People volunteer their time and effort for different causes and agencies in their communities, and I have been volunteering for one of the local non-profit organization for more than one year now. Last night, I had a volunteer meeting for that agency, and the coordinator was a professional yoga instructor, who decided to do a brief yoga session to help us to relax before we start the meeting.
I have not practiced yoga before because I am just not into yoga. I may change my mind if I do it regularly over a period of time, but for now, I am not into yoga. I totally understand the benefits of incorporating yoga into a runner’s life. During yoga, we follow the instructions in a comfortable environment. One of these directions was that to recall a peaceful moment from our life and focus on that moment. I tried to have a pleasant moment but I could not, seriously. That does not mean that I had a bad childhood or awful life. While the instructor gave more guidance about her yoga world, I got lost in my world. Why was it hard for me to bring a peaceful moment?
My Assay for what happened was that running was my tool of converting my stress and negativity into necessary fuel to operate my muscles and joints as a machine that generates positive vibes in my world, and my body would absorb that positivity to keep me going throughout the day. My run was mainly based on bringing up a painful memory or situation and try to erase it from my mind in a healthful way.
Because I have adapted running as a lifestyle, I have found that it would be hard for me to shift my focus from destroying a painful memory to nurturing a peaceful one, but that is just me.
I usually propose and set goals to achieve on a daily basis, however; I sometimes cannot keep up with my plans for many reasons; unexpected incidents, poor schedule planning, or mood changes.
Today, I established a goal of running for three miles in less than 23 minutes. I knew that I had to go out for a run, otherwise, I would be grumpy all day. Today’s weather was rainy and chilly, but, overall, it felt okay. Within a few minutes after I started, I just felt that I did not have the energy to keep going, so I went back to my home blaming myself for the poor performance.
While Physically sitting on my recliner chair watching TV, I was zoning out with my thoughts, so I made a Compromise with myself that I would run for three miles with no time limit. I rushed putting my gear on and went out before the sunset, I ran for almost four miles in 35 minutes, which was not my dream goal but it helped me to reset my mood.
If I had not made an agreement with myself regarding my workout, I would not be able to write this blog post.
I drove to Richmond to spend the night where the marathon would be held. The hotel that I stayed at was nice and neat. After checking in, I went to my room and started my carb-loading process by eating almost everything I had, such as bread and potato. But unfortunately, I felt nauseated with unexpected loose bowel motions. I was concerned because I was losing electrolytes which would not optimize my performance for tomorrow.
I started hydrating myself with water but I needed to replenish the electrolytes that my body had lost. Part of my running package was six calorie-gel packets that were supplemented with caffeine and electrolytes, so I decided to have one of these gels. Shortly after I took one, my body felt warmer and my heart started pounding faster and harder; then, I realized that the caffeine had kicked in and its effects were more prominent than I expected.
I thought the effects would wear off after a while, but they did not; so I became more nervous and anxious. I went to bed at nine-ish so I could get up early and travel to the race site, but I could not fall asleep because of the calorie gel and my nervousness. I do not even remember closing my eyes, and I know I did not get enough sleep. I even snoozed my clock before 5 AM which was the time that I set the alarm clock for.
I got up and put on my running gear; the most exciting thing about my gear was the sports bra, which for me, was the most effective method to avoid chaffing. I went to the hotel lobby to have my light breakfast, and went back to my room to do some stretches to warm up; It was like 25 F outside.
I packed my stuff and checked out at the front desk. I drove to the race site and parked where I was supposed to; I was walking to the start line by following the crowd; there were so many people coming from different streets from every direction. I got distracted for a second on where the start line should be, so I asked a young guy who was walking by me, and his reply was that he did not know where to go but we would follow the crowd. I had a running conversation with the guy, for whom this marathon would be his third. We warmed up together by having short runs. At the start line, the guy told me that we could start together at a slow pace but he would speed up shortly after we start, and I said that would work for me.
The race started and the cheers went louder. I ran at a slow pace and tried to maintain it till the end. It was my first marathon so my goal was to reach the finish line and not to achieve an incredible personal record. Gradually, the guy started disappearing in the horizon after two or three miles.
Throughout the race, I saw many runners passing me but I kept my cool by focusing on the fact that I was doing this for fun –
and it SHOULD be fun – so I started paying more attention to the cheerful crowds and their motivating signs, natural scenes, and beautiful music; at some point in the race, I took short pauses to dance.
Everything went well. I did not feel any pain or discomfort which could have been because of the cold weather. At the mile of 23, I felt exhausted suddenly and saw many runners suffering from muscle spasm, and many of them had to walk while others had to stop running altogether. I slowed down and kept moving because I felt that moment was the time to prove to myself that I could do this after almost three months of training.
