Six weeks ago I ran a half marathon. It didn’t go well. I mean, I finished uninjured, so it went fine, but even factoring my low expectations, it wasn’t the race I wanted. On the elevation map, the hills looked gradual enough where I didn’t take them seriously. As a result, I was massively underprepared. Around mile seven my energy tapped out (with six long miles to go), and that mean negative voice got the best of me. The smiling picture of me wearing my finisher’s medal conveniently edits out the portion of the race where I walked, cried, and wanted to quit. Running can bring out the best in us, but it can also expose the worst.
I stewed on it for about a week, feeling frustrated with my body for not cooperating like I know it’s capable of. However, my mind kept going back to a kind man at mile eleven who made eye contact with me and said, “You’re going to make it.” He made no assertions about my strength or speed, merely assuring me that I could endure this a little longer. He was right. This helped changed my momentum at the time, and it’s helped change my momentum in my training since then.
My focus tends to be on being physical, but it’s just as much simple physics. As Newton taught us, inertia is everything, and the longer I rest, the harder it is to start again. If I want to improve, I need to keep going. Instead of giving up on myself and swallowing my sorrows via holiday foods (a strategy that didn’t work so well in 2016…), I opted to pick another race in the near future and get back to work.
Over the last month and a half, I’ve worked really hard to avoid making the same mistake twice. I’ve been training regularly with hills and hiking, and I’ve been extra intentional with yoga to make my legs and hips stronger. I’m still not a fast runner, but I can feel the difference in my endurance, and more importantly, my confidence.
Next Sunday I run the Holiday Half Marathon in Portland. Training for this race has helped me mentally shake my frustrations, and also keep me motivated to stay moving during the holidays. There’s no guarantee that this race will go any better than the last one, but I’ve made every effort to set myself up for the best.
We face setbacks and disappointments every day, both on personal and national levels. Some of this is inside our control, and some of it isn’t. The weather, the mood of our boss, the decisions of our elected officials, the dynamics of our family, waking up on the wrong side of the bed. While there are times when it’s absolutely necessary to pull back to rest or refresh, we can’t give up entirely. All we can do is give our best against the hand we’re dealt that day, and try to make decisions that will put us in a better position tomorrow.