The last time I was asked to speak in front of the Striders was February 6, 2014. I posted a copy of that talk up on an earlier blog so I went back and revisited it to kind of gauge where my head was at that time. I was just a novice marathoner, having completed one under my belt, along with some half marathons and some 5ks and 10ks run here and there. I remember standing in front of the room thinking - I’ve only run one marathon and here I am speaking to a room full of seasoned runners. What could I possibly tell this room of runners that they didn’t already know? At that time, I hadn’t yet placed in my age group, wasn’t concerned about pace and/or time, I was just enjoying doing something that was good for me.
Here we are a year later and I’m still enjoying doing something that’s good for me, but at the same time, I’m making strides and seeing some improvements! I'm setting goals, placing in my age groups (which I never thought was possible), and preparing for my 6th marathon, the New York City Marathon on Nov 1- with hopes of setting a new PR. I even have this lifelong goal of running 50 marathons in 50 states! What?! Who is this new person? I've even talked my husband into joining this crazy world of running. He ran his first half marathon (Rock n' Roll Vegas) with me last year while we renewed our vows to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary and we both ran the Big Sur 21-miler this past April. We'll also be running the Savannah Rock n' Roll half marathon this year (the weekend after NYC Marathon). I love it!
I love how running can turn insecurities into strength. I CAN. I WILL. It's like this challenge - only the opponent is just you! You're in sole control. You're the driver behind the wheel; the captain of the ship. Quit comparing yourself to others. The only voice you need to worry about is the one that resides in your head questioning your abilities - "Can I do this?" This is where the grit, the mettle, and raw motivation comes from.
Nike just put out this new video campaign celebrating the last runner in a race. It's brilliant. The camera captures participants running in a race and is filmed from behind so you see these runners running past the camera. There's a lull and then all of a sudden, a figure appears. It's a female, clearly struggling and is the dead last person in the race. The camera then pans to her face and you can tell she's hating life at the moment, but something snaps, and her faces changes to one of pure determination and will to finish the race. Nike emphasizes the tagline, “You never thought you could….until you did.” I love that! I CAN. I WILL.
It totally embodies the whole concept of running – whether you’re a novice or an elite or whether you're running your first marathon or half or trying to qualify for Boston. We all once started off as beginners, the back-of-the-pack runners, and thought,“man, this sucks” and with every run, each footfall became easier and easier. It’s celebrating that process - that diehard determination, that drive to do better, and believing that things you once thought were impossible ARE in fact, possible. It’s about celebrating the small wins like being able to run without stopping in a race, being able to hold a steady run with folks that are faster than you, nailing your speed/tempo workouts, hitting a new PR – every little improvement! And it’s also about staying in tune with yourself - learning your abilities, your weaknesses, and what works best for you. It's about celebrating your I CAN and I WILL.
The more you lace up your shoes and head out the door for a run, the better you get. For marathon training this year, I started focusing on the purpose each training run served - like why do I need to run easy runs at what I felt was such a slow, turtle pace? What speed did I need to do my track and tempo runs? I started taking my training more seriously, reading more articles about the purposes of each workout to see if I was doing it right, but at the same time, I wasn’t - and am not going to let it consume me or take up too much head space. Last year's talk, I focused on having fun, enjoying the training process, the experience, the journey, the camaraderie. That still holds true today. This past Tuesday morning, I ran with a friend whose been beating himself up because he just hasn’t had a good long run. I know a lot of it is mental because in fact, he is a strong runner. I told him he was losing his fun. Something is wrong if you’re not enjoying it anymore. He needed to make running fun again. I told him to quit over analyzing all his training and to not allow a bad run define him. We all need to get out of our heads sometimes. And the test for that is when you’re running long distances. If you've trained property, trust the training. That's the easy part. It's the voice in your head that you have to prepare for. I’ve found that repeating mantras help. My favorites are “Go Seal!! You got this!!” and “I can! I will!" Mental imagery is also powerful. I like to picture a strong finish - crossing the finish line and getting that shiny new medal to add to my collection. Think I CAN. I WILL.
With the upcoming Savannah Rock n' Roll or whatever race you have coming up, know that you’ve put in the training for this day and have built up the strength, the determination, and the drive! Know that every time we laced up our shoes and hit the pavement or the track or the trails, we’re making an investment in ourselves. Day by day, we’re bettering our bodies, our minds, and our souls with tearing down barriers we created in our heads with how fast we can run, how far we can go, how much we can endure. We’re rehearsing for the day of the big show – race day - and we are ready! Run strong, run pretty, run hard! Because You Can and You Will!