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
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.