In college, my bffae B and I used to joke that we needed a LITERAL brain massage after studying organic chemistry reaction mechanisms into the wee hours of the night in the library before exams. Hunched over our textbooks and pristine computer paper sheets that were quickly filled with the tidy geometry of chemical structures, the heavy silence and dusty stacks (and the somber plant by the window) as our companions, all that electron pushing resulted in throbbing, unrelenting headaches. I pictured a pair of sterile white gloves wrapping themselves around my gray matter and giving a few good squeezes, resulting in immediate relief of my headache. A weird thing to picture, I guess, but studying all that chemistry will do that to you.
I was thinking about that this morning as I watched the rain splatter down on my window with my gloomy mood to match. Today, I need a brain massage of a different variety. I am in desperate need of a mental cleanse. One to sweep out all the negative thoughts renting space in my head. The half marathon is in three days. We are within the 72 hour window, people. Holy Balls.
Here’s what they don’t tell you about your first big race. The mental anguish many, many hours before you lace up your sneakers and pin on your race bib is much more than I ever expected. I did my last training run – knocked it out of the park, mind you! – now where the %^$ did all my confidence go? Did it seep out of my toes while I was sleeping, dwindle with the weather today, or was it due to my stress-eating the delicious, rich and admittedly quite fantastic breakfast pastries that my “food fairy” friend K (who is in culinary school) brought over last night? (Side note: It is of an endless amount of frustration that currently, I not only have enough delicious, nutritious and healthy food in my refrigerator to feed a family of 6 several times over, but I had big plans to make something amazing last night to share with all of you. It seems like we are our own worst enemies sometimes. Le sigh.)
It feels like my brain needs a good ass-kicking today. I need all the Booyahs I can get. I had my grand finale of a workout this morning at the gym (last big one before the race!) and I was really banking on that flood of endorphins to push me up over the hump. It looks like they had quite an uphill battle, because I’m still down here at bottom of the hill.
In my desperation I started Googling. “Motivational quotes for marathon runners” yielded:
Running is a road to self-awareness and reliance – you can push yourself to extremes and learn the harsh reality of your physical and mental limitations or coast quietly down a solitary path watching the earth spin beneath your feet.
-Doris Brown Heritage
First woman to run sub 5-minute indoor mile
Aka “Let’s do this damn thing.” Thanks, Doris. Also, who can seriously run a mile in 5 minutes? REALLY?
Your body will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue. Your only recourse is to call on your spirit, which fortunately functions independently of logic.
– Tim Noakes
Professor, runner in more than 70 marathon and ultra-distance events
Professor Tim, that sounds like something my father would say. I’ll go with it. Get the good ol’ spirit motivation.
Believe that you can run farther or faster. Believe that you’re young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don’t let worn-out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself.
Okay, I can’t really argue with any of that, John.
As an athlete, when you least expect it, you may find yourself standing on the threshold of an accomplishment so monumental that it strikes fear into your soul. You must stand ready, at any moment, to face the unknown. You must be ready to walk boldly thru the wall of uncertainty.”
“…strikes fear in your soul” AKA you’re shitting your pants, but it’s okay – go forward!
I don’t know if simply running a half marathon qualifies for “monumental” but I’ll take it. Let’s BOLDLY do this!
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.
I’m pretty sure I had that quote on an over-sized t-shirt in fourth grade. It had a star and a moon screen-printed on it, and it was definitely in heavy rotation with my fave purple Umbro shorts.
Things I’ve learned from this exercise:
1. I need to find John Bingham’s phone number, I think he could give me one hell of a pep talk.
2. I think it’s the mental aspect of race preparation that feeds the fire in your heart to achieve. I know that I can do this, and there is a stubbornness and a determination that runs in my family (it’s genetic) that feeds the fire, and the one that pushes me forward. Today is the day I need to focus on the “I can do this” and “I WILL do this” not the blahs and the uncertainty cobwebs taking up space in head.
3. Just like in that library so very long ago, I could have gotten up and walked out, but I didn’t. It was my own stubbornness and determination that kept my butt in the chair. The desire to be The Best. Score the highest. Give it everything I had. Yes, it was just an exam, but it was the mental challenge to stay and push myself just that little bit extra. And I did it. Which is why I am an organic chemistry superstar. It is the same stubbornness and determination that feeds the fire, the one within that you kindle and care for, and slowly build it up, until the day is here and it’s roaring. (And even when it rains and is gloomy, it’s still there.)
I will be working on feeding the fire today to help me climb up and over that hump. I got this.
Hopefully the fire will help me find the motivation to make my amazing dish that I can share with you tomorrow. 🙂
PS: What do YOU do to motivate yourself before a big event? Reply in the comments! I need all the help I can get here, people.