This past Saturday I participated in the 40th Women’s Mini 10k along with 17 other women from the LUNAChix New York City running team. It had been a while since I’d done a 10k race, and given how difficult my previous two races were, I was hoping for a good experience this time around–I definitely needed something that would restore my confidence in my ability to stay mentally tough for the duration of the race distance. Since I can run 6.2 miles pretty easily these days, I figured this would be a good time for a little bit of a racing comeback.
Although there was a chance of rain, the weather wasn’t too bad at the start. Pretty quickly, though, I realized how humid it was. The air felt really thick, and there were so many other runners that the atmosphere just felt really close and somewhat claustrophobic. I tried to stop at every water station there was so that I could stay as hydrated as possible, but the humidity was causing me to sweat a lot, and it was really difficult to keep up with the amount of moisture my body was losing.
My first couple miles went well. I wasn’t thrilled with my pace at the first mile, but things were so crowded at that point that I couldn’t have run any faster if I’d tried. The course got hilly around mile 2, at which point the crowd started to get a bit more spread out, allowing me to speed up slightly. The route took us around Central Park (except for the first mile which was up Central Park West) so I was in familiar territory and felt pretty confident.
And then I got about halfway through the third mile. My attitude changed almost instantly, and I started really fixating on not being able to maintain my pace, and not even being able to finish the race. I felt so discouraged. What is wrong with me that I can run 8 miles for an easy training run, but fail during a 10 kilometer race? I made my way over to the side of the road just in case I wanted to start walking. I felt totally run down and drained of any sort of positive mental energy. It seemed like every fiber of my being just wanted to give up and walk.
I don’t know how, but I managed to keep running through that mile. The negative thinking hadn’t stopped by the time I reached the fourth mile, but instead of listening to the negative messages playing on a loop through my mind, I tried to focus on the fact that I had two more miles left. ‘Just two miles!’ I told myself. ‘You know you can do this. There’s no reason why you can’t. Don’t worry about your time, just don’t walk. You can make it through two miles, just keep running no matter what. Even if you have to slow down, just don’t stop running.’ As small as this voice was, I listened to it. I kept telling myself that I could make it through two more miles, and continued putting one foot in front of the other as I continued along the course. I finished with a time of 55 minutes and change, without my pace changing that much after the first mile in spite of the fact that I had gone from feeling like I was cruising along easily to just barely hobbling (which, clearly, was all in my head). It wasn’t a PR, but it did help me to realize that I have the strength in me to fight back against the negativity that has been plaguing my racing lately.
Finishing the race was, obviously, the best part–not only did I have a sense of accomplishment at having met my goal of not walking, but every runner also gets a medal and a pink carnation. As I made my way through the finishing chute, I met up with some of my teammates, and as we chatted about our experiences on the course I realized that I’d never really run with a group of friends before; I’d done a handful of races with family members or a friend, but I’d never enjoyed the sense of community that comes from being able to meet back up with your team, the people who are there with you through your training, and who understand your ups and downs as a result of that. And obviously now that I’ve got a bit of confidence back, I’m anxious to run my next race!