Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sort of like "Run Forrest!"

In 2001 I learned something about myself. I learned that I’m no good at making big dreams come true without engaging in a bit of trickery. (Or shall I call it “paradigm shifting"?)

Case in point. I decided in 2001 that I wanted to run a marathon. I figured since I’d just turned 40 that it was going to be now or never. I’d always been fairly athletic, but what in world could possibly keep me motivated to do all the things I’d need to do to attain this arguably crazy goal of running more than 26 miles? Hmmm???

So I decided to pick a marathon and pay to enter it. What a commitment! Money! I picked MN where my family was from, and signed up to run the 2001 Twin Cities Marathon. I paid in the spring so I had more than 6 months to prepare. I think I paid something like $80. I was on my way. I bought a book on how to train and all I needed to do now was run. A lot.

Oh dear.

Suddenly that $80 didn’t seem like that much money. If I didn’t do the marathon it wasn’t going to be the end of the world, right?

Maybe if I told a bunch of people I was going to do it I could shame myself into doing it I remember thinking. Well, contrary to my previous popular belief, most people didn’t really care whether I ran a marathon or not.

Oh dear.

So I visualized myself finishing, read copies of Runner Magazine, went to a real sports shoe store and got running shoes and even bought running attire--CoolMax stuff so my abundant sweat could wick properly.

Still nothing.

I felt myself growing more and more disappointed in myself. What did it matter anyway? But I started getting a sense that this lack of commitment on my part represented something larger.

I was 40 years old, had never been in a serious relationship, and lived in a tiny apartment. I just felt I was odd, no matter how many friends I had and no matter how well I’d done in school or career-wise. Somehow I’d always imagined sharing my life with someone, maybe owning a home. That all seemed very, very impossible. And far away. Maybe because I had a problem with commitment.

For some reason this all morphed into a renewed desire to really do this marathon.

I thought about signing up to do train with a group, but that just didn’t feel right to me for this. It was more of a solitary journey for me I guess. I first decided that I trusted the plan laid out in my book I’d bought. I needed to run anywhere from 20-60 minutes 4 out of the seven days of the week. It was all spelled out for me.

So first thing I decided was that all runs were half of that time (at least in my mind). What this meant was that a 40 minute run was really only a 20 minute run somewhere and then I could lope on home (still jogging of course). Not a 40 minute run which seemed really overwhelming.

Somehow psychologically this helped me a lot. And I decided I could plot my runs to hit a goal and go home. I picked the Embassies of Washington. If I needed to do a 30 minute run, I’d tell myself I was going to Ireland (that meant running to the Irish Embassy, touching the gate and running home.) The next time in was Lithuania. Whatever worked. This was quite entertaining as I’d try to learn what I could about those places.

For the really long runs (you know 30 minutes which were really 60 minute) I’d catch the bus outside my apartment and ride all the way up to Silver Spring so I could do a 60 minute run down 16th Street which was slightly downhill. This way I was running home the whole way which I loved.

And the best thing I discovered that really worked for me? I decided to commit, not to running, but to getting up early and putting on my running clothes every single day I was scheduled to run. I did this religiously and was 100% successful at this (I even laid my clothes out the night before). You see, I always reserved the right to get into my running clothes and then lay down and go back to sleep, but I never did. I ran every single time. What the heck? I was already up right?

So…to end my long story. I ran the marathon. My goal was to finish—and I did. (Thank you, thank you). I took me close to six hours and thousands of people beat me, but I was so happy!

I learned that I can do anything I set my mind to as long as I commit to the right things. The little things that truly drive my behavior. I also learned that after you run so far your thighs feel like wet bags of cement for several days. (Wait, first like wet cement and then like dry cement, especially going down stairs.) I also learned that after you run 26 miles and 385 yards, you sweat everything that was ever in you out of yourself and the smell of your clothes is, well, indescribable. I think it's possibly your very essense. I wouldn't recommend trying to bottle and sell this. ;-)

You may wonder what kept me going, lo those many miles. Well, you see, I loved the poster that was made to commemorate the 20th Twin Cities Marathon and I bought it the night before the race. But I told myself I couldn’t frame it and hang it up unless I finished. It’s here in my office now. It’s a good reminder that I can do anything I want. If I can trick myself well enough! –Monica

P.S. In 2002 I bought my first home (after engaging in lots of paradigm shifting) and met the most wonderful new neighbor two doors down. Her name was Susanne. ;-)


1invermillion said...

Awww, well done and well written! I think someone ought to make you one of those motivational inspiration posters. Let me see if I can find the link....

Susanica said...

Thanks Nutella (or is it Strawberry!) -Moniac