turtle was determined to go back out there and try again. So she signed up for this:

She's capped her ambitions this time at 35km.

She’s capped her ambitions this time at 35km.

As it is, the elevation profile will give her enough to deal with over this mid-distance trail.

As it is, the elevation profile will give her enough to deal with over this mid-distance trail.

The race will take place in the Rhône-Alpes, not far from Grenoble around the Lac de Monteynard.

The race will take place in the Rhône-Alpes, not far from Grenoble around the Lac de Monteynard.

Here is the route for this Sunday.

Here is the route for this Sunday. 5 water stations over 35k, including the one at the finishing line.

With irresistable images like this on their website, flyers, brochures, the Ninja Turtle thought to herself that it'd be the perfect birthday present to give herself.

With irresistable images like this on their website, flyers, brochures, the Ninja Turtle thought to herself that it’d be the perfect birthday present to give herself.

So what could go wrong, right? South of France, height of summer, and just look at those stunning pictures.

Except, this.



Since the race and hotel have been paid for, and GodzillaPin’s taken a day off work for Monday and the duo are carrying two carpooling passengers to Grenoble, it’s not like she can back out of it now. Not that she’s chickening out, but really, it’s just so frustrating to be up against such bad luck, weather-wise.

Come on, 2015, get your ass in shape and give the Ninja Turtle some good racing weather!

Food, Running

Chocolate As Running Motivation

Like the Ninja Turtle, some of you runners may have come across the article titled Would Chocolate Motivate You To Run? published a few days ago on Runnersworld online.

Now, unless you have an allergy to chocolate (in which case, our deepest sympathies), it’s probably fair to say that you, like the Ninja Turtle, are raising an eyebrow, wondering “Is rain wet? Is the surface of the sun hot? Is there anything one will NOT do for chocolate?”

Most importantly, has science really run out of important questions to ask, problems to solve, or creative expressions to… express, that they’ve resorted to asking self-evident questions like that? News flash: most runners are indiscriminate garbage disposal units, especially after a long run – anything that is not nailed down onto the table will likely find its way into our mouths. So asking if chocolate, just about the world’s favouritest food, would motivate people to run is inane, and conducting a scientific study on that is bad science because hello? Confirmation bias.

OK, now the Ninja Turtle’s vented on the premise of the study, she’s actually pretty excited about the study’s actual details. The participants of this RMIT University study weren’t just receiving plain old boring chocolate. No, the chocolate was to be 3D printed into fun shapes or names. Just look at that!

Better yet, according to the researcher himself, ““the more they exercise, the better the quality of chocolate will be printed out which they get to enjoy as a reflective reward of their physical activity’’.

Holy sh*t! Now the Ninja Turtle wants to know where she can sign up to be a test subject for studies like this. Getting 3D printed chocolate smileys for racking up the miles is cool enough for the Ninja Turtle to ignore the researcher’s almost-insulting question of whether using food as an incentive will encourage people to do more physical exercise (what the heck are we? lab rats?)

OK so fine, the Ninja Turtle thinks this is a pretty damn cool study, if only because 3D printed chocolates are involved, and she has only one modification to suggest: screw the quality and correlate the quantity of chocolate dispensed to the physical effort. It’s a scientific fact that runners fantasize about post-run meals while running, and the longer the run, the bigger, tastier and more elaborate the fantisized meal must be. Also, whoever heard of eating only 30g of chocolate? That’s just cruel.

Now, the Ninja Turtle is off to reward herself for this morning’s 10-miler with a nice block of Belgian chocolate she bought in Bruges last month.

To read the University’s press release on this research, click here.

Food, Running, Travel

A Victory Dance from Singapore!

Surprise, world! Apologies for the longish spell of silence, but the Ninja Turtle has been caught up with various obligations that have brought her back to Singapore once again. The last week has been a nightmare of delayed flights, baggages lost in transit, trying to acclimatise to the tropical heat and humidity, meeting insane deadlines and running in not one, but two weekend races.

