Tuesday, April 3, 2012


You pretended the snooze button didn't exist. You dragged your butt out of bed while others slept. While others ate their pancakes. You had a feast of protein, glucose, and electrolytes. You double-knotted. You left the porch light on and locked the door behind you. You ran. 5Ks, 10Ks, 26.2 miles. Some days more, some days less. You rewarded a long run with a short run. And a short run with a long run. Rain tried to slow you. Sun tried to microwave you. Snow made you feel like a warrior. You cramped. You bonked. You paid no mind to comfort. On weekends. On holidays. You made excuses to keep going. Questioned yourself. Played mind games. Put your heart before your knees. Listened to your breathing. Sweat sunscreen into your eyes. Worked on your farmer's tan. You hit the wall. You went through it. You decided to be a man about it. You decided to be a woman about it. Finished what you started. Proved what you were made of. Just keep putting mile after mile on your internal odometer. 
-Nike ad

That's an old ad, but I cherish it among my pile of saved running ads. Sometimes before races I leaf through them to get the motivational juices flowing. Just reading them reminds me of all the work I've put in, all the miles, sacrificed sleep, weather woes, endless bagels. My pile of ads reminds me not to shy away from the pain, that it will be hard, and leave you gassed. That the best workouts and races take the most from you, but they give the most back. 

People always ask me what I think about when I'm running. On any given run, that varies a lot. But in a race, I think exclusively about the race. About the pace, the people around me, the scenery, the next water stop/GU stop/place I'll see Team Teal. And when the inevitable "going gets tough" I leaf through my internal store of motivational tidbits. Songs can be incredible distracters and motivators. And in my opinion, hands down, the best running song is Eminem's "Lose Yourself." Just look at the lyrics:

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, Mom's spaghetti.

If that doesn't sound like carbo-loading gone terribly wrong, I don't know what it is. 
Just kidding. Seriously, the relevant lyrics:

If you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow 
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime

If you focus on those words (and the beat) while struggling running, you are almost guaranteed to get back into it. I remember singing those lyrics to myself while running my first Boston. I had just crested Heartbreak and was struggling. Then those lyrics came in my mind. One shot, one opportunity. The excitement of Boston wasn't lost on me, this was my one opportunity. Yea, maybe I run a marathon every six months so this may be a little overstated, but with all the time and energy I invest, I don't want to let it slip at the critical moment. And the thought "this is the last time I ever do this to myself" (insert curse words as needed) is at the forefront of your mind in the middle of a marathon, so this being the last opportunity seems relevant. It's your last one, better go out with a bang. (Don't worry, shortly after you finish you'll change your mind. Another favorite Nike ad that ran the day after the NYC Marathon: "Today you feel like you'll never run a marathon again. See you next year.")

Besides Eminem, my other running mantra is "this is for the record books." I realize, obviously, that my name will never be in any real record book. But what I mean is that whatever I do on that day will be written forever in my log book, online results, runnerteal.com, etc. I won't be able to go back and fix it. I can try to qualify a poor performance, add an asterisk to explain wind or hills or stomach issues, but really the time is all that matters. I think "this is for the record books" in all my tough workouts when my pace is slipping or I feel like throwing in the towel. Whatever happens, I'll have to write that down, set it in stone, and look at it for years to come. When I think about this, it makes me want to stop making excuses and make sure that I give everything I have, so that whatever is written is the best exemplar of my performance on that day. No asterisks. No excuses. 

I know that mantra may not make sense or work for you. But I urge you to find your own, something that inspires, hits home, and is easy to remember and repeat. Obviously not something as long as the opening Nike ad, but something that resonates just the same. Maybe Eminem. 

Dream big, 

1 comment :

  1. "Lose Yourself" is a good one. I also like Flogging Molly's "Within a Mile of Home" Pretty obvious why. The trick is to set it up so the song comes on towards the end of the race. It's not as 'pump you up' as Lose Yourself. I like it because sometimes I get into a 'why the hell am I doing this' kind of mentality towards the end of the race. Then that song comes on, it's such an celebration of life song, that it zaps me out of the funk. I also like Johnny Cash, can't really explain why.