You wanna get better at handling uncertainty? Run a long distance race.
My phone just showed me a reminder today:
As if I was going to forget about this one! For the past 5 months, I’ve been training to run the Vancouver Marathon; my first one. For the most part everything has been working out great, I feel strong and I’ve done everything I can to prepare for the event.
However, a few weeks ago, I ran a 32 km race that shook off my confidence. During the last 6 km of that race I experienced what runners call “the wall” for the first time in the 4 years I’ve been running.
The wall feels different to everybody, but it’s some sort of mental block when your body simply stops doing what your brain tells it to do. In my case, the wall felt like an endless loop of negative thoughts like: what are you doing?, you can’t do this!, what the hell were you thinking?, you can’t do this!, this is dumb, you can’t do this!…and on and on for the last 30 minutes of that race.
I finished the race but I felt defeated, I felt horrible, I felt like crying. I run because I love it, I run because I have fun, this new “run through the pain” mindset is not something I enjoy, it felt like I was being abusive to myself. I called my best friend with whom I ran the half marathon last year just to hear her voice, I knew she would understand what I was going through. I had never felt so horrible about myself as I did for those last 30 minutes and I felt like dropping out because I didn’t think I was going to be able to prepare for the full 42km race in the weeks I had left.
I talked to my dad later that week and he said some things that really helped me refocus “You could be the best marathon runner in the world and still never really know how the race is going to end. You could trip, it could rain, your nail can break, someone might need your help and make you stop, and a million other things could happen that might not let you finish the race, so what? Enjoy it! enjoy the view, enjoy the air, enjoy the people. If you need to stop, just stop, walk around and then see if you can keep on going, and if not just be happy you’re there”.
Later that day, I paid my fee to the marathon and fours weeks later here I am:
I’ve prepared for this race for the last 16 weeks - more like the last 4 years- I know what works for me, I know what doesn’t. I’m bringing my music, my peanut butter, sunscreen, and my Mexican flag to keep my family next to me. Now I just have to show up, embrace uncertainty and see what happens.
Wish me luck!