I did almost everything right. I trained for over 18 weeks, I ran farther than I’d ever run before, I ran practice races, I bought energy chews, Gatorade, new sneakers, new workout clothes, and created my playlist. I was ready to run my marathon. Sort of. There was one thing I didn’t do. I didn’t decide I was completing the 26.2 miles. I knew I had an out. I knew the course was a loop, and I had the opportunity to cross the finish line half way through.

I even heard the words coming out of my mouth before the race. I asked the race coordinator what would happen if I decided to run a half marathon instead of the full. I told my friends I was going to, “try to run a marathon.” I hadn’t told myself I could do it. While practicing, I had run 20 miles, but not 26.2, and that little bit of uncertainty created a lot of unrest.

While my husband loves races and dislikes training for races, I’m the exact opposite. I love following my workout schedule, training on my own, and challenging myself to work harder. Races intimidate me. First, they begin extremely early. Getting up before dawn to run has never been my cup of tea. I prefer coffee in the morning and late afternoon or evening runs. Then porta-potties–nough said. Finally, the crowd! Those three things alone send my nerves spinning into a frenzy.  Add to that having to run a marathon and I’m stretching my comfort limits to extremes.

The Race

The morning of the race I woke at four am. While my husband, Eric, (a morning person) talked nonstop about the excitement of the race, I (not a morning person) nodded and listened, reminding myself of my rule not to speak before coffee. An hour later we stood shoulder to shoulder with runners listening to the Star Spangled Banner, and for the first time, I felt the joy of the race. This was the excitement Eric always talked about. A crowd of people all working towards the same goal. Some elite athlete athletes toned and serious about their times, some people dressed in costume, and others there wanting to see if all the training they’ve done would pay off. The energy infectious.

The first few miles felt long. They usually do. They’re the miles where I ask myself why I signed up for such torture. Then around mile four everything fell into place. A good song came on, there was a beautiful view, and I felt good.  I was keeping a decent marathon pace until I hit mile nine. That’s when I saw the first marathon runner pass on the opposite side of me. She was first, had a body of an elite athlete, and was running much faster than me, miles ahead of me. Immediately, thoughts of: I didn’t train hard enough, why did I ever think I could run 26.2 miles, and Oh my God I’m going to be last, began to enter my mind. I tried to break through with thoughts of: I’m doing great. Keep going. This is my usual pace. It didn’t work.

As I ran, I watched more and more people pass me on their second loop. I tried to tell myself that I was still on track to meet my goal, but I felt my will sink every time someone went by. I had visions of being a lonely runner finishing the race after everyone had packed up and gone home. Well, either that or passing out along the way, and no one would know where to find me because I was so far behind. In other words, my mind got the best of me despite my ability. As soon as I started comparing myself to others, I lost myself.

So, when I had the option to turn right and head to the finish line or run .1 mile, loop, and do the entire course a second time, I chose to turn right! I crossed the finish line with ease. I wasn’t sore. I wasn’t out of breath. I could have kept going. What I felt for the rest of the day was great defeat for letting my mind get the best of me.

The funny thing was I never felt a need to be first or even to finish with a qualifying time for other marathons. I set out simply to do my best. But then I watched everyone better than me, berated myself for not working harder, and failed to meet my goal. Had I just kept running, not worried about anyone else, and enjoyed what I was accomplishing, I would have kept going.

Afterward, I was convinced the feeling of not meeting my goal was way worse than whatever I would’ve felt if I had continued the race. I’ll never know.

What I learned

As always I try to find lessons in my life experiences. I learned first hand the damage comparing myself to others can do. It robs me of my ability, my focus, and my joy. I also learned the importance of intention. I need to set my intention and follow through. There is no intention of I may run 13.1 miles, or I may run 26.2. There is one or the other. I also learned the importance of forgiving myself for having negative, berating, thoughts, and then moving past them. Sometimes I think that because I keep a grateful journal, meditate, read and post positive quotes it means that I should have a mind that only allows positive thoughts. The opposite is true. I do all those things because long ago I discovered I have a mind that can go dark very easily. I do all those things to allow daily light into my darkness. All those thoughts of: I’ll never do it, I’m not good enough…, etc. Are normal. Accepting them and getting beyond them is what creates strength. Finally, I learned to try again. I signed up for another marathon because life is all about picking yourself up when you fall, believing in yourself, and running your best race while cheering on others whether they’re ahead, behind, or right beside you. No one can run your race except you.

Comments to "What I Learned The Day Of The Race"

  1. Pingback: Outer Goals vs. Inner Goals For 2016 | K.D. Rausin

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