I came across this awhile ago and it really struck me. I knew I wanted to write something about it, but I didn’t know what just yet. I’ve been holding on to it and pondering for awhile until I could really figure out what I wanted to say. After giving it some thought, I think I’ve finally figured it out, so here it goes…
The beauty of starting lines to me is that you choose the race you’re going to run, down to every last stride. Are you going to run, do run/walk intervals or are you going to walk the whole way? You decide how much training you need to put into it to feel prepared and ready at the starting line on race day, you decide if you’re going for a PR or if you’re just going to go out there and see what happens. Every decision is your decision to make and yours alone.
It’s easy to go into a run full of goals and expectations when the conditions are perfect (flat course, perfect temperature, you picked the right gear, your body feels good and loose, no signs of possible injury flair ups to come) but the real race begins when things get hard. How do you decide to deal with unexpected knee pain, side stitches, dehydration, going out to fast, or dare I say it, hills?
Do you slow your pace to accommodate for the increase of excretion that comes with the incline? Do you walk up the hill and start running again when it gets flat? Or do you choose to skip that part of the course all together and join back in when the going gets easy again? (I’ve actually seen this happen at races more than once! YIKES!) Everyone can complete a flat course under perfect conditions, but it takes a trained athlete to be willing to run up the hill when they’d rather walk, keep pushing through the muscle fatigue when they’d rather give in, and test their mental strength and trust in their training to help them cross the finish line strong.
Choosing to run up that hill, even though it’s going to be challenging, makes the reward that much better in the end. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re capable of overcoming until we’ve put ourselves to the test. I’ve gotten the most joy and felt the most accomplished after races that I’ve had to really struggle and test what I was made of to complete. When you’ve really worked hard for something, you know you’ve earned it and that means so much more than it coming easy, without a struggle at all.
That being said, you also have to know when to pull back and acknowledge when your pace, the distance and/or the incline of the race is just too much for your body to handle, given your current physical shape and level of training and be okay with that too. Sometimes just because you have to stop running to walk a couple of times, doesn’t mean you’re not giving it your all. We have to know when we can push the limits and when to pull back in order to run a safe race.
Now, how do you decide when you need to push a little harder or when the task at hand is too much and you need to pull back? It’s tricky because no one can answer this question for you, but you. You just have to listen to your body and your gut and do what you feel is best.
Try asking yourself some questions to help you figure everything out. How are you going to tackle this race? What are your goals? How are you going to handle it when the conditions change to something that is less than perfect? You’re the one who has to run it, live it and breathe it, so you’re the only one who’s opinion matters here. You have to run your own race every time you go out there. It’s not your coaches race, your friends race, your significant others’ race or your family’s race. It’s yours and yours alone.
I think this is true in running and in life. Just like every race is your race to run, your life is yours to live however you choose. You’re the only one that has to live, eat, breathe and sleep your life. Not your friends, your family members or your significant other. You have to ask yourself the same questions you would as if you were running a race. How are you going to tackle the race that is your life? What are your goals? How are you going to handle it when the conditions change to something that is less than perfect? And from there, you have to just follow your heart and your gut, have faith in yourself and your decisions and trust that the most important people will always be by your side, no matter what.
Check out some more on mental strength as a runner from one of my all time favorite bloggers HERE.
Questions of the Day:
How do you deal with challenges you encounter in running and life?