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Lessons in running self-confidence.

Posted Aug 15 2011 7:50pm
After finally coming clean about my previous hesitations and doubts about the Akron Marathon , I really wanted to focus this past weekend on overcoming whatever mental and physical road blocks were in my way. I had two key running events that would let me do just that: the Canalway Classic 5k on Saturday and my 17-mile long run Sunday.

Even though I've been running for awhile now, I still find myself feeling as a newbie in many regards. The fiance has been running a LOT longer than I have and is a double digit marathon and ultra-marathoner, and our running group is full of some of the fastest people I know. It's a bit intimidating for a girl "only" gearing up for her second marathon! After last weekend, however, I think the best way to boost your self-confidence is to get out there, lace up, and prove yourself wrong. And that, my friends, is exactly what ended up happening.

At the Canalway Classic 5k, Mike asked me what my time goals were. I had run a 24:01 5k at my conference in April, but since had done very limited speed work. "Eh, maybe 25 minutes?" was my reply to him. The second the gun went off, however, I looked to my right and saw a girl in my age group starting right next to me and felt a competitive twinge and knew I had to beat her. I saw high school cross country runners taking off. Lady Gaga was blasting in my headphones. I'm not sure what came over me, but I felt like I was flying. I had set a goal for 2011 to run any race of any distance with a 7:xx pace. Coming from the girl who used to be able to barely run 10:00 minute miles, that was a pretty big goal for me.

I swear, I have never felt so good during a race! I've had problems sprinting out at shorter races and dying, but this race was different. I felt fast for the first time. Ever. My splits were even, and before I knew it I was crossing the finish line in 23:19, 40 seconds faster than my previous PR, averaging a 7:30 pace.

I was ELATED. I saw Mike as I was finishing and I could tell how excited he was for me which made it even better. I had just run a 5k at a 7:30 pace! Who was I? His only comment to me was that I was NOT allowed to complain about being slow anymore, especially on our long run the next day. To continue the shock, we both ended up placing in our age groups (3rd for me, 2nd for him, and 1st for our friend, Phil, who ran a sub-20:00 5k!) which just was the icing on the cake. It was a great, great race, and left me feeling much better about the marathon.

Top 3 finishers for the 25-29 female division. That girl in blue passed me right at the end!
The next day, I awoke eager. 17 miles! Even though our training plan had only called for 13, we decided to bump it up to 17 to make up for not hitting 18 the weekend before in DC (it was WAY too hot and unbearable - better safe than sorry). We met our friend Phil on a flat trail by us which was good for practicing pacing for Akron, even though the Akron Marathon course in anything but flat. I tried to focus less on my Garmin and more on how my body was feeling - sometimes I feel like I'm practically burning a hole through that watch trying to get my pace down. I told myself, I could handle the distance, and the miles just began to tick away. Two hours and forty minutes later, our run was done at a comfortable 9:30 pace. I couldn't believe it! That was right around our goal pace for the marathon and I felt great. It was hard to believe that our run the weekend before had been closer to a 10:15 pace! Granted, the weather was cooler, but I mentally felt more prepared.
Even though we have a few hard weeks of training left (and 20 miles this sunday - yikes!) I am starting to feel more confident. I think I'm starting to learn that my body can handle more than I think it can, and I'm excited for that. Let's just hope that feeling of excitement keeps up over the next few weeks. :)

What do YOU do to boost your running, swimming, biking, anything-at-all confidence?
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