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Altering Expectations - James MacKeddie

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​Altering Expectations - James MacKeddie

"When I envisaged writing this blog, I was nearing the end- or had already finished- the Montane Spine Challenger, as you came to lay eyes upon these very words.

However, this was not to be.


Unbeknownst to me, large and unexpected changes in my life had wreaked havoc with my health- this rendered me, someone with usually boundless energy and a pretty tough immune system, exhausted in bed, unable to run. Restrained from my passion.

Normally the feelings of frustration in situations like this are pretty minimal, we all face setbacks and have to learn to adapt to and live with them. After all, these things can and will happen- but for me, the Spine Challenger was different.

For one, I applied back in February 2015, almost an entire year ago, and parted with my hard-earned cash knowing full well I had 11 months to wait before I could take part in this most British of winter adventures. In that time, I couldn’t help but let friends and family know that I was taking part, and in doing so, placing a heavier burden of expectation upon my shoulders.

When asked by a brand- Lifesystems- to be one of their select few adventurers, I felt as though the pressure, expectations, and responsibility had ramped up to an entirely new level.

I entered the Christmas break with a positive mindset. Yes, I wasn’t 100%, but I had two weeks ahead to rest, hit the trails and re-energize for the Challenger. In the end, I barely ran 10 meters... When my partner breezed passed me walking up a hill when I normally sprint on ahead, we knew something was wrong.

More rest followed and I am fortunate to say that now, I am back to my old self. Not as fit, but able to get through a day without feeling like I’ve pulled an all-nighter!

But what about these expectations other people had, and those I had for myself?

When I nervously typed the email to Lifesystems, their response summed things up perfectly- they were more concerned about my health than a race.

That’s the thing; whether you tell one person or one thousand, any pressure, expectation or responsibility placed on your shoulders is your own doing. It is our own feelings that create an avalanche of emotion, in which we find ourselves buried in at times, unable to punch a hole through for air.

Races, events, opportunities come and go, but you need to be around to take up the next challenge. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is say no to yourself and evaluate the true value of an adventure. Who knows, the race may end in years to come, but the trail and path will remain.

Perspective is a useful tool in the when you’re in the outdoors. Keep it sharp, tuned, and clear, and it will protect you in return.

I now find myself turning to the road after being approached to run the London Marathon by my charity partner. So, the adventures will continue, and I’ll be running up a mountain again before too long."

- James MacKeddie


Congratulations to Ultrarunner Tom Hollins on winning this year's Spine Challenger despite facing rough conditions, including overnight snow! Beth Pascall, who finished second with a time of 30 hours and 18 mins, smashing the women's record for the race by almost 12 hours. Read more on the race results. Image above from

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