There’s a quote I love, though I don’t know where it’s from, that states “in battle, what counts is what you do when the pain sets in.”
You know it will be there.
How will you face it?
You are tough. You are a FIGHTER.
What goes through your mind when you are about to race?
So much of the challenge is in your head, in the fears you face and the lies your weaker side tries to tell you. Lies like “you can’t do this, you’re not strong enough for this, this is too hard.”
Because it’s not.
You have trained for this.
You have worked for this.
And you are ready to go and lay it all on the line.
What will you do when the pain sets in? It’s simple. You will face it. Because you are no coward, because you have practiced this.
Because what you want is greater than this pain. Because your goals are big enough, your dreams matter enough for you to push through this temporary hurt to stand on the other side of it screaming YES, I have done this. I have earned this.
When the pain sets in, you will be strong, because that is the real challenge. You can run fast- you know this. You can run far- you know this. And as such you should know that when it hurts like hell and you don’t think you can make it another step forward- you can, because you have trained for this.
Before every race I take a blank white sheet of paper, a whole empty page with no rules applied to it.
I find colorful pens or maybe a pencil, whatever feels like the best representation of my mood at the moment, and write what’s going to matter on race day.
It’s different for every race.
I was so nervous before the first half I did as a race in New Orleans. I had never raced anything beyond a 5k and didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what I could do, hadn’t trained for it. So I wrote out the actual physical plan, to go out at a certain pace and hold it, to push when I could and push again when I thought I couldn’t. But I also reminded myself to just enjoy it. To fly, a key word for me, meaning- to relax and find freedom in the release of speed. To get uncomfortable, which was something that scared me.
I raced a 5 miler a week later, and only needed two words.
You find quotes that matter. Last weekend I raced a half I was unprepared for, and stressed about. I happened upon something marathoner Allie Kieffer posted on Instagram from Meb Keflegizhi’s new book that resonated, about “doing your best even when you’re not at your best.” And that became my mantra for the race. Despite knowing I was out of shape and under trained, tired and slow to recover. It reminded me that what counts is giving it your best effort wherever you’re at.
When I raced the Woodlands Marathon, again I detailed the paces I needed to hit. I had written “you can do this. FIGHT FOR IT” over and over because I knew there were demons in my head ready and waiting with pitchforks to push me backwards and convince me I couldn’t. I was ready to fight them. Ready to prove them wrong.
In that race I didn’t make the time I wanted, but there wasn’t a second I ran without holding the things I’d written in my head. I remembered to fight when it mattered and despite cramping up around mile 18, I placed 3rd, earning a podium spot by one second because I fought for every second and it mattered.
For many races I’ve written that phrase I love- what will you do when the pain sets in? Fight for it. I repeat it over and over because I want “fight for it” to be the ingrained response that pops up when it hurts.
Also, I think about the things I love. Because in the end, that’s what we do this for.
I love race mornings. I love rising before dawn , the smell of coffee, pre-race nerves. I love the fire in my belly when it’s time to compete, when someone catches up to me or I approach someone who’s lagging and, stride for stride we push each other. I love the feeling you get when the finish line comes into sight and you give every last ounce of everything you’ve got to throw yourself across it. I love the hugs you give your competitors afterwards, the acknowledgement that we all did this thing together and all came out of it a little bit changed.
I love all of it, and it’s wise to remember that when your heart starts to pound as you lean in and await the starting gun.
I’m sharing this because I think reflection works. I think it’s important to find ways to motivate yourself, to inspire yourself. It’s always great to look for inspiration in others but at the end of the day, you have everything you need within you.
What do you tell yourself before you race?