Earlier today, in an attempt to write a paper for one of my summer classes (which did get finished, mom!) I was procrastinating, and stumbled on a quote from Muhammad Ali. (I'm not sure how I got from researching New York housing issues to Muhammad Ali, but such is the nature of the procrastinatory beast.) It said: "he who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life." If you've been following this blog, you'll know two things about me: 1) I am definitely not a risk-taker, and 2) I have a deep-seated fear of failure.
In my previous post, I talked a little bit about my struggles getting back on track after a failure, or a setback. When I signed up for the marathon, my original goal was to run this thing in under 6 hours. That breaks down to about a 13 1/2 minute mile...for many, many miles. That's still my goal, but I've had so many doubts creeping into my head about whether I can make it. This was something that plagued me all through my college swimming career - I would set goals for myself, but always allow a rabbit-hole for times like this when doubts crept in. This always gave me an excuse for not ultimately achieving what I had set out to do. This self-sabotage, upon recent reflection, definitely stems back to my disappointment in high school. But just because you know the problem is there doesn't mean it's easily fixed. I found myself in that quandary today, about 15 minutes into my 2 mile timed run. My goal for the run was to do two miles under 24 minutes (faster than a 12 minute mile). About 15 minutes into it, I was gassed. This week I've stepped up my training a little bit and my legs were feeling it. I was also getting a little pinch in my left knee, so I slowed to a walk to catch my breath. The first thought that came into my head was "well might as well walk the rest of it, since I'm not going to make it under 24 minutes anyway." But about a minute later, once I had gotten sufficient oxygen back to my brain, I realized how ridiculous that was. Just because I am not performing at 100% doesn't mean I can't push myself to try to get to 90% or 85%....and so I started back up with a 2 minute run/1 minute walk. I shortened my stride a tiny bit, and that adjustment got my knee back into alignment. Now, I was pain free and once again moving forward. After the first two minutes, I slowed to take my walk break and thought to myself, "ok, I can do one more of those," and after that one, "push it strong to the finish." And what do you know, I made it in at 23:58 - even with walk breaks - right where I wanted to be. Even the little victories are sweet.
Does that mean I'll be able to make my marathon goal now? No. But it does mean that I'm finding a little more balance between the push of the challenge, and some unknown fear that's holding me back.
Going after a goal is scary. You're putting yourself out there for the world to measure your actions against your words, and if you fall short, now what? Do you get back up and keep going, or do you look back and think of all the times you cut corners so that you could prepare yourself for an inevitable letdown? I know I'd like to think that I get up and keep going, but in reality, I've been scared of taking on a challenge like this for many, many years. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to silence the nagging thoughts in your head and listen only to the fire in your gut that tells you to keep going.
And I still don't have the magic answer that will get me to the finish line in Central park, or get me through my next four months of training. But I have a fire in my gut - even if it's only a few glowing embers right now - and when you want fire, that's where you start.
[reposted from my TNT blog 7/14/11]