Last weekend, a mere day and half after arriving back in Singapore (still exhausted from jetlag and sleep deprivation from the sweltering heat) she made up for her humiliating defeat at The Trail Yonne but scoring a new PB in a 5K race at East Coast Park. It was her first time ever racing in Singapore, too, so she nervously took her place in the middle of the pack. Although she started off in a day-dreamy state (to be fair, she had to get up at 5am in the morning) by the 4th kilometre, she’d done enough sightseeing; the groups of tai chi practitioners on one side of the track and the boats out at sea on the other ceased to fascinate her, and she noticed she was overtaking runners by the dozens. She looked at her GPS watch and figured that at 4.2km and 178bpm, she could risk pushing that little bit harder to reach the finish line. Her new 5K PB is sitting at 26m 10s, and a few days later, when the organisers released the results, she learnt that she’d placed 7th out of 301 in her category. (Victory dance #1)

This morning, it was off to another race bright and early, and this time, it was pretty special. To celebrate Singapore’s role as a host of the 28th SEA (South-East Asian) Games, there was a 10K fun run called the Nila Run. The run shared part of the route for the SEA Games Marathon, which was happening concurrently this morning (although good planning ensured that none of us slowpokes were holding up the professional athletes).

What an experience it was. To start at 6am at Kallang, the Turtle had to leave home at an ungodly hour in the morning. Mother Turtle had very kindly offered to drop her off at the venue, despite the Turtle’s insistence that she could take a cab. But when Mother Turtle has her mind made up, she’s a very determined woman, so the two Turtles went for a drive yesterday evening for MT to do a “recon” of getting there. Singapore’s fabulous network of highways and constant development meant wrong turns and missed exits; it took them four attempts to reach the stadium but they did it. (Victory dance #2)

So. At 4.30am, both Turtles were awake and it was pouring with rain on the west side of the country. Mother Turtle voiced some doubts, but the Ninja Turtle had her mind made up to go. After all, she’s resigned herself to the fact that 2015 is the year she’s fated to race in the rain. En route, the skies cleared and the showers stopped. They made zero wrong turns and the NT got to the venue on time. All was good. (Victory dance #3)

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There is something to be said about racing in Singapore. Holy shit the crowds! Unlike in France too, where runners are designated to corrals prior to flag-off, it was a right mess. As soon as they flagged off, the Ninja Turtle found herself frustratingly weaving around “runners” who were simply – and this is no hyperbole – out for a morning stroll. Hundreds of them were simply walking, and had no qualms about standing right up the front! Although she’d decided in advance that given #1 this was a fun run and #2 she’d done a 10-miler yesterday morning so she was going to do an EZ at the event, she nonetheless felt the buzz of being in a hive situation.

The race website stated that water would be provided every 2.5km to 3km, but the first water stop came just after the 4km mark. That was also the first distance marker she saw along the route, although she most likely missed the first three due to her concentration of not running over the walking “runners”. The air was pregnant, alternating between a stifling humidity which threatened to suffocate the runners, and the briefest of cool breezes that brought occasional reprieve. As daylight slowly emerged, the dark clouds loomed overhead and in the horizon, charged with the decree of spurring the runners to pick up their speed.

As the Ninja Turtle reached the 7th kilometre, she felt the first fat drop of water, and within seconds, the skies opened. Once again, she’d found herself running in the rain, and this time, a tropical downpour no less. Within minutes, the runners were completely soaked by the torrential unleashing, and the Ninja Turtle wondered how her mobile phone and earphones would survive. She could also hardly see, with all that water splashing in her face and eyes. At least there was one thing to be thankful for – the equatorial temperature meant no risk of hypothermia this time. The last couple of kilometres were completed, albeit with less pleasure than hoped for. The Ninja Turtle was just glad to have completed the run, although to her disappointment, the GPS said 9.56km, not 10! She later learnt that many other runners who started behind her had their runs cut short by the event organisers who felt it was unsafe/impractical/pointless to continue. (Victory dance #4)

Best of all, later that day, she learnt that it was Singaporean runner Guillaume Soh who’d taken the SEA Games gold medal for the Marathon! (Victory dance #5) An acquaintance of the Ninja Turtle, Guillaume has promised to catch up with her before they both fly back to France and the USA respectively.

After the long trek home, a shower and a quick breakfast, the Ninja Turtle went out to a buffet lunch with her relatives at the Miramar Hotel. The spread at the restaurant thrilled the NT, but everyone else seemed less than impressed.

It was the first time since she’d come home that she’d properly got a chance to pay attention and spend some valuable time with family, and she’s quickly learning what her top priorities in life are. You can throw your life and being into your work, but at the end of the day, it’s never as important as the people who love you. Cousin Turtle used to spend school holidays with the Ninja Turtle and Baby Turtle, so it was lovely to see her again.

IMG-20150607-WA0001Best of all, Mother Turtle and the Ninja Turtle finally got their chance to “dress up and go out for a meal”, something they’ve been waiting for but wasn’t sure they’d have the time to do so on this trip back. Lesson learnt: you don’t find time for things, you make time for it.

