Winning Your Own Race

IIMG_6799t’s March 22, 2015. I cross the finish line of my very first full marathon. I’m overwhelmed with joy, and I feel an amazing sense of pride. No more than 45 minutes after I’ve crossed the finish line, a completely different thought comes to mind. There were a lot of really fast runners in that race. A lot of people I know finished in less than four hours. I ran too slow. I’m a personal trainer. I’m supposed to be good at these things. Why didn’t I run this faster?

WHAT! I had just finished a MARATHON. I ran 26.2 miles. I literally trained through blood, sweat, tears, ice, snow and torrential downpour. Why was I so quick to belittle my enormous achievement? I had allowed myself no more than 45 minutes of feeling proud before I started comparing myself to other people. I would never do that to one of my friends, so why was I doing that to myself?

The more I talk with friends, clients and fellow runners, the more I realize that I’m not alone in this. It’s an epidemic among all of us, and it doesn’t stop at just comparing finish times. There’s even a mean voice in our heads that sometimes tells us that we don’t “look” like runners. You don’t need the body of an Olympic athlete to finish a long distance race. In fact, I’ve seen every type of body cross the finish line. You know who looks like a runner? Anyone who is putting one foot in front of the other with the goal of finishing the race.

I’m not saying that we should settle for something that isn’t our best, or that we should only give 50% then tell ourselves it’s good enough. We should recognize our goals and give it all we’ve got, but at the end of the day you’re the only one who can decide that you’re worth celebrating.

If you registered for a long distance race, you’ve made an incredible commitment to yourself. Maybe you’ve decided to do something that scares you. Maybe this is a big step you’ve made towards changing your life and living healthy. Maybe you have to wake up at 5AM to get your run in before work, or maybe you have to run at 10PM after your kids have gone to sleep. THAT IS AMAZING. YOU ARE AMAZING. I don’t care what you looked like or how fast you ran. Training for a long distance race involves constantly prioritizing your goals and your health. You have to make the decision again and again to lace up your shoes and hit the road. Every single time you make that decision there should be celebratory fireworks going off in your head.

Here are a few strategies I’ve been using to help me feel motivated, proud and awesome about my running.

  1. Set specific and achievable goals: It’s silly to feel upset about not running “fast enough” when you didn’t even have a specific pace goal in mind in the first place. Create a goal that is ambitious but achievable and make an action plan.
  2. Delete negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts: Every time you catch yourself saying something negative, literally visualize a giant red X over the words. Replace it with something positive like “I run fast and strong!”
  3. Remember how far you have come: There was a time when running 2 miles was challenging. Now I can run 26.2 miles. I put in a lot of work to get there, and that makes me proud.
  4. Be reasonable about your disappointment: So you made a goal and you didn’t quite get there. It’s OK to feel disappointed, but don’t obsess over it. Use that disappointment as a form of motivation for the next race, not as a way to bring yourself down.
  5. Create a mantra: Mine is based on one of my favorite Deepak Chopra meditations. I let it play over and over again in my head when I doubt myself as a runner or anywhere else in my life. “I am unlimited strength, I am blissful happiness, I am remarkable speed, I am exquisite well being, I am complete harmony, I am inner peace.” It’s pretty deep. It makes me feel good!

I’ll leave you with this awesome Nike commercial that gave me goose bumps. Finishing last doesn’t make you any less of a runner. All you have to do to be a runner is run.


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