Twice today, two of our better runners passed me late in our 22 mile run; somewhere around mile 18 and 19 I think. Both of them offered me encouragement as they went by. We had short conversation and I told them I was wiped out, and tanking badly; ‘Just relax’ they said, ‘and you’ll be ok’. ‘The important thing is time on the feet and keeping moving’ they said, ‘it’s ok to walk’.
This is the third time I’ve tried to hit 20. I was attempting 22, but 20 was the threshold I hadn’t broken for the past two runs. Strangely, I did it the first time I attempted it, but those two failed runs hung over my head like a dark cloud; one time I got lost, took a wrong turn and didn’t reach into my mental bag of tricks to overcome and keep running once I got back to base-camp. Once your back at your car, it’s pretty difficult to go another mile, two miles.. any miles. Done. The second time I technically made it, but I walked a good distance in doing so.
So these two guys passed me in succession. About a minute or two apart and they kept going, disappearing ahead of me. They had given me the excuse I needed, ‘it’s ok to walk’. Oh! and I wanted to. I’m no hero and I could walk and still get the benefit of the workout.
But this time, I reached into my mental bag of tricks..
Last week, we did nineteen. I passed Jenny on a hill (I think of myself as pretty strong on hills) and began pulling away toward the end there. But Jenny is tough. She had just won her age group in the TMC Half-Marathon and she has an awesome steady stride that carried her to that podium. She took that steady stride and caught me, passed me (or, ‘Chicked me’ as some say) and never looked back. That hill killed my body and I let my mental game kill the rest of me; I succumbed to the excuses by body was shouting at me. She has asthma, mother of four and any number of other excuses she could have made to let me go, but she dug in and held steady. She didn’t give up last week, I wasn’t going to give up this week.
Also, I kept thinking, ‘this is only 22 miles!’. ‘What in the world am I going to do when I try to go 26.2?’. So my second Jedi Mind trick was to tell myself that the pain I was feeling, the despair and the desire to just walk the last mile or two was exactly the pain and suffering I would need to go through someday in a race – and here was my chance to practice pushing through it all. You don’t get to practice these kinds of things when you feel good. You can’t prepare yourself for all of those excuses punishing your optimism when you’re feeling strong and capable.
You only get one chance to embrace the Suck! You only get one opportunity to climb into the hurt box!
And this was my chance.
They passed me, and there’s always a little sting when that happens. It’s a momentum killer to be passed up; it just is. It makes the mental game that much tougher and you end up retreating to ‘your’ pace and ‘your’ race. Which is exactly what I did, and I knuckled down like Jenny and felt the pain in all it’s glory.. and kept going.