Get Your Goal

I sat in my car, parked in what appeared to be an endless blacktop parking lot. Multiple brick buildings of the Garmin HQ campus yawned up into the grey dusk. I sipped a cup of terrible hotel coffee swill and watched as all around me, runners of every stripe emerged from their own cars, stretching legs and arms up into the promise. 

I just wanted a few minutes. Starting lines are chaotic and loud. Once you line up, it’s hard to get into a quiet mental place, and that’s where I needed to be. I had things to do. I didn’t want to chit chat with people until I had set my mind right. I reviewed my homemade pace chart. I sipped more swill. I added a few albums to my place list and untangled my headphones. When I finally emerged from my car, I was ready. 

At the starting line, I ran into some friends, but I carefully tuned out the race day chatter of strangers; everyone around me had a goal, but I needed to stay focused on mine. I avoided, also, the pacers. I kinow. I know. They’re supposed to be helpful, but really, these peopole with their boucning balloons stress me out. I don’t want to commit to a group of people I didn’t know. 

The race began. I fell along side a half marathon pacer, and knew that while she was good, I would be happy to not hear her voice anymore when the courses separated. I followed my plan to the letter for the first  miles, and then, the what-ifs ganged up on me. 

What if the hills are too big? What if I did go out too fast? What if I don’t hit this goal I had set? I didn’t want to start and finish another marathon far slower than I knew I could. I didn’t want to fail. I remembered what my coach had said: 

You’re either strong or you’re not. You decide. 

In my real life, when I’m not on the marathon course and I find myself up against a major stressor, I use a trick I learned a long time ago. I remember the facts.

The facts, such as they were: I had done the training, and there was nothing to fear. 

It would be a lie to say that was that. Twice, I felt a very real and tangible panic rising in my gut, like bile and failure. And twice, I pushed that aside, took some deep breaths 

  and pushed on. The race was difficult, with rain and mud and puddles slowing me at times. 

But finally, the moment arrived. The numbers on my watch could not possibly lie. I was going to hit very close to my goal, if I just kept going, and so I did. Near the end, I spotted a friend and chased her. When I caught her, I made the next water stop my rabbit. Then the next curve in the road. Then, lo and behold, the finish line.

The time on the clock showed a personal best. When I heard the announcer, I smiled a giant goofy grin. I waved at the crowd as if they were there just for me. Another surge of wild emotion rose in me and I thought I might cry. I’m still coasting on that high. I arrived at one of my top three goals, and what I know now, with empiral data, is that I can hit another one. 

The hills were not too steep. My training was not lacking. I was not weak. I am strong. 

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