We all have a narrative on loop.
I’m not good enough.
I can’t do that.
I am better than him/her.
Fill in the blank.
And just like Henry Ford said best, it’s all true. Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
The Training Program Coordinator (i.e. running coach) at Gazelle Sports asked me one question before Sunday’s race. Just one. He didn’t ask me if my legs or feet hurt, and he didn’t ask me if my calves were tight. No need for the rhetorical. He simply asked, “How are you feeling mentally?”
I’ve qualified for the Boston Marathon before. It happened one time and one time only in 2013. I was in the middle of raising a bunch of money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on behalf of a little guy named Greyson. I was also in the middle of raising Olivia – who was less than two weeks away from her sixteenth birthday. Suffice it to say, logging 50 miles a week was the easiest thing I was doing back then.
I remember the qualifying race in Birmingham, Alabama like it was yesterday. The race was on a Sunday morning, so after a brutal work week, I left early Saturday morning and drove 9 hours south by myself. The drive itself was unmemorable, as was the arrival: hotel check-in, packet pick-up, room service, work, HGTV, lights out.
I awoke Sunday morning and muscle memory took over. I drank a cup of coffee, put on my running clothes, laced up my shoes and went outside.
And that was that. I didn’t think about THE NUMBER. I didn’t think about THE PACE. I didn’t think about THE GOAL. I just ran.
For 3 hours and 41 minutes, I had complete and total mental solitude. I had no one telling me where I needed to be, what I needed to do, what I should say, or why I should date their sixth cousin twice removed. It was simply 3 hours and 41 minutes of me looking around at other strangers, smiling, and being thankful for not knowing anyone at all. Not a soul. It was a welcome respite against a backdrop back home of everyone trying to know me. (Well, everyone except my teenage daughter – which made me ache more than words can describe and certainly more than any of those 26.2 miles).
I didn’t want to be known, because I didn’t want to hear the narrative on loop.
In the quiet – in the zone of no expectations – I just ran. And I qualified for Boston.
It took me years (YEARS!) to finally understand why I was so drawn to “THE” Ohio State University after graduating from high school. When I arrived as a seventeen-year-old small-town girl ready to tackle my freshman year and all the bars buildings on High Street, no one knew me. All the things I had been told back in high school no longer mattered.
I was not dumb, I was not ugly, I was not terrible, I was not “supposed” to do anything great. I was just me.
How many times have we made decisions and succumbed to believing we are more or less than we actually are?
How many people have told us – conditioned us – to believe those boxed-in, claustrophobic, life-choking lies? Those hurtful untruths that are nothing more than projected images (narratives on loop) that they are trying to shed from their own self-image and somehow heal themselves in the process?
How many times is enough?
For me, it was A LOTTA times.
I have lived most of my life trying to uphold not only what other people think I should be, but who I think I should be. And since I have 6 zillion thoughts run through my mind daily, that moving target has often left me exhausted and unfulfilled.
(It has also left me sort of…um, “silver-tongued”(?) with my responses when people try to label me or others. I make no apologies for that, or, as an example, for telling a third-party software manufacturer rep today, “I stopped listening after you said ‘women’.”)
There’s no reason to box anyone in. There’s no reason to project any kind of label on anyone. Ever. It’s dumb and it’s limiting.
Kind of like running with a NUMBER in mind.
The fastest I went during the race on Sunday was during one particular stretch when I had to – HAD TO – get around a woman who insisted upon hoisting up her left wrist and checking the pace every 6 steps. Even though she (thankfully) didn’t say any words, her actions were telling me a narrative I had no interest in hearing.
I had no interest in limiting myself.
I had no interest in keeping up with or waiting on anyone else.
I had no interest in anything other than trusting the training I had put in every single day for the last eighteen weeks and enjoying the moment.
And that I did. All 3 hours and 34 minutes and 52 seconds of it.
(Yep…still coming down off that high and can’t wait to book the trip to Boston!)
The only narrative I heard on loop was that of my husband who told me that day, as he does every day, “You can do it!”
He limits me not – especially in my love for him. Limitlessness allows me to shape my own narrative and to tell myself, “I AM doing it!”
I’ve come to realize that if we love and accept well – ourselves and others – the rest just kinda falls into place. Instead of spending time that we’ll never be able to regain trying to fit ridiculous self-imposed (or societally-imposed) molds, maybe we should try breaking them.