Anyone who has ever gotten uncomfortable during a run can testify to the fact that running is a mental sport. Yes, physical strength and endurance are important factors but if your mental game is off, a single minute can feel like forever.
For the past few weeks, I've been struggling to push through my own doubts, self imposed limits, and discomfort. I've been working tirelessly to shave 27 minutes off my personal best marathon time so that I can qualify for the Boston Marathon this year at the Chicago Marathon. I knew that trying to BQ wasn't going to be easy but I didn't realize just how difficult and painful it was going to be.
So enters Dr. Roberts Corb, known to us as Dr. Bob, a licensed Psychologist who specializes in Sports. Not only is Dr. Bob an incredible Sports Psychologist but he's the former director of UCLA's Sports Psychology program. Dr. Bob explained to me that the issue isn't that I'm uncomfortable or pushing through pain. Pain and discomfort are to be expected, the issue is that I'm suffering which isn't going to help me BQ. He went on to talk about the concept of Acceptance Theory and how accepting and knowing that even though it isn't going to be comfortable, that it's up to me to figure out how to enjoy my training runs even when it hurts.
Next we talked about the goal to BQ itself. Focusing only on my time goal will make me miserable and resentful. I need to enjoy the journey and what I can control today. By embracing my training and by going into every run with a "I'm not sure I can do this but I'm sure as hell going to try" attitude, I won't just take the pressure of being perfect or performing a certain way off of myself, it will ultimately help me enjoy the journey and appreciate the work I'm doing right now.
Which leads me to something I've been working incredibly hard on, being present. I've never actually had to deal with discomfort. When I run marathons, I spend most of my time distracted and entertaining myself. The final 6 miles of the 2014 New York City Marathon was the first time I buckled down, paid attention, put my phone away, and ran as fast as I could. It was hard and it was painful, but by doing so, I finally ran a sub 4 hour marathon. It's pretty incredible how quickly I forgot just how badly those final 6 miles hurt. But every painful step was worth it because the accomplishment meant so much to me. The pay off and the sense of accomplishment was incredible and even though it hurt like hell and I didn't think I could do it, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
I don't know if I'm going to BQ during the Boston Marathon. If I'm being honest, a huge part of me still doesn't think I'm going to do it. I told Dr. Bob that I was feeling a lot of pressure and he told me that I needed to trust my Coach Josh Maio and the process. I can't get ahead of myself. I know this. The entire point of a training plan is that run by run, step by step, you gradually build the strength, both mentally and physically, to be able to show up on race day, ready to rock. The work I've done with Josh over the past 3 months, and my resulting times speak for themselves. Now it's my turn to see them, believe them, and accept that everything that will happen, already has.
And last but not least, I need to want to do this. No one forced me to start running. No one forced me to run my first half marathon. No one forced me to want to try to BQ, they were all my choices. Everything about running has been difficult for me. From the first time I ran my first mile to the first time (and only time) I broke 4 hours in a marathon, they were all painful and hard. And yet here I am, excited about getting uncomfortable and chasing impossible goals! Even though it's hard, I love doing this because it reminds me that I'm not a quitter and that I'm stronger than I give myself credit for. Dr. Bob encouraged me to focus on my positive self talk and to take "have to" out of my vocabulary.
And that's just the tip of the ice berg. I cannot say how grateful I am for Dr. Bob's help. Running a BQ takes a village and without Josh, Mike, Dr. Bob, it wouldn't be possible. We're stronger together and having this team makes every painful step infinitely easier. We'll check back in with Dr. Bob in a few weeks. He's asked me to start journaling so that he can find patterns between the good and not so great moments in my training so the next time we meet, we'll get to look into what's going on during my runs.
Now I just need to accept that the next few weeks are going to hurt. Running a Boston Qualifying time is challenging and painful but it's up to me whether I suffer. It doesn't matter if you're working towards your first 5K or if you're trying to BQ like me, we're all working through the exact same stuff. Keep chasing your goals. There's no giving up!
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Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.