Arts and Culture, Food, Running, Travel

Exploring Bruges, “Venice of the North”

What a month it’s been! Every single weekend, the duo have found themselves somewhere new, and this last weekend, the Ninja Turtle and GodzillaPin went to catch up with an old friend in Bruges. The last time they saw Matt Damon was in Mulhouse last October, and a lot has happened since then, so it’s been one long gab-fest to catch up on news, and to make more plans for later this summer.

The Ninja Turtle had very little expectations of Bruges, to be honest. Aside from hearing the phrase “Venice of the north” again and again, there was little else to really look forward to, and frankly, if a city has a reputation of being a geographic equivalent of another more famous city… well, what prospects does it have of establishing itself as a legit destination in its own rights?

Turns out, Bruges has a LOT going for it.

Turns out, Bruges has a LOT going for it.

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There are also plenty of tea houses and snack bars serving waffles, ice cream parlours and every imaginable sweet treat.

Between the waffles, chocolate and ice cream, Belgium cities are the shortcut to diabetes.

And of course, the Belgian beers

There is a beer for everyone in Bruges. GodzillaPin found his beer.

There is a beer for everyone in Bruges. GodzillaPin found his beer.

There’s beer, and there is beer. Belgium’s beer brewing tradition goes back centuries, and is a craft refined by the monks in abbeys, which is why trappist beers are THE BEST. If you ever get a chance, try a blind taste test between a bottle-fermented beer, and any old industrially-produced beer. One of them will have  “living” taste.

Bruges is a very beautiful city.

Is this the best photobomb ever?

Is this the best photobomb ever?

And this is how it earned its reputation as Venice of the North.

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Seeing the fine weather forecasted for Sunday morning, the trio popped over to Oostende, a coastal town which was a 20-minute drive from Bruges. The sun was shining gloriously but the North Sea wind was still cold. The Ninja Turtle went off for a quick 5K run along the promenade while the boys headed straight for the sand.

Matt Damon soaking in the rays.

Matt Damon soaking in the rays.

Matt Damon thought it was funny to secretly tail the Ninja Turtle for a few minutes, and to scare the daylights out of her as she approached their meeting point. It was a close race back to GodzillaPin.

Matt Damon thought it was funny to secretly tail the Ninja Turtle for a few minutes, and to scare the daylights out of her as she approached their meeting point. It was a close race back to GodzillaPin.

Visit Bruges. It’s kind of like Venice, but with beer, chocolate, fries and waffles, which makes it a thousand times better.

A French, a Singaporean and a Swiss walked into a bar... and they drank to the awesome city of Bruges.

A French, a Singaporean and a Swiss walked into a bar… and they drank to the awesome city of Bruges.

Running, Travel

Lessons from a DNF Race

On 2 May 2015, the Ninja Turtle attempted her first ultramarathon trail. The following video tells the story.

After a week of grieving and moping, the Ninja Turtle exhausted her emotional response to the disappointing outcome, pulled herself together, and made that video.

Six months of preparation, discipline and sacrifice; hundreds of euros spent on the trip, and her race was truncated by bad weather. She has cried, she has sulked, she has mulled over it. She has cursed the gods, her fate, and the ill-aligned stars. She has rehashed the event in her mind over and over, trying to draw some lesson from it – something, anything, to pinpoint her errors, her faults, her weaknesses. Something to blame, and to avoid repeating the next time.

The thing is, there’s probably none. She has followed her training plan to the T (save for a week after her accident of falling onto concrete from a loft 2.5m high), fighting against incredible pain on several occasions. She’d run in the heat of the Australian summer, the humidity of Singapore and the frigid winter in Europe.

She’d cut back on alcohol, modified her diet to become fat-adapted, sorely missing out on beef hor fun, curry puffs, Hokkien mee, sushi rolls… (it’s a list too heartbreakingly long to continue so she’ll stop there).

She’d trained in the prescribed heart rate zones. She’d done the mileage she had to do, and for a while, she celebrated PRs for her 10K, 10 miles and marathon distances all in the same racing season. It seemed as if all the fatigue, sleeplessness and ravenous hunger were worth it, promising a celebratory finish to an amazing race season.

The DNF was thus an incredibly bitter pill to swallow. The Ninja Turtle’s boss, an ultramarathoner himself, told her there are many reasons for DNFs, and indeed, the weather is one that’s truly beyond the scope of runners’ control. She’d trained well, toed the line in peak condition (no injuries, having tapered brilliantly), and stuck to all racing conventions: nothing new on race day, stay hydrated, poop before running, smile for the cameras, enjoy the experience and make friends with fellow trail runners.

