In 2015 I approached the start line of my second Marine Corps Marathon convinced I was ready to kick ass. But instead my ass got kicked to the curb. I was not fit enough or ready. I didn’t listen to my body. In fact, I realized I never REALLY listen, and I have never really been honest with what I hear.
When I finally stopped feeling sorry for myself, I started fixing a few things. I got myself a personal trainer who taught me how to get stronger, leaner and more muscular. He changed the way I looked at food and nutrition. Almost a year later, With my new hardware in place I started running again. And I failed again. Still slow, still hard.
Hire a running coach, the husband said. So I did. And that’s when I learned to listen. And respond honestly.
At my first pre-dawn track workout in years, my first listening lesson began. It was hard to run and listen to my pounding heart and my mind telling me to slow down. I couldn’t silence it. But that morning, the twice-deployed soldier coach asked me if anything hurt. And an honest mental check revealed that nothing did. My exploding heart really wasn’t exploding. My hip, my legs, my knees, my feet, they all actually felt good. But it’s so hard, I said. It’s supposed to be hard he said. Keep going, said the soldier coach. And enjoy the run.
It was a fast track workout. And that was the beginning.
No music. Trust your body.
Then he told me to ditch the music. Listen to your body he said. Don’t rely on music to help you when it gets tough. His instructions for my first 60-minute training run without music: 30 minutes out, and 30 minutes back. And see if you can make the second 30 minutes faster than the first. Oh, and ditch the Garmin too. Just pay attention to how you feel.
That day I listened to my footsteps and my breathing. I listened to my head saying I was tired and uncomfortable when I sped up. I asked my legs if they could go faster. And I responded as honestly as I could. And my second 30 minutes was faster.
Me: I’m a little scared for Wednesday’s track workout
Soldier coach: LOL. Don’t be scared, I wouldn’t make you do anything you couldn’t do.
Me: I know. That’s what I’m afraid of.
Soldier coach: You should be scared. Scared of not doing it because you know what you can achieve when you do.
I realized then, that I have to silence the negative thoughts. I have to be completely honest with myself. If I don’t, I will fail. Again.
For eight weeks leading up to a 10 mile race (my first in 18 months since the failed marathon), my training homework had me running, lifting weights, and paying attention to how I responded to what I heard and felt. Especially when things got tough, like that sucky 9 mile run in week 6.
Soldier coach said to mentally prepare myself and visualize how I’m going to handle it next time, so my mind will be conditioned to combat it (see reference to soldier). And for good measure he told me that if I change the way I think, I will change what I believe I’m capable of. And this is running homework, people.
I listened hard and the honesty paid off. Even during those pre-dawn 800 meter sprints.
No, nothing hurts.
Hey, my heart isn’t exploding!
Why can’t I catch up to that old guy.
That felt goooood.
I hate doing 800s.
WHAT?? I RAN 800 IN 3:50???
The eternally patient and beloved husband humored my usual race-day neurosis.
No music, no Garmin. Just my watch, some water and a gel. Each mile I checked the official clock and checked in with myself. I listened.
I ran the last mile in a sub-9 pace and felt great. I beat my goal. No fuss, no muss. No music, no Garmin, no salt tabs, no cramps, no drama. Just a good run, and I enjoyed it.
I have more in the tank I texted the soldier coach after I crossed the finish line. That means you low-balled it the soldier coach responded when he saw my time. Yes I did.
So listen. And be very, very honest with how you respond. It can be a little scary, but always revealing. I’m listening to many other things too now. Clearly I didn’t just hire a running coach.
I can’t wait to discover what else I’ll hear this year.