Grasp the Nettle


My Dad took me into the garden one day and showed me how to grasp a nettle. Between your finger and thumb, you have to do it with conviction, with certainty. I will not be stung.

I faltered. Looking to my Dad for explanation, the response came:

‘There is no trick…..the trick is not minding that it hurts.’

A line from the 1962 film, Lawrence of Arabia.

Dad made nettle omlettes for tea that evening. My thumb hurt… and I minded.

When I think of the phrase ‘grasping the nettle’ I associate it with getting on with or undertaking something unpleasant or difficult with a level of courage. Getting your head down and getting on with it, jumping in with two feet. In ultra-running  and running in general, there is an element of pressure to ‘just do it.’ And a lot can be said for that sort of approach. The problem arises when you find yourself suffering due to your lack of experience.

Thing is, sometimes it’s better the nettle you know.

Many of the longer, more technical races require a level of minimum experience to enter. And rightly so, these are not to be taken lightly. If you do, you put yourself at a greater risk than someone who has been in a similar situation before. Now we get onto the Catch 22, how do I get experience when I’m not allowed to compete due to my lack of experience?  Answer: be selective, do your research. There are plenty of events, everybody has to start somewhere. Get to know the nettle. My Dad knew that the stinging hairs of the nettle when held down, were less likely to be able to penetrate the skin and be able to sting.

“Tender-handed stroke a nettle, And it stings you, for your pains: Grasp it like a man of mettle, And it soft as silk remains.”

Works, by Aaron Hill, Vol 4, 1753

But sometimes in life (life outside of running…) you have to leap, leap with faith (leap of faith being associated with Kierkegaard) Leap with the faith that you’ve made the right decision, that you’re steadfast in your faith that it is the right decision for you. Too often we’re locked into inertia- leap-grasp the nettle.

Aaron Hill had done his research……I do mine, and so I know it’s going to be ok….so long as I don’t make a meal of it.
Nettle omelettes for tea?

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