Fear either inspires or debilitates us
Fear dictates our actions and most of the time, our unconscious inaction/reaction. Fear could have crippled me from going after my goals, but instead it pushes me to face them head on. Some would say that is courageous, but for me every time I conquer a fear, it liberates and intensifies the belief in myself.
The Back Story
I am a natural short distance runner. At least that’s what I told myself, because I was good at it. At the age of 11, I was of of the top 100 meter runner for my track team at Cornwall College in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I remember winning medals upon medals for being speedy. Then one track meet, I filled in for a long distance runner due to some absences and an injury.
I ran the 4×4 relay for the first time in my life, and with only 100 meters to go, the same 100 meter I’ve ran a thousand times, my entire lower body went through muscle spasms that caused me to collapse to the track in the agony of pain. Normally I would finish my short distance races and then listen for the other runners to finish after me, but that day I watched the other runners zoom pass me as I tried to peel myself off the track to complete the race. Due to that horrific, embarrassing experience, I labeled myself as someone that would never be a long distance runner, and I believed that my entire life up until this past weekend.
Breaking My Own Label
I can boldly declare that I conquered this fear/label to redeem myself after 26 years by running the Buffalo Marathon on May 26th 2019. I did it as a celebration of my birthday and as proof that not even the labels I place on my self are true. It proved that I can do anything I train and/or prepare for. A marathon is quite to monster to stand up to, but I was brave.
If you are not familiar with how long a marathon is, it is 26.2 miles. When I explained how long that was last Tuesday during an open circle discussing what fear each person wanted to overcome, Crystal Frye commented comparatively by saying, “26.2 miles is a long drive.”
She is correct; It is a distance in which you cannot fake or pretend to run. So once I decided to do it, no matter how much feared played apart in my decision, I knew I had to take it seriously.
When I shared that I wanted to run a Marathon, a few friends thought I was crazy. They gave me the look. The look that says you go ahead, I want no parts of that. Others that do run told me to run the half, because the full may be too much for a first timer. Which may have had some truth to it, but they had never ran a marathon before so they were speaking from a limited experience and were unintentionally projecting their fears on to what I wanted to accomplish. So I had to find other sources of inspiration.
Building my Belief
I trained for eight months. A couple months included training for the Turkey Trot which is an 8K. Susie and I ran every now and then to train for it. We completed it at about a 10 minute pace. After we completed that race, we talked about running a Marathon and what it would be like to train for it. We went back and forth with the idea until we decided to go through with in December. We still didn’t buy the tickets till the beginning of February. Up until then, we were training but not as hard as we should.
Stepping Up The Training
After we made the purchase, I switched gears. There was no more room to play with the idea, because I knew what was at steak. I started doing research, planning my miles per week, scheduling long runs, short runs, recovery runs, planning what food to eat, planning my active recovery off days, how I would treat my days I teach classes, daily calisthenics, daily stretching, what my rest schedule would be, scheduling weekly spin classes, yoga classes, additional stretch sessions, post run icing sessions, and all the things I needed to get my body ready for the stress 26.2 miles brings.
Going Past My Belief Limitation
Above all the training, I knew had to believe that I could run a Marathon. I spent months watching training videos from Marathon runners on YouTube, but if there is one thing I learned over my years as a adult is that if your limitation is a Marathon, then it becomes your mountain top, and you prepare with that mountain top in mind which, in turn, limits your potential. Therefore, I started researching Ultra Marathons. I was blown away that someone could run 100 miles in 36 hours. Now that takes grit and a whole new level of training. So I compared the training regiment of a Marathon runner and an ultra Marathon runner. I realized the way they spoke about limitations were different. Their discipline to train was different. The way they spoke about life was different. That created a major shift in my goal setting for training, and it made my belief in my self even stronger using the concepts of a Ultra Marathon Runner instead of a Marathon runner.
The Week Before the Marathon
Fast forward to the week before race day. I reached some amazing peaks during my training. However, due to so much activity, the last month of my training was not as much as I would like. I was sick for about 3 weeks, and then when I finally started to feel better, there was only 11 days left till the race.
