I did the David Goggins 4 x 4 x 48 challenge and found it easy.
Let’s backtrack a bit.
For years I’ve been convinced that ordinary, average, middle-aged women are capable of more than they think they are.
It started when a post about representing my country at the Olympic selection trials went viral. Only my story wasn’t one of yet another gifted rider from a privileged background riding a purpose bred horse and with a team of topflight trainers and support crew behind them. I was a nurse and mum, with an ordinary crossbred horse that I’d trained myself and a husband who worked in sales.
I was decidedly average.
My only special ability was the ability to do what I could do, and not worry about what I couldn’t.
I wasn’t even especially ambitious or driven or dedicated. I’d just take the next step and when I did, I’d see if I could take the one after that, too.
My messages of finding the extraordinary in the ordinary resonated with thousands of women around the globe and I developed a following as I began mentoring other women to take their own next steps.
Recently I have faced a whole host of challenges myself – personal, financial, a significant health diagnosis, as well as the loss of my one remaining potential prospect capable of getting me back into the international arena.
Life was shit. So, I did what I always do when I can’t do what I want to do. I did what I could do.
For the last few months, I’ve been learning to live with and manage my new chronic health condition and after spending a lot of the previous year virtually housebound, I’ve been revelling in the ability to regain some physical fitness. In order to challenge myself further and focus on something outside my own problems, I signed up for a charity challenge, to fundraise by climbing the highest peaks in Scotland, England & Wales in a 24-hour period.
While searching online for training advice I came across this challenge. David Goggins is an ex-Marine and accomplished endurance athlete who has developed a huge international following with his messages of developing mental toughness and physical strength to overcome life’s challenges. He himself had a particularly tough childhood and his story of overcoming this is a bestseller. In March of 2020 he designed 4 x 4 x 48 as a way for people to meet an extreme physical and mental challenge in their own backyard. The idea is to run 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours. That’s a total of 48 miles (78km) run over the two day period on broken sleep.
I watched video after video of super fit young people talking about how hard it is. ‘Worst pain of my life.’ ‘This one is no joke.’ ‘The sleep deprivation was so hard.’ ‘An insane challenge.’ ‘The most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done.’ ‘Had to really push through the pain.’
Yet as I watched I became more and more convinced that not only could I complete this challenge, I would also find it easy. As far as I could see, all it would take is the exact same skills and abilities that I’d accumulated and developed as an ordinary average middle-aged woman.
If you want to watch a video of exactly how it went and what I found out as the challenge progressed you can see that here, but the short version is that I was right.
This challenge needed planning and organisation. Galloping housewives can do this in their sleep. If you’ve ever been to a multi-day show, you’ll know the checklists and schedules that you’ve written. Not just to ensure that you get to your class on time with the right gear, but also so that your kids get to their weekend sport and your parents get their groceries delivered. You know it’s not just about what you’re doing, it’s about all those other things that depend on you on a day to day basis that no one else realises you’re doing.
A lot of people talked about the difficulty of sleep deprivation. Every galloping housewife knows how to be (or at least pass as) fully functional with next to no shut eye. Shift work, parenting, sick horses, menopause. Not to mention lying awake worrying about everything and nothing.
Another attribute that galloping housewives have is the understanding of the need for proper preparation. No one turns up to a show without having done the training necessary. We don’t apply for a job or sit an exam or apply for a loan without making sure we tick all the boxes. This is no different. I’m not especially fit, certainly not ultra-marathon fit but I do run somewhere between 3 and 5 miles a few times a week and I’m also hiking hills to get ready for my charity climb. I felt confident that I could complete the 4 miles 12 times. I’d be tired and possibly a bit sore, but I could do it.
Which is the perfect segue into dealing with discomfort. Galloping housewives of a certain vintage wake up every morning with aches and pains. Those of us that have given birth have definitely endured some pain. We’ve carried on with illness and injury because we know that if we don’t do what needs to be done, it won’t get done. We go out in all weathers to feed and turn out and catch and show, whether we feel like it or not. It’s not about willpower, it’s about tenacity and integrity. We do it because we have to, and we know deep down that as miserable as it may seem in the moment, we do it because we want to.
I honestly found it easy. Every 4 hours when my alarm went, I’d get dressed, grab a drink, and head down my driveway to complete my 4-mile run. I snoozed when I could and ate when I could and spent most of my downtime watching the opening games of the rugby world cup. Sure, I got a bit tired, and my legs felt heavy at times, and sometimes I’d rather stay in the warmth and light of my house rather than head out in the rain and dark. But I can honestly say that once I got going, I enjoyed the running. There is something special about being outside alone in the night and despite being a tad bored with the same out and back route up my road, every run I saw something new and learned something different.
As to why so many athletic individuals who were so much fitter than I was (most of the videos I watched were by keen amateur runners and fitness influencers) struggled with this, I have a theory. When those who are used to using their superior physical conditioning and their ability to tough everything out come up against something that can’t be made easier by these attributes, they struggle. Because the real challenge here is not to run fast or to push through exertion.
It’s simply to take the next step. It’s doing what you can do. Whether you feel like it or not.
A bit like life.