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.