I hated track. It was the most feared day of my middle school year: The 600 yard dash. Curse the 1985 Presidential Physical Fitness Test for doing this to me…again. This was going to be even worse than the flexed arm-hang. I lined up at the start, feeling queasy with fear, knowing how much this would hurt. At 400 yards, I tripped and fell, gravel embedded in my freshly scraped knee (I still have the scar to prove it). Crying, I left the track, my run unfinished. I didn’t run again that year. Then I signed up for track as a freshmen in high school, still wishing for success, but knowing I would struggle. I got placed in the 800m race at my first meet. I came in dead last, a full 200m behind the second-to-dead-last finisher. Later on in the meet, I cleared 3’11” in the high jump. My personal record. After the meet was over, embarrassed, I quit the track team.
Having a few early negative experiences about running left some serious doubt in my mind about my ability as a runner. The ‘I will never be as fast as everybody else’ mantra played over and over in my head when I ran. It’s so funny looking back on it now, because of course I was slow. I never ran! Never did it occur to me to practice, or show up for the next meet and try again. I just told myself I wasn’t as fast as the other kids. Yes, they may have had more natural ability, but that only accounts for part of your success as a runner. Commitment, consistency, and attitude can carry you forward when your ability is weak.
Years later, at age 37, I signed up for track again. This time, I had more miles under my belt, but I still felt self-doubt. It’s funny how that inner voice is so persistent. I was much faster than I had been as a kid, and managed to run a 7:00 mile. But alas, that still left me as one of the slowest people in the class. Well, one of the slowest people who didn’t drop out after the first few weeks of sessions. That was 4 years ago. How many track sessions have I run since then? Zero.
So this year, at age 41, I signed up for track again. I am determined to get over this track fear once and for all. No longer will butterflies be allowed in my stomach. My negative thoughts will be silenced by the ninja meditation skills I have been developing. I will feel gratitude for being able to run, and reframe this as a positive experience once a for all. I will show up. Every week. I will enjoy it. I will probably run a 7:30, but with any luck, my timed mile will be back to 7:00 by the end of the season.
Today was Session 1, and my timed mile was 6:50. I did not even feel like barfing afterwards! Weird. Something must have changed. Maybe it was my ability, but likely the biggest change was in my mind.