It’s Monday night on a cold January evening as I glance out the window to see dark cloudy skies blanketing the horizon. It sends a shiver down my arms, and my mind reverts back to the same mental battle I’d been fighting all day – how to survive half -marathon Monday. Although the work day is almost done, I’m wishing the clock would slow down just a bit. Typical me, avoiding the inevitable. I look down loathingly at my workout bag on the floor, overflowing with warm winter running clothes, and I can still smell the waft of chlorine from my swim earlier this morning. It makes me ponder how I’m going to muster up the energy for workout number two. This is just how Monday’s go. From the beginning of December to about the middle of April, we run long on Monday evenings with times ranging from 1 hour 15 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes. It’s a slow, social pace designed to build our base fitness at the beginning of the season, yet it’s one of the hardest workouts I face all year. There really isn’t anything all that arduous about running at a casual, social pace for hours on end. All I have to do is put one foot in front of the other and keep on moving. But, every Monday by about 1 in the afternoon, I start to think about it, over think it, and then dread it. Maybe it’s because it’s the first four months of the season, and I feel heavy and out of shape, and the nights are dark, the air is cold, the frost is fierce, the ice is treacherous and the snow is slick. Or maybe it’s because I have a strong love-hate relationship with running, and this is the mental battle I go through before every run.
Long distance running has never been my thing, and it was never meant to be my thing. With broad shoulders and tree trunk-like legs, I was more suited towards soccer, basketball, field hockey, and rowing. No one ever looked at me and said, “gee, you’d make a great runner.” And they were right, I was terrible. But deep down, I always wanted to be a great runner. I would enter road races and compare my times to my peers, and it would always end with the same disappointment and frustration. I could never understand why they were fast and I was slow. I started to blame my body type, and lived by the excuse that I just wasn’t designed to run, and I started to hate it. Yet, hate it or love it, I kept running, and eventually decided that, despite my poor running background, I would sign up for an Ironman, which involved a lot of running.
When I showed up for my first run workout with my training group two years ago, I was the slowest runner by miles, and I was always self-conscious about being that girl who would never fit in with the pack. I questioned myself – a lot, and without really knowing it, I set the expectation for myself that I would always be slow.
After almost two years of consistent training, I have learned a lot about setting expectations and overcoming some tough mental battles. Most of this learning has been achieved by simply doing, but it’s also been from the wise words of my team mates and the inspiration from others. In just the past year, I am slowly coming to understand that my limiting factor isn’t my body, it’s my mind. I’ve had to prove to myself that it doesn’t matter if my legs are skinny, or long, or short, or thick, but it’s what I tell myself I can do. Excuses will never allow me to succeed and it’s only once I’ve let go of my inhibitions that I wil truly see what I can do.
My road to Ironman didn’t start because someone said I would be good at it, I started because I wanted to see what I was made of and what I could do, and a large part of that journey has been learning to overcome mental challenges. While I’m still the slowest runner by miles, I am able to move my tree trunk legs just a little bit faster, and my pace is improving, my lungs aren’t dying, my heart rate is lower, and I’m overcoming a lifelong struggle to accept running into my life. It still remains a love-hate relationship, and I believe half-marathon Mondays will always be a struggle, but I’m working on it and maybe one day, I will truly love to run.