Above all else, this was the question I couldn't get out of my head on Saturday afternoon, having just finished my 10th Ben Nevis Race. That was, of course, once I'd drunk more water than you'll find in the river Coe right now, and I could just about think straight again.
Half way down and beginning to run out of fuel
Each year brings its own challenges. And I should know; it's now 22 years since I ran my first Ben Race. Last year for example, went fairly well. Or at least as well as two and a half hours of physical torture can go. And when it goes quite well, thoughts soon turn to next year's race. But this year, by contrast, was a bit of a living hell. And thoughts turn to why, and can I possibly keep on coming back year after year. Only another 11 years and 11 races and I could get a little plaque; the coveted Connochie Plaque awarded to runners who've completed 21 Ben Races (you'd maybe be surprised just how many of these there are!)
But good or bad, the Ben Race is rather special. It does kind of get under your skin. So, regardless of a slightly harder time if it this year, doubtless the memories will fade with the passing of time and come January the application form for number 11 will be in the post.
And let's try and keep things in perspective. I was only 10 minutes or so down on a time that would have been quite satisfactory. And what's 10 minutes when you're talking about up and down the Ben (and a mile each way on the tarmac to start and finish with).
Conditions weren't ideal for me either. The big difference between this year and last was that last year the mountain was in monsoon conditions (close to being a cancellation) whereas this year it was more like the inside of an oven (ok, moderately pleasant temperatures for a Highland summer). Cool or cold = quite good. Warm or even moderately hot = overheated disaster.
Entering Claggan Park - just 400m to go
And, of course, I must enjoy it. Er.., well, it's hard to put the pain of 3.30pm on Saturday afternoon into the 'enjoying it' category. Knowing that you've got to keep on going despite there being absolutely nothing left in the tank. Knowing that all you have to do to stop the misery is stop. But also knowing that stopping as easy as it is impossible. But after a little reflection, it dawned on me that I've actually run the Ben 5 times this summer, getting on for 14 hours spent haulin' ass up and down that track. (And a very hungover Half Ben Race too). And I just wouldn't do that unless there was something in it for me.
But all is not well.... Pain is only weakness leaving the body
So, chances are that next year I'll be back again for another physical beating. And for the challenge of it. And for the craic. Because there is no sense in it. It just gets under your skin.
Here's hoping that the Adventure Show TV cameras had all packed up and gone home by the time I returned to the park!