While getting ready for this first race of the year (which is also my first 5K race ever), every Tuesday I run a timed 4 miles. I chose this distance because on race day, I know that whatever my personal best over 4miles is, I can run even faster for 3.1.
Racing against yourself is, for me at least, much harder than racing against other people. If you’re in a big race, it’s easy to pick a person in the crowd in front of you, and say “ok, push past that girl.” Or even if you’re in front and getting chased down by those behind you, you get that extra adrenaline kick that makes you push your hardest. But when you’re racing yourself, these goals aren’t tangible, and it becomes a much more mental game.
This week when I started that timed run, after 5 minutes or so I knew it’d be a slow one. I had a million excuses, too – I’m moving in like a week, I’m stressed out, I had been on my feet packing all day, I ran out of my asthma medicine, I hadn’t really eaten much, I was under hydrated, I hadn’t gone to the office so I didn’t get the warm-up that the 1.2mi walk home affords me. But instead of telling myself to pull it together and go faster, I caved, a little – I decided if it was going to be slow, okay, I’m not going to check my time.
I soon realized that this decision was the start down a slippery slope. I was getting lazy about trying to beat the stop lights, I wasn’t pushing at all, I even took a leisurely drinking fountain break. Then I thought I should just quit and walk home since the whole venture was beginning to feel like a failure. Wait, what? What the Hell was I thinking?
“Suck it up and finish it,” I growled at myself. “It might not be a personal best, but you need to finish the course. It’s not that long, and it’s really not that difficult. Just finish it so you know you can do it. Quit now and you’ll quit in a race.” And I pushed on through. I kept telling myself that all I had to do was finish and that I wasn’t going to check my monitor and see how dishearteningly slow I had been, but I couldn’t help glancing at it once I had finished. And you know what? I wasn’t any slower than I had been last week in the rain. If I hadn’t been so lazy during the first half of the run, it might have been a new personal best, and I’m kicking myself for not trying hard enough to see.
I can apply this lesson to the packing and other pre-move chores I’m in the middle of. I move in 9 days and have so, so much to do. It’s so overwhelming that I want to sit down and close my eyes and go on wishing that the clothes will magically launder themselves and the books will magically put themselves into boxes. But I can’t, because they won’t. Just like a timed work-out, preparing for this move is a race against not just the clock, but also my own will power. I have to bear down, accept that it kind of sucks, and push myself to get it done as fast as possible.