She did all that and still she DNFed.

After 7 hours in the relentless rain, having covered 49.4km and about 1000m+ elevation according to her GPS, her clothes and shoes were soaked through, and she’d lost her gloves. Despite all the noodle soup, sandwiches, coffee, cake, tea, chocolate and bananas she’d eaten, her temperature dropped. With the winds picking up in the darkness of the night, the rain still pouring and the temperatures dropping even further, she suffered her worst defeat ever when a gust of wind blew just as she turned around a corner, making her feel so ill, like she’d been violently punched in the guts, and her knees buckled.

Thankfully, GodzillaPin was there to witness it all. He’d come to St Julien du Sault to meet the Turtle for a moral boost, and was in fact, holding her hand and walk/jogging alongside her the very moment she’d caved, remarking only 2 seconds before that how icy cold her hand was.

The volunteers arrived, and shortly after, the medics whisked her into a heated ambulance where her pulse and breathing were measured. She hadn’t stopped shivering, and was begin to feel slightly drowsy and a little confused. Her bib was removed and she was declared out of the race, and brought back to Sens in the vehicle, with GodzillaPin following behind in his car.

The heartbreak came slowly, in waves. That night itself, the Ninja Turtle was simply numb with cold and the only thought she had in mind was: DNF. Sitting in the hot bath back at the hotel, having washed away the mud, she could only console herself with the thought that at least she was not passed out in the forest between St Julien du Sault and Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, in the rain, in the middle of the night.

Over the following two days, the physical ache of running almost 50km of muddy trails was frequently matched by the emotional devastation of failing to finish. The Ninja Turtle felt betrayed by both the inclement weather, and a constitution too weak to handle the rough elements. Mentally, she was certain she would have made the 85km, but physically, despite the 1000 miles she’d logged on the hills of Moselle, in the valleys of Meuse, along the coasts of Sydney and on the sandy beaches, in gorges and ravines of South Australia, along the highways of Frankfurt and Marseille, through the villages on the outskirts of Paris and on the country roads of Lorraine, the canal networks of Singapore and Metz, morning, noon and night, she was still unable to support the cold rain in wet clothes and shoes. She had found her limit.

So that’s it. Life isn’t fair; if it had been sunny like last year, no doubt she wouldn’t have cracked, but there is no point speculating. She couldn’t possibly have trained for these conditions, so she’s not sure she can regret anything. That’s the lesson out of this race – she’s given her 100% and she has failed through no real fault of her own. Sometimes, we cannot seek to blame anything or anyone, but rather, we must simply accept how things are, learn to let go, and move on.

Above all, her spirit has not been beaten by this experience, and she shall rise from the ashes to try and try again. One day, the stars will align in her favour and she shall be ready to claim the victory of daring to chase a dream.

In the meantime, all that’s left to do is to turn away from her grief, and properly thank every single person who has supported her on this remarkable journey with their faith, confidence, and words of encouragement when the Ninja Turtle needed them most. Rod Lowe, Baby Turtle, Sonic the Hedgehog, Krazy Cow, Yellow Jersey, and above all, GodzillaPin.


Race #5: Boucles de l’Acier

Spring has finally sprung! After two miserable races in miserable weather conditions (both being marathons no less), the Ninja Turtle finally lucked out and got some sunshine for her 5th race of the season, a 10K run in Florange, not far from the Luxembourg border.

This time round, GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle invited their neighbour Mickey Mouse to come along for a fun day out and extra moral support. Secretly, it was the Ninja Turtle’s strategy to make sure that GodzillaPin would be there at the finish line this time, instead of missing her YET AGAIN.

The race started at a local stadium, which was very convenient for warm-ups. Mickey Mouse helped pace the Ninja Turtle to make sure she was going fast enough to get the blood pumping, but not toe the line wasted.

The race started at a local stadium, which was very convenient for warm-ups. Mickey Mouse helped pace the Ninja Turtle to make sure she was going fast enough to get the blood pumping, but not toe the line wasted.

It was a small-town race, and only into its 3rd edition. The name Boucles de l’Acier literally translates to Loops of Steel, as it was 2 laps of 5km, and a reference to the local steel industry. There was a really dreadful smell as they drove into town, which was a cross between dead fish and chlorine. It was little consolation when they got accustomed to the smell though, because there were visual reminders of heavy industry.

