Time is the most precious resource we have. Now that I’m in the thick of marathon training, time has become as much a challenge as the distance. For starters, scheduling is no small feat — carving out enough hours every week not only to run but also to hydrate, stretch, strength train, meal plan, rest, recover, and then do it all over again.
But the time itself becomes a challenge of its own. That many hours inside my head is not always such a pleasant experience. The miles get hard, and I blame my body for not making things easier. I catch myself thinking about how much faster I could be if only X, or how much better I used to be at running because of Y. This never ends well, and despite my best efforts to curb negativity, it continues to creep back in.
Being positive is a daily challenge — hourly really, and sometimes even minute to minute.
A mantra can help guide thoughts and rein in an overly active mind. Repeating a short phrase like You’ve Got This or Relentless Forward Progress can help me keep going. On my long run last weekend, I experimented with a new mantra: You Belong.
I struggle to call myself a real runner. I’m too slow. My body isn’t lean and lanky. I’ll never qualify for Boston. Even the title of this blog has a built-in disclaimer that Yes I know, I’m fully aware that I’m slow as a tortoise. I feel compelled to constantly apologize for my speed, as though my slowness somehow minimizes the credibility of “real” runners. It’s not like I’m new to the game — I ran my first half marathon a decade ago, and since then I’ve completed 11 half and 5 (soon to be 6) full marathons, and I still don’t feel like I deserve to call myself a runner.
But while running on Saturday, I reminded myself time and again, You Belong. You’re not an imposter. This isn’t in your head. You put in the work and run with your whole heart. You deserve to be a part of this community. You deserve to run Chicago. There will always be someone faster or stronger or skinnier or or or or, but You Belong here too.
Running is a mental game, and marathoning even more so. The body can follow a set training plan, but the mind is unpredictable. No matter how many times I’ve demonstrated I can do something, I still doubt my ability to do it again. Having the guidance of a mantra helps, and having the support of friends and family helps even more.
Staying positive requires focus and effort and time — attributes I don’t always have. It’s a daily challenge, but in turn becomes a daily victory to show up in the face of doubt and negativity. Some days I do better than others, but it helps to have a reminder that You Belong to keep being willing to try.