The St. George Marathon this year was an interesting race for me. I started the race feeling very optimistic about my run. In fact the first 7 miles of my race were absolutely perfect. My legs felt great, I found a good pace and rhythm and I was just enjoying the run.
Even when I was approaching Veyo Hill I felt great. So great I even had the thought … “hmmm … maybe I should keep running up Veyo?” But, knowing that my plan all along was to walk up Veyo Hill and the hill at mile 19, I forced myself to stick to it, because I didn’t want to tank at mile 20.
HA. Joke was on me.
Walking up Veyo was no problem. I made sure to lazily walk up, I sorta mall walked up the beast. The only thing missing to make it a true mall walk was a sweatband and 2lbs. weights in each arm.
But, then something happened. After the hill ended the course leveled out a bit (there’s still somewhat of a hill after Veyo) I started to run and with each step my calves would seize up and cramp. It was one of the most frustrating things I had to deal with as a runner. Especially after starting my run so well and sticking to my race plan.
Despite my repeated efforts to get going, the cramps would come back every time I tried to run. I couldn’t figure out why. I didn’t start the race in blazing speed, I ate enough food for breakfast and I was fueling at each aid station. So why were my calves doing this?
For five miles I dealt with this. At each aid station I’d get rubbed down with Icy Hot and then take a cup of Gatorade for two cups of water (keeps the stomach cramps away) along with some fruit, granola bar or candy. But, nothing really changed.
Around this point I was really starting to worry about not finishing the race. I didn’t want to be picked up by the saggin’ wagon. I wanted to finish the race. I wanted to finish strong. But, I wasn’t in a good place.
While I was running all I could think of were these negative thoughts. I started getting upset about the dumbest things. I was upset thinking I did go out too fast. I was upset about mall walking up Veyo Hill. I was upset about the sweet potato I ate for breakfast. Heck, I was even upset about the “HAPPY” runners passing me.
I really wasn’t in a good place, I knew I needed to change that. It wasn’t going to change once my calves stopped cramping. It had to start there with me.
I knew that my mood affected the rest of my body. I learned that years ago when I first put my gym shorts on at 400+lbs. If I was going to ever get past my cramping calves it would have to start with my cramping and distorted mind. I had to think positive.
So at the mile 13 aid station I set out to do that. I asked the volunteer rubbing Icy Hot to massage my calves as hard as he could. I even made a point to joke around a little bit about the situation to lighten not just their moods, but my own.
I then loaded myself up with electrolytes and caffeine. The combination of both for me is a mind-alternating combination. And, then I focused on my music. Instead of leaving my playlist up to the randomness of shuffle, I found the happiest song I could find and then repeated it non-stop.
I know that for most everyone this song has ran its’ course (all puns intended on that one folks), myself included. But, for some reason in that moment it was exactly what I needed to mentally change my run.
So, I ran with it (again, more intended puns) for over 5 miles … on loop … JUST. THAT. ONE. SONG.
And, it took me until mile 18 to finally say … okay that’s enough and move onto something else. It had served it’s purpose. Once I mentally decided to change my way of thinking my body followed.
The cramps were as intense and the extra electrolytes and caffeine are sure to thank for that change, so I picked up the pace. I wasn’t walking any more, just running it out and enjoying the scenery. I ran down Snow Canyon and up Ledges at mile 19 and then proceeded to run the rolling hills that led towards St. George.
I had successfully rebounded from what could have potentially been a horrible experience. I wasn’t picked up by the saggin’ wagon and I finished. Granted I walked the last 2.5 miles after blistering up pretty bad, but that didn’t bug me much knowing what I had overcome previously in my race.
But, this past week I’ve been thinking a lot about what I learned from my marathon. Sure the end result wasn’t great. My time was horrendous and my feet and I are not on speaking terms. So why do I feel so great about such a horrible race? It feels strange?
I’ve come to a couple of conclusions. One, the mere fact that I was able to change my mood mid-race spoke volumes about my run. How often do we do this in life? Usually when our mind has been made up we often just ride it out. A slight attitude adjustment can make many tasks or situations in life … MUCH … better and tolerable. My mother is the master at this trick. When she fought cancer, she did so with grit, determination and a big smile.
Attitude has SO much to do with the outcome of our circumstances.
And, secondly, 26.2 miles is still 26.2 miles no matter WHEN you cross the finish line. You’ve got to acknowledge the accomplishment and feat. Sometimes I forget where I have come from and get caught up in where I think I should be. The fact that I’ve overcome so much with my weight, trained hard and just finished my 7th marathon should be some reason to feel good about myself. Which, I do.
I am grateful for the experience. Running is a great teacher, especially when it comes to dealing with setbacks and obstacles. I think that’s why you find so many happy runners. It’s not that they are oblivious to the world around them … it’s that they know there are some things you can’t control, obstacles are inevitable and you’ve got to prepare for them because more than likely … they won’t be the downfall of you.
Of course unless you let them be.
And, that’s all up to you.