Today I ran a 10 mile race. I don’t mean to sound like I am an Olympic caliber athlete, but 10 miles doesn’t really scare me. It’s a distance that for me is just beyond a daily run, but nothing out of the ordinary. That is until today. Fall in Texas can be misleading. While others up north are likely seeing the first signs of the fall season, here in Texas the seasons can play mind tricks on you. Which comes back to today’s race. This race has become part of my fall series of races I run. Today, it felt like I was running in July!
You know you are in for a hard race when at 6am in the morning, your glasses fog up, there is no breeze to be felt, and a thin layer of fog is just a hovering above ground. Even the streets were wet and a bit slippery, despite no signs of rain the night before. This is Texas. And this is why I stay committed to fitness.
As the race gun shot at 7am sharp, I was already dripping in sweat. I thought the pace of my stride will cool me down a bit. Instead, it made it feel worse. The sweat had nowhere to go. Instead of evaporating to create a bit of coolness, it just weighted my race singlet down and by mile 2, I already looked like I ran half the miles.
I hate running in the humidity. It is miserable. When you run in the humidity, it slows down your pace, you need to hydrate more, and with no breeze, there is just nothing to cool you down or to help wick the sweat away. Here in Houston, it’s like running in a sauna….at 7am!
Why do I do it? After mile 6, I kept asking myself that question. Why? On a stretch of the course which looked like it went on into infinity (that is another thing about Houston. It’s flat. You can see 3-4 miles down a straightaway), I really thought if I was going to finish. In order to not doubt myself in completing the race, I had to stop and just walk.
Walking I found has become an important part of my running technique. It seems odd that to improve my running pace and distance, I need to stop and walk. Real runners don’t stop, right? Do you see walkers during the Olympic Marathon? Do elite runners stop to walk because it’s too hot? I found for regular runners like myself, it is okay to stop and walk a few minutes. That is what you need to re-energize and to re-evaluate.
By mile 8 in today’s race, I felt like the finish was possible. By that time in the race, the sun was out, the sky was clear, and the humidity was now replaced by a moist heat. Oh, there was no shade in sight. While only two miles was left, it was a long two miles. That’s when I decided to put my phone on Spotify (oh, to top everything off, my Bluetooth headphones decided to run out of juice early despite an all-night charge) and to blare my music through my phone’s speakers.
As I past several runners, they could hear my Depeche Mode tune keeping my pace. As I continued on, I mentioned to a woman I passed that yes, “everybody’s going to Wang Chung tonight!” As I passed another runner, Missing Persons both caught our attention. Even when I passed the group of motorcycle officers on the final turn, I turned up the volume on New Order’s “Blue Monday”, which one officer said “Yes!”
All of these strategies and techniques aren’t part of a training plan or exercise regiment. It is the mental part of running. For some, this is the forgotten part of running training. You can get to your best pace, know the best hydration to use, and have the expensive shoes, but if you don’t pay attention to how you will keep you commitment to complete a race with complete satisfaction, then you are not becoming the best runner you can be.
Commitment keeps the doubts away. Commitment has the terrific outcome of building confidence. Commitment keeps the negative doubts away and reminds you that you did you best and that is good enough. Commitment also keeps you committed outside of running. I have found that committing to my running goals also makes me committed to other things in my life – work, teaching, writing, house tasks, and other things.
Commitment is tested as a runner. As a runner, commitment is equally important to physical strength.
I may not have the athletic build as J.J. Watt (who does, honestly? LOL), but I have the committed mindset that makes him one of the best out there.
That makes me feel pretty damn good. Oh, my race today? I finished in 1 hour, 54 minutes. My goal was to finish in under two hours. So I achieved my goal. I walked several times, I looked liked a crazy runner singing along to my New Wave tunes, and I looked miserable in my sweat-soaked shorts, shirt, and cap.
But I stayed committed and finished my race. Can you say that you ran 10 miles in 90-degree weather and humidity? Well, commit yourself that you can…and I’ll sweat alongside you.