How to die of black lung: run a race in a town which pumps out this much smog. Breathe. Enjoy. Keel over.

How to die of black lung: run a race in a town which pumps out this much smog. Breathe. Enjoy. Keel over.

It was a pancake flat course, and with the sun and light wind, conditions were perfect. The Ninja Turtle employed her usual “strategy” of going slow for the first 70% before picking up the pace at the end.

She even had time to stop for a mid-race kiss from GodzillaPin.

She even had time to stop for a mid-race kiss from GodzillaPin.

She finished the race in 54m 13s, which is a PR for a 10K distance. Save for the 7th to 9th kilometres, which were held at a constant of 11.05kph, this was also a perfect negative split run, meaning each kilometre was run progressively faster than the last. She started at 10.49kph and worked her way up to 12.93kph for the last and final 1000m.

Crossing the finish line strong and happy.

Crossing the finish line strong and happy.

There’s an observation that the Ninja Turtle wishes to make. Progress takes time. For some people, it takes a very long time. When the Turtle first started running in September 2012, she’d lost all fitness, and couldn’t imagine running 10km without dying of an asthma attack.

She remembers when she first ran a 10km under an hour, some time after the New Year of 2013. She cried happy tears.

It took her one year and a bit to bring it down to 57m 54s (summer 2014)

This race time of 54m 13s in spring 2015 is a new 10K time for the Turtle.

Undoubtedly, there are lots of people who improve much faster than she does, but there are also others who’ll need more time. The Turtle has no running coach, and isn’t part of a running club. These are not excuses, these are just facts, being stated simply and plainly. It’s to say that whatever your personal circumstances are, whatever your financial or temporal limitations, just work with what you’ve got. It takes determination, discipline, patience and trust to happen.

Also, progress isn’t linear. Sometimes we stagnate, or we regress, but as long as we keep at things and give it all we’ve got, magic will eventually happen.

You’ll just have to check back in a year or so to see improvements with this Turtle (who knows, she may have even upgraded to a Sloth by then).

Running, Travel

Trail des Tranchées 2015

This is a recap of Race #4 of the season, the Trail des Tranchées 2015, also known as Hell and Highwater, or What Was I Thinking? or Never Again. First of all, a little trailer from the organisers…

Since the Ninja Turtle has spent all week trying to recover from the ordeal and catching up with work, she cannot afford to re-write this story and so she’s taking the lazy way out by sharing an excerpt of a private communique with a fellow-blogger-running-expert-turned-good-friend, to whom she owes a huge debt for being a listening ear and a personal cheerleader when she was completely flipping out before the race. Thank you, Rod. You’re the man.

The story will be punctuated with some images, which is the second reason for the delay. Given the weather conditions, GodzillaPin was unable to follow the Ninja Turtle during the race to take photos. The official photos were only just released a few hours ago, as the organisers were taking their sweet-a** time uploading them. Anyway…

The Story

“Sunday’s run was… interesting. We lost an hour due to daylight savings, so I woke up after 5h of average sleep. Due to the weather, some participants didn’t even both showing up, apparently. Not enough to be noticeable, but it was the word on the grapevine.
Lost an hour to daylight savings

Lost an hour to daylight savings

Anyway, the Yellow Alert weather forecast warning for rains didn’t deter the organisers from giving us the green light, so off we went in the wind and rain.
The 43km race route took us along the trenches of WWI, and it was a resounding success when it debuted last year.

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But instead of marvelling the forts, hide-outs and bomb craters, this year’s rain meant we were sometimes almost knee-deep in mud, and sightseeing was the last thing we felt like doing. The winds from the previous night of up to 80kph had succeeded to rip some trees apart, and the primary issue was safety. Even at the first fuel stop (12km), so many were already moaning about how sick and tired they were of it, and how they wanted to go home. It felt like we were re-living the war!
As you can imagine, the 1000m elevation, with 95% muddy trails, over 43km in a highly technical terrain… it was pure survival mode. So many people were slipping, sliding and falling, but I took care to slow down rather than risking a fall.
I made friends with a few guys, who were all buddies in a trail running club. I’d helped one of them twice, once by picking up his lost water bottle and another time when I offered to wash his wound with some water, and after that he happily introduced me to his mates as his copine Singapourienne, cheeky bugger.
I was grateful for the company though, and we all ran/walked together as long as we could, telling jokes and stories to keep morale up, until I had to break ahead for a bit. Past the 25th km I so badly wanted walk but my temperature was dropping perilously fast, so I had to maintain at least a jog to avoid hypothermia. My small body size was no match against the 60kph winds and 3+ hours of rain, despite eating copious amounts at each fuel stop to generate heat.

