How did I turn “I can’t do it” into “I did it”? The same way you eat an elephant. Bite by bite.
Think about it. If you were faced with eating an elephant, there’s no way you could consume it all in one bite. But, when you eat it bite by bite, you’ll eventually finish it.
Saturday I did something I never thought I’d do and that’s run an 8K road race (just shy of 5 miles if you’re not hip with the metric system). Other than in high school, the only other road race I’ve participated in was Tallahassee’s 5K Jingle Bell Run several years ago and I ended up walking some of it.
What Was I Thinking?
What made me think I could run an 8K? Over the summer, I joined the board of directors for the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center and one of the events benefiting CHEC is the Hands Across the Harbor 8K run, 5K walk, bike ride and 8K longboard races from Port Charlotte to Punta Gorda over the Peace River and back again. One of my day job coworkers has served for years on the event’s planning committee and I decided to show my support by participating. I ended up registering for the 8K because I figured, “Oh, that’s easy.”
Weeks before, I realized it was not “that easy” for me because I am not a runner. Oh, boy. I am so not a runner. But, I decided to train and if I changed my mind, I would just walk the event. I trained with the Couch to 5K smartphone app, which I used a bit last year, and started running a couple of times a week. I’ve also been working out to INSANITY and Jillian Michaels – 30 Day Shred, along with participating in booth camp a day or two each week at the gym.
Two days before the event, I ran just under 3 miles and didn’t think there was anyway I’d be able to run further. My coworker encouraged me to run and if need be, I could partially walk the course, since other people will probably be doing the same.
How I Did It
Day of the run, the morning temperature was 40-something degrees and there I was at the start line in my shorts and t-shirt. Goosebumps covered me head to toe and my hands transitioned from tingling to numb from the cold. I was surrounded by a sea of black Spandex worn by the real runners who looked me up and down knowing this was my first rodeo.
The great thing about being my age is who cares what others think? A younger me would have been intimidated and would’ve left but I wasn’t there to impress them, I was there to push my limits.
Mile by Mile
When the whistle blew, I was at the front of the pack but quickly fell to the back as hundreds of runners flew by me. After the first 50 yards, I was ready to give up and hadn’t even reached the bridge.
I cussed at myself and questioned, “what the ‘F’ was I thinking?”
My problem? I was trying to keep pace with the runners rather than settling into my own groove. Remembering I was doing it for me, I found my slow and easy pace, had my jams playing (Let’s Get Rocked Radio on iTunes), looked straight ahead and just ran the path which led up the Gilchrist Bridge over the Peace River. Running up the bridge seemed somewhat too easy and when I reached that 1-mile mark, I smiled.
“Yes. I can do this,” I thought.
Running down the bridge toward the 2-mile mark was super easy-peasy. It was as though I was being carried by angels.
My legs began to feel numb and I began to feel winded. I passed my coworker who had made the turnaround and we high-fived. At the turnaround point, a sole volunteer directed runners (yes, there were runners behind me) and cheered me on. “Slow and easy,” I said to her.
I was heading back and running into the ice-cold wind. When I reached the 3-mile mark, I smiled while thinking, “You’re more than halfway there. You can do this.”
Pain was setting into my ankles, feet and right hip with each step. This is the same hip I pulled and strained things I didn’t know existed a year ago and left me unable to exercise for two months. (Advice – if you’re new to doing INSANITY, keep with it and don’t add anything extra. I was doing the program then running. The strain was too much for my body.)
Not only was I running into the wind, I was now running up the bridge. My thighs were numb and I was running two speeds above snail pace, yet I was focused. I told myself, “You are not stopping to walk until you reach the top of the bridge.”
Huffing up the bridge while cussing at myself, I passed runners who were now walking. “You can do it. You can do it.”
When I reached the top of the bridge and said “hello” to the fishermen I passed on my first trip over, I wouldn’t let my body stop because I knew if I did, I probably wouldn’t be able to pick up my pace again, so I kept on going.
Reaching that 4-mile marker, I smiled and whispered, “Yes!”
Less than a mile to go.
Oh, how I really wanted to stop and walk after reaching the 4-mile marker but in the final stretch, I could see and hear the cheering committee ringing their cowbells and encouraging runners to “finish strong.”
Just as the finish line came into view, a couple walking the course while pushing a baby stroller encouraged me to “finish strong.”
“I plan to. This is my first 8K!” I replied.
“Then go!” the husband said.
Kicking it into high gear, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” blared into my headphones. I’m big into signs and this was definitely a sign telling me to believe in myself.
Finishing at 1 hour, 1 minute and 40-some seconds, I finished strong. Not by the average runner’s standards but by my standards. It was mind over matter, along with some training. I chased away “I can’t do it” with positive affirmations of “I can do it” and “you’ve got this.”
“Amazing” is how I feel. I’m often overwhelmed by large projects. Accomplishing this run reminded me that when something seems like an impossible task or project, breaking it down into bite-sized pieces will make it more manageable to tackle. It also reminded me with determination anything is possible such overcoming the fear of traveling alone.
What have you set a goal for and accomplished it step by step or bite by bite?