On a recent run, a song moved me like never before. The upbeat, gospel tones of Mama Odie from Disney’s The Princess and the Frog sang out:
You got to dig a little deeper,
find out who you are.
You got to dig a little deeper,
it really ain’t that far.
When you find out who you are,
you find out what you need.
Blue skies and sunshine,
As a runner, I needed to listen to Mama Odie, figure out who I am and what I need. How far do I want to take this running hobby of mine? What are my goals and what do I need in order to achieve them?
The challenge is that with every race, I was becoming a different runner and by extension a different person with ever-changing needs. When I first began running, my goal was just to finish. I could barely make it around a track without coughing up a lung. “Run to complete, and not to compete,” is what an accomplished runner told me. Since then I have completed every race distance up to marathon. It was time to evolve.
Do I want to just work for one realistic long-term goal then retire, or do I want to take it further and eventually one day be on par with my friends? A good race for me would be classified as a terrible race for them. My half marathon PR is 2:47. My goal is to break 2:30 and then reevaluate.
Mama Odie would be proud because I figured out who I am as a runner: I am a pessimistic optimist.
Yeah, I know the two contradict each other, but hear me out. For me, nothing in life came easy. I was the bullied kid: the late bloomer with the learning disability. I had teachers tell me I would never amount to anything. To say I was an angry child suffering from low self-esteem would be an understatement. I had more issues than National Geographic. Life experience made me that way.
I will always have to contend with a pessimistic nature, but one loses out when one only sees the negative. I had a lot more positive experiences to offset the negative ones. Whenever the pessimistic feeling rears its ugly head I stop, take a deep breath, and try to identify at least two positives in the situation. Nine times out of ten I feel better instantly. By doing this I have trained myself to become an optimist.
Mr. Pessimist started whispering in my ear the minute I set my goal. Now I need to become Mr. Optimist and prove the other guy wrong.
Since I know who I am, according to Mama Odie, I’ll find out what I need. I found this to be true with a little soul searching.
I need friends along the way.
I seek out people who understand running. Fortunately I have found this with my friends here on Team Shenanigans and my other running team, The Mickey Milers. The people here have become like family in so many ways. They encourage me to keep going, listen when I have my moments of doubt, and tell me I’m full of it when I complain (see #10).
I need accountability.
I am being e-coached by Olympic Athlete Jeff Galloway. He put together a six-month personal training plan for me. Each week I e-mail him to report my progress. He adjusts my training plan based on my reports.
I need Weight Watchers.
This is the only weight management plan that has been effective for me. I need to keep a healthy weight to reach my goal.
I need to say “screw it,” and enjoy the process.
Some days it’s hard to get out the door, but the feeling I get after a workout makes it all worth it. At times running is a revolution filled with anger and frustration. Other times it’s a renaissance filled with renewal and pure joy. At the age of 35, a competitive edge has been sparked in me that I never had before, because I wasn’t an athlete growing up. This sport has changed me for the better. I owe it to myself to give it my all.
Armed with this better understanding of myself, I can work toward my running goals to compete and not just complete. I know who I am. I figured out what I need. It’s time to make my own blue skies and sunshine.
There might be bumps along the road, but I will finish this journey to a PR and then start new ones… guaranteed!