The organisers were sick bastards who threw in a few hill climbs of over 40% incline, in the last 10km. These were super muddy, and at one point, I slowed down by just 1.5 seconds, and found my foot sinking into the mud to knee level. I almost lost my shoe, and was stuck so fast, I couldn’t move. I looked around for help but I was all alone (in the rain, in the mud, with another 6km to go, I wanted to cry), so I used both hands, grabbed my thigh, and yanked my leg out.


Are you beginning to see how this isn’t even running, let alone a race, anymore? There were ZERO spectators through the whole course, and of course, no entertainment.
Some runners decide to become the course entertainment.

Some runners decide to become the course entertainment.

I only began to notice how perhaps I’ve underestimated myself, when I started overtaking people in the last 10km despite these conditions.
When it doesn't stop pouring with rain, and the wind wants to blow you to Spain, just keep running with a smile, cos you've still got another 25 miles...

When it doesn’t stop pouring with rain, and the wind wants to blow you to Spain, just keep running with a smile, cos you’ve still got another 25 miles…

I tend to be one of the shy ones who hang around at the back of the starting line, but I overtook about 2 dozen men towards the end. My fastest kilometre splits were also the 42 and 43rd kilometres, which tells me I must have my pacing down pat.

The final torture came at the home stretch – out of the forest and into open space, back to the village, it was over 1km of exposure to the tempest. I’d been going for almost 5h 30m and all I could think of was the finish line beer. A middle-aged gentleman came up from behind and overtook me, but then slowed down to look back at me. I yelled at him “don’t slow down now, mister, we’re almost at the end!” and he said OK and pulled ahead.

But after 200m, something wasn’t right, he was beginning to lope weirdly. I pulled up and asked if he was all right, and he grimaced “I’ve got a cramp and it’s only getting worse”. So I linked my arm around him and said, “come on, we’re almost there”.

He wanted me to go ahead but I refused, and linked my arm around his, and kept talking to distract him and give him a mental boost. After 100m he was struggling even more, so I threw his arm over my shoulder, and supported as much of his weight as I could (thank God he was not much bigger than I am). I half-dragged this poor man the last 300m, and we crossed the line together.

Code of trail runners AND soldiers in combat: leave no man behind.

Code of trail runners AND soldiers in combat: leave no man behind.

I opened my finish-line beer immediately, and it was the sweetest nectar in the world. I forgot to look at the official time we finished, but it seemed completely irrelevant at that stage. I’d done the hardest race in my life, in the shittiest conditions, and I learnt that in the face of adversity, I simply become stronger.”
There are challenges, and then there are challenges. The Ninja Turtle started running in races because each and every one presented a unique opportunity for her to challenge herself to do better. Yet, it’s fair to say that this race was, hands down, the absolute best and worst race in her life, thus making it one-of-a-kind.
For readers with a stats fetish, here are the figures:
Official time: 5h 34m 47s
GPS time: 5h 33m 24s
Category ranking: 12 out of 17 women
Overall ranking: 127 out of 154 finishers
The worst marathon time in the Ninja Turtle’s running life, but her most splendid performance. Of the 205 participants who registered, a few probably DNS, while plenty others obviously DNF’ed. Finishing this race wasn’t only a success, it was a life-changing and epic journey.
When her courage wavered, she thought of her country’s late former Prime Minister, and his steel will, discipline, focus and determination.
When the elements made a difficult route overwhelmingly tough, she thought of the soldiers who braved four years of this hell during the WWI. Most of them were young men, far from home, scared and lonely. They died so we could enjoy the freedom to pursue such insanity today.
When the trucks carrying all the DNFers back to the village rolled past, and it was so easy to just raise an arm and say “I surrender”, she thought of family and friends who loved her and believed in her. OK, so they weren’t necessarily informed in advance about her signing up for this, just in case she got yelled at, but surely they are all retrospectively proud of her.
Like trail running, life is ugly, messy, painful, and full of shit. There are too many ways to hurt yourself, and at the worst of times, it feels like a neverending journey. There are times when we ask the question “what are we doing here?”
But like trail running, life throws us beautiful moments too – the chance to make new friends, plenty of good food to enjoy (even if it’s only raisins, bananas, cake and Coke), and when you dare to face a challenge that seemed far bigger than yourself, it is only then you open up your heart, look into your soul, and learn what you’re truly made of. That, my friends, is priceless.