Mind Over Fear

I am training for the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon on November 5th. I trained for the same race last year but was sidelined about 6 weeks beforehand for an IT band injury.

This year, I’ve done everything right. I’ve been diligently doing strength work with a trainer for six months. I’ve had a very slow and steady build-up in mileage. Tart cherry juice. Rolling. Stretching. Turmeric. Massage. Beet green smoothies. Positive affirmations. More rolling.

It’s essentially become a part-time job.

So, you will understand why I had a meltdown a couple of weeks ago when that pesky IT Band started to flare up (this time on the left leg). It just so happened that this flare-up occurred after I ran 15 miles, which was the longest run that I achieved last year. Coincidence?

This year, though, I knew the ropes. I backed off training, ramped up all the stretching/rolling/massage, etc. Turns out that not running is harder than running.

But, after a couple of weeks, I was feeling better. Mild stiffness, but nothing that was changing my form.

I started to feel optimistic that I could resume training and started to look ahead to this past weekend’s 16-mile run.

16 miles.

The farthest I’ve ever run.

2.9 miles more than a half-marathon.

10 miles less than a full marathon.

I did the math over and over. I ran the route in my mind. My fear became a meditation.

The thing about distance running is that it helps to strip away every distraction, every bit of ego and expectation, so that you are left with no choice but to meet yourself on the road. That’s what makes it beautiful; more than exercise.

After nearly three hours of running (I’m slow), I found that all my fears and worries were just that. I made it through.

As I started the last mile, I was overcome by a strange euphoria. I started to cry tears that were a mix of joy, pain, and exhilaration.

I felt completely and utterly alive.

I must have looked insane.

When I think about why I want to run this race, it comes back again and again to overcoming my own fear of failure. I can suffer through the temporary pain. I can prepare my body. But, do I really have the mental toughness?

This Saturday, I succeeded in running this race, no matter what happens in November. I am not afraid anymore.

Imposter Syndrome

I haven’t written anything in a while.

I had a conversation a couple of months ago about the blog that spooked me. I started to question why I should write anything down. What particular wisdom do I have to share? Why would anyone care what I have to say?

Imposter syndrome.

I’ve come up against this in practically every meaningful pursuit of my life so far. Every job. Parenting. Marriage. Running.

I’m generally a positive person with a strong sense of myself. I tend to start off feeling confident, enthusiastic, and energetic. But then some bit of doubt creeps in. Someone challenges me. Or something doesn’t go as planned. I start to think, you know what, I’m not cut out for this. I don’t even know how I got here. I don’t have the skills/experience/talent/passion/commitment/patience.

Ultimately, I know that this line of thinking is a pretty lame attempts at preserving my fragile ego. If I don’t try, I can’t fail. If I don’t risk myself, I won’t get hurt.

It’s easy to be a cynic. To sit on the sidelines and cast aspersions. To be a pundit.

It’s much harder and scarier to try and do something.

And, something doesn’t have to be everything. Extremes are easy to pursue but much harder to sustain. I sometimes pursue the most extreme version of things in order to give myself a rationale exit strategy. Well, of course that wasn’t sustainable. I had to quit!

It’s not enough to recognize imposter syndrome for what it is. I’ve known the concept for years. I’ve been able to name it when I feel it. What I haven’t been able to do is to name the fear and the doubt for what it is – an excuse for me to avoid failure and shame.

Instead of interpreting those fearful moments as a sign that I’m too far out on a limb, I am going to try understanding them as the chance to build my reservoir of faith and resolve.

There is a song from the Indigo Girls that I love called Hammer And A Nail. My favorite line is this:

“The sweetest part is acting after making a decision.”

Here’s to living in that sweetness.