Last night’s run really got me thinking. Not that there was much coherent thought going on during the speedy tempo run through London’s streets, but in my emotional state after the run, new perspectives turned up about a few things that have been bouncing around in my mind recently.
Since moving up to a faster group about a month ago, I have felt the burn and felt that I had to push through something quite different on a Tuesday night. But last night we set out for our 10k+ run at a pace I struggle to keep up for just 5k. I knew very early on that this was going to be a tough one and braced myself for a hard hour ahead.
I’m usually quite social when I run with my crew. I like to get to know the people I run with - there are so many amazing stories to hear and I value sharing banter and chatting about running and whatever. Yesterday I couldn’t speak anything more than a short “yes” or “no”.
When I started running some years ago it was hard. I’m not even quite sure why I decided to push through it and move from very short distances to a bit longer to a bit longer. It was HARD. I would negotiate with myself whether I could stop and walk, whether I had to run all the way to the end point I had considered. I would cut runs short, stop, walk, stretch (for longer than necessary!), sit myself on a bench and watch the world go by. And then I would try to convince myself to get going again. I drive a hard bargain - I have sat on park benches for well over half an hour at a time in this way trying to negotiate a reason to get myself to continue!
Last night I had a throw-back to this kind of mental discussions, which haven’t been around recently. Mainly because I haven’t been pushing myself very hard.
Running at what felt like the limits of my capacity, I was struggling to not give up and give in to my laziness, to my aversion to the pain I was inflicting on myself. That dialogue, verbalizing inner fears and hopes and willing myself to not give up, a constant stream of emotion and weakness and strength, reverberated in the dark blue evening sky. I hated and loved and was thankful and pissed off and so, so emotional.
I pushed myself. Great friends pushed me. I wanted to stop. I would have stopped if Andy hadn’t told me that I could do it. Again and again and again: “Almost there now, you’ve got this!”
I would have stopped, I really would. Running along Embankment we passed some RDC runners and I thought, “I’ll push through”. Then we passed some more and some more and I was fighting so hard to not give up and when we passed the last ones I said to Andy, “I’m stopping. I can’t.” He convinced me that I shouldn’t stop, that we were almost there, that it was just running to Millennium Bridge and then we’d get a rest, walking up to St Paul’s. Basically, he gave me the words I needed to go on, coaching me through when I doubted myself and convinced myself that this was enough and I couldn’t any more.
What I have realised is that if you don’t push beyond what comes easily to you, you are missing out on those rare opportunities for growth. Not just developing your running capacity, not just speed, distance, physiological improvements. You’re missing out on building the mental strength that will carry you through when the going gets tough, on and off the road.
Pick up the gauntlet when life decides to throw it at your feet. Throw it down before yourself when you can.
Often when we quit it’s because the voice that doubts and fears and tells you that it’s going to hurt speaks the loudest. Silence it from within with words like Andy’s last night and there is not a lot that will stop you and me from running all we can and becoming all we can.