It’s a little over a week since I completed the Verbier St Bernard Marathon Trail in the beautiful Swiss Alps – ascending and descending 3,500 metres – in just under 13 hours. I’ve had plenty of time now to reflect on the experience – the ups and downs, and the highs and lows – physically, mentally and emotionally.

The greatest realisation and respect I have is for the mind, and the role it plays in endurance challenges like this. Physical fitness is of course fundamental, it’s what gets you to the start line, but it’s mental fitness that arguably gets you over the finish line… when you’re out there, pushing the boundaries of physical endurance, it’s our thoughts that are keeping us going, or slowing us down. Why then don’t we put as much time and effort into our mental fitness as we do our physical fitness?

Up until recently my mental fitness came solely from my running – a time for me to completely switch off, to think about nothing more than the hypnotic rhythm of jogging. While this still plays an important part, I also now see the benefits of being still and being totally present – either listening to a guided meditation, focusing on my breath or listening to the sounds of the waves to help me to unwind.

Being mindful and self-aware of your thresholds and stress triggers helps in so many situations – from the mountains to the boardroom… it also plays a crucial role in motivating you to head for the mountains in the first place.

Stands to reason our mental fitness needs way more respect, time and training than we realise. Whether taking part in an endurance sporting event or getting through a challenging project at work, the difference between achieving your goals or not, starts and finishes with the mind.

Set your intention for today, and discover what you can achieve through a total fitness approach in mind, body and soul.

To help get inspired, pop along to one of POINT3 Wellbeing’s health and wellness events on 4 & 5 August.

On Saturday I took part in the Liddes-Verbier 29km trail run in the Swiss Alps, the baby race of the Trail Verbier St-Bernard family.

Trail Verbier St Bernard

In the lead up to the run, I’ve been following a 14 week training programme of around 500 miles, and definitely not enough hills! It was my friend Tori that first introduced me to trail running – when in 2012 and 2013 we took part in the Eco Trail de Paris and the Beaujolais Villages Trail together. With their combined ascents of 1,250m, this 29km at 1,498m altitude, with a climb of 2,500m+ was always going to be tougher…

Liddes to VerbierThe run consists of two big ascents, the first of which is higher than Snowdon (1,085m) and the second higher than Ben Nevis (1,344m)! And with fog and rain welcoming us at about 2,000m on both climbs it sadly meant we missed out on enjoying the stunning scenery of the St Bernard region.

The view

The descents were pretty treacherous also – technical terrain made very muddy and slippy by a number of days of persistent rain. Given all of this, I was pretty pleased to arrive in Verbier in 6 hours 31 mins, in 127th place (27th in my category) and pick up my finisher’s t-shirt!

Sarah Mayo in Verbier

Throughout, I had a lot of time to think. When not trying to work out how long until the next check point or where to plant my next pole, I began thinking that trail running is a great metaphor for life. There are ups and downs, there are twists and turns, slips and tumbles, blood, sweat and tears, but there is always one constant… the people around you, the people that help you through the tough times as well as the good times.

It’s these people that helped me complete this challenge, and my heartfelt gratitude goes out to them all:

  1. My support crew of sister-in-law Miki and nieces Sana and Fumi – from the start at Liddes, to the half-way point at Lourtier, to the end in Verbier – it was such a welcoming sight to see their smiling faces supporting me come rain or shine! (And sorry Sana for “STILL talking about that silly run”!) My running support crew
  2. Organisers, supporters and fellow runners – races like this take so much organisation, especially in inclement weather as it was this past weekend. My thanks to all those supporters/volunteers who were out in force along the route shouting “Bravo” or “You crazy trail runners!” and my fellow runners who picked me up with words such as “Courage” when I paused to rest or literally picked me up when I slipped and fell… Start of Liddes
  3. The BeaRCat Running Club – I was proud to wear my BeaRCat running vest, promoting this great running club around the Swiss Alps! I’ve been a member since the end of last year, and this fab community has provided so much friendly support and sage advice over this short space of time. Sarah Mayo Bearcat Runner
  4. Family and friends – A huge thanks to all my family and friends who have patiently been there for me over the last few months throughout all my training. For all your encouragement and lovely words of support, I’m forever grateful. Colin of the Collines
  5. And finally, my brother Colin – as I said earlier, my event was only the baby distance and it is with awe that I write about my brother who completed the daddy of the races – a gruelling 105km route, over a 7,500m ascent, in an incredible time of 22 hours 38 minutes, finishing in a staggering 46th place (12th in his category). I thought of him a great deal throughout my race, having started 8 hours before me, and knowing that he would finish around 8 hours after me (at 3.30am). When the climbs were tough, the thought of Colin somewhere nearby in the mountains kept on driving me forward. What an achievement Col, I’m massively proud of you. (It’s also just occurred to me that ‘colline’ in French means ‘hill’ – very apt that he should be so at home in the hills!!)

My closing thought may seem clichéd but I can’t argue with it… We all run our own races in life… We can’t compare our chapter 37 to someone else’s chapter 40… So, whatever your goal or race be proud of what you achieve, and don’t forget it’s the people around you that are important. They are the greatest prize of all. And so it’s to them and you, that I wholeheartedly thank and dedicate this post.

Santé!

G x