It’s been a VERY long time since I’ve written, in fact, it’s been so long you probably thought I quit and gave up on myself. Let me be the first to say that’s definitely not the case. After my brief stint of wanting to quit, I am thrilled to say that those feelings are long gone.
To be completely honest, I feel like the best version of myself to date. As I swam last night, I felt strong and couldn’t help but have this internal conversation with myself about how ever since I was little, I’ve always wanted to be an athlete. I’ve always admired their strength and their focus. Given all of the training I have been doing, I may not look like an athlete yet, but I definitely feel like one in mind, body and spirit.
Since my last post in May my biggest accomplishment has been that my mental toughness has strengthened exponentially. This is a great thing because I’ve always preached since day one that running is far more of a mental game than a physical one.
The biggest mental victory came after completing my first ever 15km race a few Saturdays ago. A race organized by my local Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) meant a smaller group of runners, which meant there would be a greater chance of me being at the back of the pack. I’m not sure about you guys, but the thought of me being the last runner to finish a race has always been my biggest fear.
As the race began, I quickly realized how fast the majority of these runners were. They were so fast that I ran about 12km completely solo, and by the time I hit the 10km mark, I knew I was going to be the last one to cross the finish line. So how did I manage to get past my worst fear knowing I still had a third of the race to go? To simply put it, I envisioned the finish line and how sweet that victory would taste, and this my friends, was when I realized it doesn’t matter whether you’re first or last, big or small – the victory is all the same, and that feeling surpasses any feeling of hurt pride for being dead last.
That’s right. I was DEAD LAST but never felt more alive than in that moment. The finish was more exceptional than the one I dreamed of. The entire MEC race organizing team became my personal cheerleaders, and as I heard their cheers it only fueled me to run faster. The real icing on the cake were all of the hugs and royal treatment from complete strangers once crossing the finish. The running community is so overwhelmingly kind, so being greeted like that on such an emotional high felt amazing. Then came the unexpected praise from the race organizer who said that he had never seen such an impressive act of determination before which was followed by my most treasured words of encouragement to date. One of the volunteers graciously approached me and told me that she had never seen a runner smile so much or with such a positive attitude before. I could have easily told her that I have, insert Coach Smiley because I don’t think I’ve ever seen her run without a smile, but I couldn’t help but be selfish and soak up all the good vibes. After all, she made my day, and she said something that will stick with me forever.
While one of my goals was to smile the entire race, which I can check off now due to her beautiful words, this was also my first race where I shed a few sets of tears. I cried once at 13k out of pure joy because I knew I would finish, and again after crossing the finish because this was my hardest race to date, not because of the distance, but because of the sheer difficulty of the route. Ya, I failed to mention earlier that this route was full of hills. Not just small rolling hills either, full on steep inclines that basically made you feel like you were climbing the Mount Everest summit. Not only did you have to do this once, the route was a loop so yup, you guessed it, I had to do this TWICE! Yet somehow, this didn’t deter me.
I keep asking myself what was different during this race in the sense that I was mentally so much more positive than any other I’ve done before. I still haven’t figured this out, but part of me thinks that I have just finally learned to believe in myself and to find comfort in the fact no matter the time and no matter the distance, the feeling of crossing that finish line is the same for everyone – it’s the feeling of pure joy and knowing that you have accomplished something great. Something that is yours and yours alone.
Until next time friends.