Last Sunday I finished my third half marathon, the Philly Love Run. It was a blast. A slightly easier course than the Philly Half Marathon, with plenty of sights to see and spectators cheering (my favorite race sign: “Pardon me, your #badassery is showing!”), it was a pleasant event from start to finish.
This is the first half marathon I’ve done where I was extremely undertrained. I signed up for this race in a moment of weakness last year, knowing full well that I was already registered for a 15K – 9.3 miles – six days later (that’s 3 days from now, for those of you playing at home). It was December, and it seemed like a good idea at the time (sometimes my eyes are bigger than my running shoes).
Between my last half and this one, my longest run was only 6 miles. At one point in February I actually decided to drop out of the race entirely – convincing myself that not starting was far better than trying and failing. Plus, I didn’t know if doing two long-distance events in such a short timeframe was a good idea, considering how out of shape I felt.
There was a lot of internal waffling, arguing, and pleading. Whinona and I had maaaany heated discussions.
Whinona: You haven’t trained enough. Your last 6 mile run took over 90 minutes. You’ll never make the cutoff.
Me: Yep. It’s a possibility.
Whinona: You might get picked up by the sweep van.
Me: So what?
Whinona: That would be a disaster. Everyone will think you’re a failure.
Me: They are entitled to their opinion. Does it really matter what anyone else thinks? Besides, I’ll won’t even get a chance to fail if I don’t start.
Whinona: Wait, what? You want a chance to fail?
Me: Absolutely. Because it’s also a chance to succeed!
Whinona: That’s crazy.
Me: So is not even giving myself a chance to see if I can do it.
Whinona: I’m so done with this conversation. There’s just no reasoning with you. We’re going to look like complete idiots out there and it’s going to be all your fault. You’ve been warned.
Me: Duly noted.
She was relentless, and kept coming back to argue. There were other versions, some of which included injuries, getting heckled for being slow, limping across the finish line, finishing the race but finding that the finish line had been taken down…you get the picture. Worst case scenario every single time. We went through them all, with the end result each time being ‘I’m afraid of failing in public.’
Eventually I just had to say “I get it. You’re afraid, duly noted. All of those things could actually happen, and if they do, I’m a grownup and I’ll handle it. In fact, I hope something like that does happen, because then I’ll have something really awesome to write about.”
That actually seemed to make her feel better (side note, usually our worst critics just want to be acknowledged and feel heard.)
This tactic was so effective, in fact, that in the final days leading up to the race I was completely free of pre-race jitters, and slept great the night before! At the starting line I made a promise to myself, that I was going to run my own pace regardless of whether I was in danger of getting picked up by the sweep van.
So I decided to just let it be easy instead of hard. Doing 30 second run/60 second walk felt easy. So that’s how I rolled.
Lo and behold, with that strategy I comfortably held a 15:30 pace for 10 miles, enjoying the scenery and the sunshine. When I realized that I was completely out of danger of getting swept, I decided to power walk the last 3 miles to save my legs for the upcoming 15K. And aside from a bit of stiffness in my left knee, recovery has been surprisingly easy considering my lack of preparation.
The best part about this whole race was learning that I can let things be easy, and still get a great result. That most of the difficulty lies not with limitations of my body, but with the obstacles I set up in my mind. As soon as I decided to stop suffering and allow myself to enjoy the individual moments of the race, without attaching myself to a specific outcome (or pre-judging myself over potential failure), suddenly everything was fun.
This is what it really means to run your own race, yes? To be right there in the moment, listening to your body, and doing what feels right, without concerning yourself with the result. Sometimes that might mean going all in, pushing hard and seeing just what you’re capable of doing – but sometimes it means relaxing and doing just the opposite – taking the road that feels easy and comfortable. There is no wrong way, just the way that doesn’t feel amazing. And YOU get to decide, from moment to moment, what that is.
So tell me – how do you run your own race?