On Sunday, January 23rd, I was supposed to run the Boston Prep 16 Miler Road Race in Derry, NH. This is a "moderately challenging" course that I've enjoyed (?) running since 2007. It's like a tradition. I wouldn't dream of missing it. I sign up for it every year in advance for fear it'll be sold out and I'll be S.O.L.
This year was no different, save one exception.
Seriously??? Who are you and what have you done with Cyndi? Skipping a pivotal race in your Boston Marathon Preparation is just, well, it's just lazy! And irresponsible!!!
Why did I skip it?
I hadn't slept well the night before, which I normally don't before marathons and/or biggish type races. I could have gone out there and gotten through it, though. Lord knows I've run marathons on inadequate sleep, let alone a 16 miler. The temps were ridiculously cold, which they normally are in January, but we're talking zero temps at the start, only warming up to single digits by the time we hit the finish line. Even that didn't really deter me. I have plenty of layers and have experience running in extreme cold and heat.
You know why I didn't go?
Because I just didn't feel like it.
That's right, friends. I just didn't wanna. In my estimation, I wasn't quite "ready" to race. My running at the tail end of 2010 was so sporadic and thus, I don't feel I am where I need to be for this particular event. And, to be brutally honest, I didn't want to put myself through the stress of my own expectations. You see, I'm cognizant of the fact that I still have a teeny, weeny, itty, bitty, tendency to care about what others think of my race times. I'm making great strides towards being secure and confident in my abilities, but, on that Sunday morning, the thought of going out there in an attempt to match or better my 2010 time just made me cringe. It woke me out of a sound sleep at 1 a.m. and beat me into submission. I was even having dreams about oversleeping, missing the race, going to the wrong place, etc. When the time came to get up, I shut off my alarm and sent my pal, Ted, a text to let him know I wouldn't be making it to the lovely town of Derry that morning.
Instead of spending 2-2.5 hours in single digit temps, I drove over to the gym around 11 a.m. and spent about 2 hours on the treadmill.
And I didn't care.
I didn't care what that potentially did to my "real runner" status. As I ran on that machine with my tunes, I heard all of the things that other runners have said to me or other people in the past. Statements such as:
Real runners don't run on the treadmill. Ever.
Real runners don't run with an iPod or headphones. This makes you a fraud.
Real runners definitely don't run on a treadmill while WEARING an iPod.
I can get really pissed off at the voices. Don't they have anyone other than me they can torment???
But, this time, I appreciated them. They made me realize that I didn't have to define myself by or listen to any of it. Furthermore, what I do and how I train is no one's business but my own. I'll run how, when and where I want to. What does it matter what other people think and say? This is my life. Not theirs.
Who am I doing this for, anyway? (Hint: any answer other than "myself" is the wrong one.)
Later that day, I talked to my pal, Ted, who ran the race (in a time of sub 2 hours, which is a PR for him as well as a stellar performance) and shared some of these concerns with him. As he always does, he listened, offered me great insight and supported me. He encouraged me to be kind to myself and follow my intuition as well as relax and let go of all this should have, could have, would have stuff. He reminded me to trust my training, the universe and myself.
Since then, I feel like a big weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I realize my choice to stay in bed that day and skip the race was my rebellion against these flawed premises and cognitive distortions. It was the ultimate act of defiance; a big old f**k you to the voices both inside and outside of my head. Who cares? At the end of the day, who really gives a @#*%? This is something I do for fun and health. This is not going to turn into something stressful.
I refuse to put myself through the mental gymnastics anymore. I just simply won't allow it.
It's time for this girl to march, or shall I say "run", to the beat of my own drummer. To live the way I want to live, to do what I want to do, to race when I feel like racing and run when and how I want to run.
Because this isn't about the "elite runner", it's perceived "standard" or the voices.
This is about ME.
It's all about me.
"It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else's eyes."
-- Sally Field
"We probably wouldn't worry about what people think of us if we could know how seldom they do."
-- Olin Miller