Amid that struggle, there were a few people offering small cups of pickle juice to runners; my understanding was that pickle juice could help to lessen your muscle cramps, so I had one. I did not really know if it was the juice itself or just a placebo effect, but I was able to boost my run for one extra mile.
At mile 24, I was not really motivated to keep going and I thought of giving up by walking the remaining two miles. Then, an idea came up to my mind which was asking my self the following question,”How you feel, Bear*?” This was a question that my Krav Maga instructor asked us in class, and the answer would always be, “GREAT!” It does not matter how exhausted or tired I was; the answer should be, “GREAT!”
For the next two miles of the marathon, I would yell at myself by asking and replying to myself that question. It may sound weird but that was what pushed me to go beyond my limits.
I finally saw the finish line which was like a dream came true, and this was when I increased my pace and passed many struggling runners. I did it! I did! That was what I told a paramedic professional who approached me and asked if I was okay.
I got my finisher medal and started taking pictures to document that moment which felt really amazing. I went to the rest area to get fluids to hydrate my body and do some stretches to reduce muscle cramps and prevent joint adhesions.
After taking cool pictures and having good food, I went to the nearest gym that offered their showers to the marathon runners. I went and I took a cold shower which would help to reduce muscle inflammation and hasten the recovery process.
The Richmond Marathon taught me how attitude could push my limits. How confident I became to do another marathon in 2018!
*My nickname was Bear.
I used to think that people who ran on the street were somehow Suspicious because I associated running with escaping from emergencies. For example, you run away from fire or from a crime scene. And also who would run in the rain?! or when it is hot.
I had that thought way back in the past when I was a child and crises could happen anywhere in anytime. Now, I still associate running with escaping but in a good healthy way as it is an outlet to release your negativity and absorpt the positivity from the natural surroundings.
Some people tend to think that running is harder than it should be because we do not see its immediate benefits objectively. It takes a lot of work to reach the point when you realize that you are able to maintain your weight, modify your lifestyle, and know more about running. But there is something that motivates us to run until we reach that level of commitment, what is that thing?
Is it the post-race meal? Is it the selfie that we take after each run? or it is the fantasy of winning a race, or it is a mix of all of these. Personally, it is the feeling that I enjoy after each workout that drives me to run on a regular basis. It is about how we feel and not how we look.
Three weeks to go and a few miles to add to my training plan. During my training, I felt some soreness in my left knee which was not bad, however, I did not want to make it worse. After consulting with friends and searching online, I believed that the ideal thing to do was to make sure that I was using the right shoes that could support my feet and knees. I went to a specialized running store and the staff did a foot scan which was fancy, but I got to explore the dark side of my feet. The result was that my feet were not equal in length and their arch heights were not even remotely close. The running expert recommended me new brand shoes that I had never known before with a size of 11.5, could you believe that? All my shoes were between 9.5 and 10.5 in size and the new recommendation was beyond my rational expectation. Honestly, I put them on and I fell in love immediately once I stood up, maybe because they were new or just the bright red color. Additionally, I bought a few of calorie gels (the caffeinated ones) that would replenish my energy stores. I gave my self one week of rest to allow the left knee to recover, and to be mentally prepared for the next workout.
The night before the 22nd of October, I decided that tomorrow would be the day that I would hit the 20-mile limit. I woke up at 6:00 AM, got my food supplies in my running pack and put on my running gear, and took off with no hesitation. It was still dark and little chilly, but it felt just perfect for me. I started running slowly to preserve some energy for the final miles and increased my pace gradually as I could, and I used one of the calories gels every 45 minutes to fuel my muscles. Everything went smoothly; with the comfort of the new shoes and knee-pain free, I was able to surpass the 18th mile with excitement, but still, I had two more miles to go. I pushed a little harder believing that this would be my best chance to hit my goal. Within my sight, I saw a banner that said, “Congratulations, this is the finish line,” which must have been for another race. These few words created a mental image of me reaching the finish line in the Richmond Marathon, and I believe this triggered the runner’s high which alleviated all my discomfort and boosted my energy. The high level of the natural endorphins helped me running until I reached the 20th mile, which was my goal for that run.
I sympathized with my father who became unemployed because of his sickness, and I felt the same way for my mother who worked a second job and stayed late for many nights. But I cannot sympathize with myself that I should tame and move it the way I want.
I do not want sympathy to be a reason for me to fail. Do not tell me you are sorry for my pain or struggle; tell me that I can do it and you will see a beast comes out of me.