I was extremely nervous at this point, and my fear of getting injured or worse, collapsing, started to set in. So I did what I always do when I start to distract or overwhelm myself from achieving my goals. I began training again. Calisthenics during the mornings and running during the evenings after choreographing and/or cooking during the day. Most of all, it reminded of who I am and I started to regain the trust in all the work I put in the previous 4 months. Finally, I remembered that I ran 18 miles during the peak of my training. That was something I had never done before. So if anything, I knew that I could get through 18 miles with no issues.
The Failure that Could Have made me Not Run the Marathon
The Sunday before the race, I set out to run 20 miles. It started out as a cool day which fooled me. I decide to run between 1pm and 5pm. The temperature jumped from 70 degrees to almost 90 degrees during my run. At mile 7, I realized I had never felt this hot in my life, and as I got to mile 9, I knew I had to stop soon to be safe. I got to mile 10 and stopped running and walked about another 1/4 of mile to make sure it wasn’t due to a lack of training. Then I decided to call my friend Susie to come and get me. As much as I wanted to run 20 miles the week before the race, I knew staying alive was more important.
The Last Week Before The Day Of
I rested from additional training that week but still did things that kept me sharp for the Marathon. On the evening before the Marathon I had a 1.5 hour ballroom lesson scheduled with two couples. After I completed the lesson, we got some additional things for the race and completed our final preparation for the race the next morning. Unfortunately, due to adrenaline and anticipation of the race, I did not fall asleep till 3:30am, and my alarm was set to wake me up at 4:45am. So I got 1 hour and 15 minutes of sleep.
I woke up from my alarm on race day with pure adrenaline. I told myself that I got enough sleep, and I was ready to get through this race. We got ready and set out to downtown Buffalo to finish what we signed up for.
Race Day And The First 13.1 Miles
The race started at exactly 6:30am. The first two miles are always the worst and on race day it was no different. My mind was running a million miles a minute, I was trying to catch my rhythm, I was monitoring my breathing, and listening close to my body. I started to feel like myself by mile 3.
I ran the next 10.1 miles with ease but you quickly realized that the real race starts after the half marathon or 13.1 miles is completed. You hear the celebration of those completing the half marathon while you are re-directed to the adjacent street to start the completion of the full marathon.
The Noticeable Difference In The Second Half Of The Race
My experience was completely different for the final 13.1 miles. During the half Marathon, you were running with so many people side by side. After the half Marathon, it was you and a few others far ahead of you or behind you. The streets were now narrowed by orange cones, cars could now drive by, the sun was now up, it was warmer, more people were walking rather than running, and the support on the side of the routes were less and far in between. That’s when I realized that this was a different race, but because I trained for it, I had the mindset that nothing would stop me from completing the race.
I kept my pace consistent until about mile 17. I noticed I started to slow down a bit, but I was convinced that I was still good. I ran 2 more miles to get to mile 19 when the incline in the roads changed, and my feet felt like they were lava. At that point, I decided to walk the inclines and run the flats. A plan that worked for the next 6 miles.
The Calvary And Emotional Finish
To my surprise, Susie waited and joined me on mile 23.5 to help me finish the race. At that point I was overwhelmed with emotion, because I had been struggling with my feet for more than a few miles and was asking God for some divine inspiration. With her help, I walked a little faster, ran a little more and finally ran the last 0.6 miles of the race to complete my first Marathon ever.
My Reflection on the Race as it Compares to Life
This experience has taught me so many valuable life lessons. The first lesson is that we can all do anything we set our mind to. No matter how far fetched it seems, there is always a way if you are willing to do the work. The second lesson is our mind and bodies are remarkable, resilient entities when you feed them the right nutrients and gradually train then past your existing limitations. The third lesson is that running a Marathon is similar to life. When you make a decision to do something that not many has done or may seem crazy, you have to be mentally tough to not give up. The support will not be as plenty, the roads will be narrower, others will give up, others will convince you to slow down, but the main thing to do is to remember the goal you set out to achieve, listen to inner warrior, and fight through all the negativity that may come from the outside or the inside to finish for you. Most importantly, if you are a friend, don’t wait for your friend to get to the finish line; Find them during the struggle and encourage them through your actions to complete what they set out to do. That’s what the Buffalo Marathon has taught me, and I have a medal now that proves that I can do anything including dispelling my own label that I once placed on my abilities.