Way way back in the long ago days of fall of 2019 I was training for my 6th Houston Marathon and shooting for a BQ time of 3:35. The training was ticking right along, my run volume was high and I was PR-ing short distance races left and right. 2 mile, 5k, 4 mile, 10k, all bright shiny PRs. I was feeling really good about my chances at the marathon. Not overly confident, but believing with the right combo of good weather and little race day magic good things could happen. As it turned out I got hurt in December and never got to run that race. No BQ for me, and unforeseen by anyone at that time, no Boston Marathon at all that year or the next.
Fast forward to the fall of 2020 and I decided to sign up for a 50k, and to run long rather than fast. It’s no secret that I have struggled through the year, as have so many others. I battled multiple injuries as well as the pandemic blues. Before Thanksgiving the Houston Marathon announced it was going virtual, BUT they were awarding legacy status to anyone who ran it, so I decided to sign up and do it as a training run for the Rocky Raccoon 50K. I further decided that I would like to try and run it in under 4 hours. Now, the me from 2014-2019 would have laughed at this goal. OF COURSE I would run under 4 hours, of my 9 marathons I have raced 7 have been under 4. Heck, I ran a 3:52 AFTER biking 112 miles and swimming 2.4 miles. But the me of 2020 believed that this would be a huge stretch.
One Sunday I had my last long run workout of a couple easy warm up miles, then 13 miles at goal MP, then easy cool down for 16 miles total. I set out on a chilly morning feeling apprehensive. I have run almost no miles under a 9 minute pace this training cycle. Did the couple easy and then set out to “Catch the Pace”. Just a little pickup, it’s not a big gap to go from 9:30 to under 9. First “race pace” mile, 9:20. Crap. I felt like I had picked it up, but that was slower than my second warm up mile! Maybe I won’t be able to do this. But I picked it up a little more, next mile 8:53, 8;55, 8:48, and by about mile 6 I started to hit my stride. By the end of the 13 I had done them all between 8:37 and 8:58, even with the last 5 being straight into a headwind.
As I was running my cool down mile back to my car, hardly believing I had achieved the goal, I had a stark realization. Basically at some point over the last year I had gone from believing I was a person who was capable of doing things, who COULD to believing I was a person who COULD NOT. I started believing my own bullshit. Pardon my language. I was too old. I was too heavy. I wasn’t fit. There was something wrong with me. My heart rate was always too high. I was not capable. I went from the person who believes anything is possible (with effort and hard work) to nothing is possible no matter how hard you work. Your body is capable of pretty much anything, it’s your mind you need to train. And I had not trained my mind in a very long time.
What are YOU telling yourself? Are you believing your own BS or are you telling yourself that you are capable? That you CAN? The words we say both in our own head and out loud matter. You repeat a lie enough times and it starts to sound like the truth. I constantly tell my athletes (and my kids) that they need to believe in themselves as much as I believe in them. Time to start taking my own advice. Be mindful of your inner dialogue, and what that voice is feeding you. It matters so much more than you realize. Even telling yourself “I can do this” when you don’t quite fully believe it is the first step to making it real. Say it out loud. Say it to your friends. When someone says to you “You can do this!!” accept that. Confidence in yourself and your abilities is not bragging, it’s not being full of yourself, it’s just believing that you CAN. You are capable of so much more than you even know. I believe in you and now I need you to believe in yourself!
Coach Jen ran the 2021 Houston Virtual Marathon in 3:56:54.