After months and months of hard work I finally ran a pr in the marathon in May :)
Granted, it was a 90 second PR and 7 minutes off of my goal time but a pr is a pr. I had a tough go of it in Eugene, however. It was my 11th marathon and, while no marathon is easy, it challenged me more than any other. I had a series of bathroom breaks (despite my very serious efforts to avoid any that day) and terrible blisters on my right foot from mile 10 to the finish line. I share this not for sympathy but to illustrate the power of our mental strength during a race.

I have worked with mantra repetition as a part of my yoga and meditation practice for a few years. This year I am enrolled in a Level 1 Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training and have started employing mantra from that tradition when I run. It is a helpful tool when trying to maintain cadence and to keep the mind focused. Prior to the race I decided which mantras I would use for each different part of the race, which I broke up into 5 mile increments. I had practiced with these during my training runs with teammate Natalie and Coach John and they had been tremendously helpful. I cannot speak to other people’s tendencies but mine has always been to start the cycle of self doubt during a race/hard training run and back off “just a little bit” instead of pushing through the mental block. These mantras kept my mind active and involved in what I was doing, rather than retreating to thoughts about how things “should be” going. That is a difficult thing. We get to a start line with a pretty good idea of what we are capable of but for any number of reasons we have to be flexible with less than ideal circumstances that may thwart our perfect race day goal. Eugene gave me such an opportunity and I am truly surprised and very grateful that I never took the turn to being negative. I just did what needed to be done and what I was capable of.

I will say that there was a point around mile 12 where I felt the blister on the bottom of my foot tear and I knew it was going to be bad whenever I stopped to look at what was happening to my poor foot. I took a few breaths though and decided that running through the pain was worth it on this day. I had my first DNF in January where circumstances weren’t perfect but also were not anywhere near this challenging and that experience shaped me. On the one hand I am extremely grateful to have stopped that race because I recovered very quickly and jumped into the Eugene training cycle. On the other hand there was a good amount of mental and emotional stress that accompanied the decision for a week or two after. Questions like: Am I talented enough to achieve this goal? Am I just wasting my time? These were hard hard hard questions to ask myself but I am glad I did. I got really clear about 2 things in particular:

1. Whatever natural talent I have will only have a chance to flourish if I keep moving forward. If I give up then I will simply never know.

2. Running has given me community and extended family beyond anything I’ve ever known. The friends I have made in the running groups I’ve been a part of are friends for life, people who I could go to with any trouble or concern who would greet me with kindness and compassion. Coming from a small family (just me and grandma :)) has made these relationships so very special to me. So when I was asking myself: is this just a waste of my time? The answer was not only no, it was absolutely not!

Mental strategy and strength to me are not separate from spiritual strength and purpose. This spring helped remind me that running is much more than achievement or PR’s or awards. It’s about showing myself how strong I can be and having people I love to share that with. As long as I remember that I will have the strength to keep going.