Under Armour sponsors the What’s Beautiful Challenge and this post but all experiences are completely my own.
Running is all mental for me. Perhaps that is why it is also very hard, harder than weights or even the Inferno Program.
When I decided to declare a goal for the UnderArmour What’s Beautiful challenge. I didn’t know what a profound affect it would have on me mentally. I was more interested in what I could inspire others to do. I was so tired of women who didn’t play on teams or compete being overlooked for the dedicated athletes they are. All I wanted to do was make every woman who gets up early to train, moves with joy and strength and gives her all each time feel like the athlete she is.
My personal goal was to run a 5K in under 30 minutes. My intention was to give myself most of the summer. It was a goal that meant something to me personally, one that was a bit of a stretch but manageable. It honestly didn’t seem to be that big of deal at the time.
But there is something about publicly declaring a goal that makes it grow exponentially.
The more people I told about the goal, the date of my first 5K of the summer, the more it felt like I needed to hit it out of the gate. The more I WANTED to hit it on that first official race. The more I visualized that sub 30 time as I crossed the finish line, the more I needed it to be so.
Prior to this realization, none of my practice runs had the pace I needed to make my goal. I was close but not close enough. I realized if this was going to happen I needed to let go of “slow and steady” and get a little uncomfortable.
I started running farther, trying to get uncomfortable. I did minute intervals during short runs, trying to get uncomfortable. I needed to feel what that pace had to be and understand it was possible. I needed to feel my lungs burn, without slowing down or walking. (It’s always my lungs by the way, never my legs.) I needed to let go of the I CAN’T that was still hanging out in the deep recesses of my brain.
On race day, at the starting line, I was still unsure of myself. All I could think was “Please don’t let me embarrass myself. Please don’t let me let everyone down”. I knew the question “How did you do?” would start that afternoon online and carry over to the next day from clients. I wanted the answer to be ” I CRUSHED IT!”. The gun went off and I took off with the pack, just behind the front line. Thankfully sunglasses prevented anyone from seeing the tears that also welled up in my eyes.
I got it together and just started breathing. I had read an article about breathing with your foot strikes to prevent injury and I had been practicing the rhythm the last few weeks. Now, as my nerves were getting the better of me, it had nothing to do with preventing injury and all about calming my monkey mind.
What was I thinking? All these people are passing me. There’s a hill! I was promised a flat course! What if I get lost, make a wrong turn? What if, what if, what if…
The breathing helped. My music always helps. I Can’t Drive 55 playing in your ear makes anyone move faster. Looking down to see I was right on pace at mile 1 helped too. I just kept breathing. As long as you can breath, you can run, I kept telling myself.
So I did. I kept checking my pace, making sure it never got over 10 minutes per mile. I thought about my What’s Beautiful teammate, Jennifer, trying to break 45 minutes. I started to pass a walker or two.
Then I saw people walking back. The leaders, the top finishers, walking back with water in hand. I knew I was close! I knew I was going to do it! The tears started to come again. My feet started to move faster. Breathing in rhythm not longer mattered or was necessary because I could see the finish line.
My time and name popped up on the board as I passed the line:
29:25 Pamela Hernandez
My breathing resumed. My body was sweaty but honestly after a minute or two I contemplated running back to finish with Jennifer. But I mentally, I couldn’t.
Truth be told my body probably could have made that time last year or the year before. But my mind wasn’t ready, it didn’t believe. If we don’t believe in our strength, in what we can achieve, then we will never achieve it.
The body is capable of so much more than we let it do. I don’t know if I’ve “erased” those old mental tapes of myself but I know I have a new one.
I am a runner.
What new message will you give yourself today? What new title will you claim? How will you define yourself as an athlete?