I looked her pictures with a twinge of envy and boredom. Sure, 2:41 is easy when you are 25, have no kids, ran competitively in college and have a professional coach. I mean, look at her abs! They are incredible. She is tall, lean, clearly gifted. Great genes.
Imagine my shock as she disclosed she is 32, the mom of three kids, works full-time, and just started running 2008. Never ran in college. No pro coach. Not Kenyan. (the blond hair was a giveaway).
Because I was completely fascinated that someone around my age with a kinda-similar background could run a 2:41 marathon (2:41 people! That's a 6:11 mile for TWENTY SIX point TWO miles!), I clicked to her blog. She must have had the race of her life, one where everything just lines up perfectly for her to score that kind of time. I mean, I feel like I lucked out with a flat-as-a-pancake course on the most beautiful fall day on a course with the best fans. I know I'll probably never have the stars align quite like they did in Chicago. She must have had a similar situation.
In her entry, she lists everything that went wrong. Her two pacers dropped out two weeks before the race. She got a nasty head cold the week of the race. Six weeks leading up to the race were horrifically stressful and she considered bagging the whole thing (oh, that sounds familiar). On race day, she had to contend with actual rain (I just had the threat of rain) and her Garmin died on mile 5. She was forced to mental marathon math for 21 miles, something every runner does (my addition and subtraction skills have never been sharper than since I started running), but it takes a great deal of energy, energy that would be better spent towards, oh, say, those six-minute miles. Trying to calculate splits without knowing your pace while running at that clip is unbelievable to me. My Garmin started fritzing out among the skyscrapers but always came back to me. To lose it completely...that's the big time. Soliloquies have been composed and Greek choruses have sang about Garmin loss. That's true tragedy right there.
Reading about what this amazing woman accomplished made me realize that yes, it really is all mental. She had every reason in the book to call it, to sleep in, to scrap the race. Hell, she even had a great reason to tell people why she didn't meet her goal because so many things went wrong during the actual race. But she didn't let it. At one point, she says (paraphrasing here),"I am the only one who can give life to my excuses. If I don't give them life, they die. And then there are no excuses."
How many times do you make excuses for yourself? I know I'm doing it constantly. It's too windy, I'll just run an easy course. It's too dark, I'm too tired, I didn't sleep well. It's probably Ebola. I mean, it's constant. I'm constantly giving life to every single faulty belief on the planet as to why I am unable to complete something. Instead of forging ahead with confidence, I am a professional as to explaining all the reasons I can't.
So I set up a little social experiment for myself.
Still in recovery after Chicago, I decided to tackle a non-running challenge: no Halloween candy this year. It's my weakness, for sure, and one of the reasons I can only claim to be "mostly plant-based." (I'm pretty sure KitKats are not vegan.) I usually eat a pound of the good stuff around this time and it's more of a habit, a mindless gesture, than an addiction. I don't eat candy on a regular basis but I do have a crazy sweet tooth. If I have one piece, I usually have 12.
First action: social accountability.
I posted my challenge on Facebook. I wasn't looking for a response, I just needed others to simply know about it. In the event anyone asked me, I wanted to be able to answer them honestly. I didn't want egg on my face.
Second action: get it out of sight.
Out of sight, out of mind became my new mantra. Just the seductive brown wrapper of the Tootsie Pop would trigger (faux) hunger, so I stuffed it all in our pantry behind some old bags.
Third action: Never get to the point where I am so hungry, I'll cave.
I intentionally forced myself to hit the fruit bowl instead of the pantry, making sure I had an apple on me. I've eaten a lot of apples in the last few weeks, but it prevented me from getting to that bottomed-out-crashing feeling, where just about anything looks edible. Junior Mints around a hungry Kim is akin to blood in the water. Best to avoid it completely.
My lowest point came on Halloween night, as my neighbor and I sat passing out candy to the kids. I hadn't eaten enough for dinner. Being surrounded by four giant bowls of candy was hard. Really hard. I almost asked her if she had pretzels or fruit that I could snack on, but I pushed it down. I wasn't going to starve, I was simply hungry. No candy consumed.
Happy to say the challenge is over and I was successful. It's certainly no 2:41 marathon (2:41! ::mind blown::) but it did show me that yes, it's 99% mental (and like, 1% good preparation.) If I give life to my excuses ("You're hungry! You had a tough day! It's just a little candy bar. You DESERVE it!"), they will live and thrive in my pantry (and eventually on my waist and booty.)
As I think about my running goals for 2015, the sky's the limit. I know for sure I can run a sub-two half. Chicago taught me that 26.2 miles does not need to be an exercise in agony. The ultra may have killed my speed but it produced a mental toughness I didn't know I possessed. I plan to take all of this, along with my newfound appreciation of "no excuses!" into the new year...let's see what develops. :-)
Major congrats to Katie Edwards of msfitrunner.com for a fantastic race AND the courage to share everything that did not go according to plan. You are a true inspiration!