Next week I’m running in a 10km race. It’s a race that I anticipate I will not win, nor come anywhere close to winning. Coming in last is actually a very real possibility. Lucky for me I never signed up with the intention of placing in the top ranks. The only thing I want out of it is the personal satisfaction of saying to myself “I did it, so there. Suck eggs, Self!”
I guess you could say that my desire to shape up is how this all started, but not how its ending.
I’ve run before, but never this far. I haven’t consistently applied myself to an athletic challenge like this since back in high school when I was on the basketball team. Even then, I remember very clearly that I was the slowest runner on the team. So slow in fact, that when our team ran suicide drills, it was often me that didn’t cross the end-line in time and the entire group would have to repeat the brutal drill again. Sometimes twice. Yes, now I remember. I really hated running back then. And while I can’t say that I love running now, I think I have moved away from abhorring it and have grown to appreciate it.
After my son was born, I was so disappointed with my body. Every part of me seemed out of wack. My boobs were huge, my hips had widened, my gut was soft and squishy and shapeless, and to make me feel even less attractive, my hair was falling out. (Why does no one ever tell you about the hair loss thing until you are actually pregnant?) In short, I felt pretty low. Then a few months ago I found a local race brochure in our mailbox, and on a whim I decided to join.
During my 3 months of training, I have learned that my biggest running-nemesis is not actually my body, but my mind. Every day that I set out to run, without fail, I dilly dally for a good 20 minutes before being able to get out the door, sometimes even longer. I pre-occupy myself with choosing music on my iPod, taking a last chance pee, feeding the baby, perfectly tying my hair or lacing up my shoes to just the right tightness. Yup. You guessed it. I’m stalling. And all through my little pre-jog stall-ritual my mind says to me “You don’t really want to do this. It’s going to hurt. You’re going to be out of breath. You might not make it to the end without walking. It’s raining and you don’t want to get wet. Did I mention that it’s going to hurt?” My inner-monologue does a great job of slowing me down and making me reluctant to take the most important step, being the first one. Even when I finally start pounding the asphalt, it jabbers on and on about not being able to make the next kilometer, or being thirsty, or about a stitch in my side. I am truly my own worst, and most relentless enemy.
This is the amazing thing. By the end of every single one of my runs, my mind, proven wrong and defeated by the fact that I did indeed finish what I set out to do, has nothing left to say me. Complete and utter silence. I love that. It’s a wonderful feeling to succeed at something that someone said you couldn’t do, particularly when that someone is your own self. Tasting that sort of accomplishment is indescribable. It leaves you believing you could do even more! You wake up realizing that you’ve come further than you ever imagined you could. What then was really holding you back? Often times, just a bunch of unfounded voices in your head.
Sometimes the voices are real though. Recently, someone said to me “You know, I’m sure if you really wanted to you could go out today and run 10km. And, why bother even training for a race you know you aren’t going to win?” They had a point. If I wanted to run 10K, why not just go out and do it? I could do it right now and get it over with if I really wanted to. Of course, without training the chances of injury would definitely be higher, and without any preparation I would miss out on all the little challenges and victories that come with a good regimen. All the changes in my body, the increase in my energy levels, improved eating habits and the decrease in the guilt that sometimes comes with loving food too much, they wouldn’t exist. All the people who greet me as I run through town, the buildings I notice, the satisfaction of going a little bit farther than last time, of finding myself on a road I’ve never been before, none of it would happen otherwise.
Aside from that, I wonder if I did spontaneously step outside and run 10km, would I even think of running a full marathon the next day? Probably not. Sure, I could joylessly struggle through a shorter race with little or no training, but I wouldn’t stand a chance if I did the same thing with a more serious distance, let alone even have a desire to take a go at it. I likely wouldn’t finish, and if by some miracle I did, I’d keel over at the end of it, just like the original marathon hero Pheidippides. So in the end it’s not really about winning the race, but rather about finishing it well and wanting to run even farther beyond the finish line.
All that said and done, if you aren’t doing anything this upcoming Sunday why not come down to Hyuga and watch the race. The 10K runners start at 9am, rain or shine. You can cheer us on, maybe catch a little bit of the running fever yourself and watch me happily win as I lose the race.