Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mind Over Matter

I think I'm in need of help from my athletic friends.

Nothing about running is easy for me. Some runners can put down three miles in their sleep, but I just can't. I'm not a natural runner, and I have to work hard for every mile that I put behind me. I need some help with this.

My goal is important to me. I want to run the Chill Your Cheeks 5K on November 22nd, and I want to do it in 29:59 or less. I want to do it for Ben. I set this goal months ago, and though I am making progress toward it, I still feel a million miles away from it. It is important to me to accomplish this goal during this race the week before Thanksgiving, as I am so grateful for Ben's life, the impact he has had on me, and the ridiculously good fortune I have in the opportunity to raise my own three lovely boys. The memory of Ben is completely worth my effort.

Ben, on right, with twin brother Jack, last fall before being diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor
So here's where I am: I can run a mile at a 9:50 pace. I can run 2.25 miles at a 10:00 pace. Today I ran 2.5 miles at a 10:10 pace, but I had to pause for two walking breaks (one for one minute, one for two minutes)--so that wasn't so great. These times are respectable in my book, and they will render me an overall personal time record in a 5K if I can maintain this kind of pace (my previous record is 33:50). Obviously, however, they aren't the 9:40 pace that I need to maintain over 3.1 miles to clock in at my time goal. On the other hand, though, none of these times account for race-day adrenaline that I will undoubtedly feel on November 22nd.

I definitely need to step up my efforts in these next two and a half weeks before the race, an action which I am committed to doing. Several months ago I joined the Y and have been diligent about going and cardio training, mostly running. I have been watching what I eat, and I have trimmed up. I have lost 13 pounds since the end of August, and I have undoubtedly gotten faster and exercised longer. The thing is, I don't really think it's my body holding me back. I think it's my mind. I need to figure out this fight.

I know that mentally I can talk myself into doing some hard things. I kept myself strong during the natural labor of a 9-1/2-pound baby. I carried myself mentally through the last four miles of a 6.2-mile run in April, never slowing to walk throughout the entire thing. I ate a strict dairy-free, soy-free diet for nearly a year, with no slip-ups, because I wanted to help George with his allergies when he was a nursing baby. Mentally, I'm really not a total pushover.

But there's just something about running that seems so much harder. For instance, I can get on a treadmill and tell myself, "You're not stopping, no matter what, before two miles." And the truth is, I'm in the kind of shape that my body can certainly handle a two-mile challenge. Yet just two weeks ago I stopped short at 1.5 miles, gasping for air, feeling like a failure. I just couldn't will myself to go on.

I really need some help, athletic friends. Regardless of what your sport is, I want to know how you do it. How do you power through when the going gets tough? How do you tell yourself not to stop? To go faster? To push harder? To not quit just because you feel like you need to (when you know deep down that you don't really need to)? Did you read a book or a blog that inspired you? Did you see someone do something that made you think, "I want that"? Realistically, I know the odds are against achieving my goal in just two and a half short weeks, though I know I eventually will achieve it. I just keep telling myself, maybe--just maybe--though, and I find myself getting hopeful. Maybe, maybe, maybe I can do this. Any pointers, friends?

On a side note, I have never run on a treadmill prior to these last couple of months, but I find that I really like it after all. When the going gets tough, I can put my hands on the little bars in front of me, close my eyes for minutes at a time, and meditate on special people in my life. Many of my friends and family members are the focus of my concentration during my treadmill runs, and I am all the richer for it. I have so many wonderful reasons to run. Mind over matter.

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