How To Become Your Biggest Cheerleader
Recently I ran in a 5k race. I know that doesn’t sound like much to some, but you have to know that I am not a runner. I’m not even a little bit of a runner. In fact, the only thing I run is late. And yet for some reason “run in a 5k” has always been on my Bucket List. Who wrote that one down?!!
Being that I am already 46 years old and not getting any younger, I decided that there is no better time than right now to get this scratched off my list. So I entered myself in a local 5k race and spent the next 3 months training for it.
Once the three months were over and race day arrived, I was to the point where I could finish three miles no problem, but I still had to walk a bit here and there to get me through. It was my personal goal that on race day I would complete the 3.1 miles without stopping to walk. Not even in my high school years had I ever run more than a mile straight. So to run 3.1 miles without stopping would be a huge accomplishment for me.
The race I registered in began as a 5k and then the more serious runners would continue on for the durathon and the triathlon. It looked like professional athletes were all around me, in their distance running gear and with their race numbers written in black marker down their arms. And there I was, clad in the sponsored T-shirt that they handed out at registration. Yep, I stood out as a novice, all right. I began to feel like I shouldn’t be there, that maybe I made a mistake. I’m not a professional runner, I told myself. What am I doing here?
The race began and I bumped forward, shoulder to shoulder, with the racing herd. The initial thrill went away and suddenly I realized that this was the real deal. I was actually running in a 5k. It was right around this time that I got my first Oh, no! what did I get myself into? feeling.
About 15 minutes into the race, I seriously wanted to stop. My legs felt like lead, and I doubted myself. My mind was filling with negative thoughts. Here is what it sounded like in my head:
This is crazy. I don’t know what I was thinking. People actually like doing this? This is torture. My feet hurt. My lungs hurt. Am I at least half way? This is the last time I’m doing this, I swear. Oh great, another runner just passed me. I must be running too slow. Have I even done a mile yet? Where are the mile markers! There’s no way I can do this without stopping to walk. I hate running!
The negativity inside of my head was deafening, and it was getting the best of me.
After mile two came around, I had slowed to barely a jog and was ready to call it quits. And then I passed a group of cheering spectators. I had no idea who these people were, but they stood on the sidelines and called out my race number, shouting things like, “You can do this!!” and “Keep going! You’ve got this!” They clapped and hooted and cheered – for me! These spectators were in clusters throughout the second part of the race, so I would pass them every few minutes or so. And even though I felt like I was dying, I found that I picked up my pace each time that I passed a group of them. “Keep going! You can do this!” is what they were telling me, and it was working. I started listening to them instead of the negative voice inside my head. And before I knew it, I was crossing over the finish line.
Finishing that race felt great! In fact, I felt like I could have run another mile or so. Where did all this sudden energy come from? When I got home, I went straight to my computer and registered for another 5k.
Later that night, I thought about the race and how I almost gave up half way through it. And it wasn’t because I wasn’t physically ready to run a 5k. I had been training. I knew I was ready. No, I almost gave up because I was telling myself that I couldn’t do it. Mentally I was beating myself up, and it manifested into the way I ran. In fact, the strangers cheering me on during the race believed in me more than I believed in myself. And how backwards is that?! I should have been my number one cheerleader.
Why is it that we often tell ourselves we aren’t good enough, or that we can’t do something? Have you ever taken on a new project with excitement, only to find that you begin to doubt yourself halfway through it?