06 Mar The little voice

Runners. Every non runner, every athlete in every other sport thinks we are crazy. And a lot of the time they are right. Who else would persist to do their sport outside in a thunderstorm, or a blizzard, or even a hurricane? But sometimes this stubbornness to back down and ignore that little voice in our head that is what gets us into trouble. It is the little voice that can prevent a little niggle from turning into a full blown injury, and the little voice that tells you to stick to quit in a race. The hardest part is knowing when to listen, and when to use that stubbornness, to push on. Last weekend, I listened to the little voice in my head, and it turned out I made the right choice. I raced the 5k indoors at the famous Armory Track in New York City. Only my second race since November, my first 5k since May 2011, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew breaking my indoor PB (16:25) was achievable, and I hoped that I could get close to my overall PB (16:10), but without any racing, other than one 3k in January, I was pretty clueless as to what to expect. As I did my final pre race strides, the quality field around me, including Kim Smith (NZ) made me doubt for a second if I was ready to do this. I shook this doubt straight out, reminding myself how I deserved to be with these girls. Confidence in my ability has always been one of my biggest weaknesses’.

As the gun went off, I went straight to the back, my favourite place to be, and tried to forget about everyone else, focus on my rhythm. Of course there was the seed of doubt as to whether my plan would backfire. I was in last place and if I waited too long, I would be in no-man’s land the whole race (and we all know how much harder it is to race alone). Anyway, I persisted with my race plan, trusting my gut feeling that they went out too fast. “They will come back to you, stick to your pace, you know what you are doing” said my little voice. So I did, I got into my rhythm and let them go. It turned out they did their first mile in 15:22 pace, a pace I would not have handled too well so early on. As the laps counted down, I worked my way through the field, focusing on the next girl, and then the next, as the quick pace at the start began to hit them HARD. Although I maintained a pretty consistent pace, I picked it up as I neared to the finish, feeling confident that I would finish strong. As I crossed the finish line, looking for that all important number, I felt proud of myself for moving from last place to 7th by the finish. I know I never would have ran the 16:13 I did if I had not swallowed my pride and listened to the little voice telling me to stick to my race plan.

As runners we often struggle with our pride, struggle to admit that something is too much, or accept that we are only human, and breaking down is part of being a runner. A few weeks ago, I was at my team’s league championships in Rhode Island. On the second day, I had to do my 17 mile long run, shower, and be ready to leave by 10am. I knew there was a huge winter storm coming and dangerous winds. As I stepped outside at 7:30am and looked at the craziness swirling around me, the little voice told me” don’t do it, it’s not worth it,” but I was too proud to let weather get the better of me, after all, I lived in Michigan for five years, I can handle anything. I battled the wind, snow pellets burning my eyes and trying to stay on my feet for just over two miles, until I finally was smart enough to listen to the pleading little voice. I headed back to the hotel, counting down the seconds till it could be over, and ran another four miles on the treadmill. I did my long run the next day, and everything turned out fine, but looking back, I cannot believe how stupid I was going out in that blizzard. I could have easily been hit by a car, or slipped and made another tear in my calf. My pride almost cost me a major setback, but I was lucky this time, and I realized it was not the end of the world (like I initially thought) to move a few workouts around the following week!

Life isn’t perfect; it is never going to flow smoothly. No matter how much we try to control everything, those unexpected occurrences are what make the difference between settling and going the extra mile when the opportunity is right. Sometimes external conditions can cause a blip in the road, sometimes it is our body telling us we need to slow down, and sometimes it is our mind, telling us that something is not right. We are on a constant learning curve to understand our mind, our own little voice, or Gorilla, to be able to make a quick decision when there is a lack of oxygen flowing to the brain so we can cross the finish line, happy, knowing we are where we want to be, because we made the right choice.