With the Brooklyn half-marathon coming up pretty fast, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I want to run this race. Training has gone pretty well, but I’m not entirely sure what to expect from myself as far as a race pace is concerned since, as I’ve established, I’m not all that good at figuring pacing out to begin with. And because my most recent race didn’t really go the way I’d planned, I’m a little bit gun shy this time around.
To try and avoid a repeat of the Colon Cancer 15k, I’ve been making an effort to work my mental muscles and improve my race time attitude. Part of this has involved considering a couple different time goals (an A, B, and C goal, for example)–which I’ll get into a bit more at another time–instead of my usual tunnel-vision approach of I-have-to-run-this-time-or-I’ve-failed. Another part (and perhaps the most important part) has been doing some brain work, and challenging myself to approach things from a different angle.
There are many points along the loop I do in Central Park that intimidate me. I face a big hill when I enter, and a big hill when I’m on my way back home; there’s Cat Hill; and there are stretches of rolling hills all over the place. It used to be that as I approached these points on my run, I would give in a little bit and think to myself, “Well, this part is difficult, and I can’t run it as fast/as hard/as well as the rest of the run, so I’ll just slow down”. Basically, I would determine how things were going to go before even trying, and give up ahead of time or at least give myself an excuse not to try. But one day not too long ago, I caught myself thinking this way and noticed what was going on: essentially my weak mind was trying to pull my body down to its level. Rather than give in to the temptation of the message my mind was sending me, I chose to focus on believing that I could get through the challenge I was facing, and that I didn’t even know of any alternative. I ended up having a really good run, and every time I’ve used that technique since, things have gone pretty well.
It’s made me think a lot about how different our lives would be if we had never been told by anyone that we couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to do something. Hearing that you can’t, whether it’s coming from yourself or from an outside source, resonates so much more loudly than hearing that you can and once we’ve internalized the idea that we can’t do something, it really sticks. But you don’t have to believe it when you hear that you can’t (I mean, within reason. I’m not endorsing doing anything immoral or harmful)–we all have the power to send ourselves different and more positive messages. It may take some work, but in the end it will really pay off.