woman showing off strong bicep muscle

The day before her time trial, Pam is dressed for success with a shirt quoting Kara Goucher.

The Challenge

“Well,” I say between labored breaths as I lie on the dew-damp blades of itchy grass inside the track, “I have no idea how fast I ran, but I do know I did it right!”

I don’t know about you, but it’s been a really long time since I trained for a race. I quickly learned during the pandemic that virtual races really aren’t my jam. As a busy #motherrunner, I am highly selective in choosing the adversity I face for fun.

Or, at least, they weren’t until the Boston Marathon decided to add a virtual component this year. Getting fast enough to qualify is not currently in my bandwidth, nor is hardcore fundraising. So when an opportunity arose to run Boston virtually, you better believe I grabbed it with both hands. 

The last race I trained for was the 2019 Chicago Marathon. I crushed that race, but it was a lifetime ago. I know I’m fit and I know I’m strong. What I don’t know is how that fitness translates to training paces. So my coach wrote a Season Opener Time Trial into plan: 20 minutes of fast, sustained running on the track.


Pre-pandemic Pam knew how to choose adversity, to put her head down and knock out a tough track workout. She could execute lap after lap with her magical metronome superpower. She could tap into the flow, shut out everything other than the lane ahead, and GO.

That Pam seems farther back in the past than 18 months ago.

a women dressed in running clothes, choosing adversity

All dressed up with somewhere to go! The shirt will come off when it’s time to fly.

The Preparation

Gearing up for the time trial, I considered everything I’ve gone through, we’ve all gone through, since March 2020: the fear, the uncertainty, the loneliness, the togetherness. Things are looking up, but there are still a lot of obstacles to surmount over the coming months. And I want to add this physically and mentally taxing activity to my load?

Heck, yes!

What I realized is that THIS is my adversity of choice. There’s a lot of hard stuff happening that I didn’t choose, and I’m handling it. But this? This running hard? This testing of my physical and mental limits? This Me vs. Me on the track? I am choosing this adversity, and there is power in that choice.

"Define yourself" written on a wrist, choosing adversity

Deena Kastor’s advice to Pam (sidebar: Should she have these permanently inked on her person?)

When I laid out my clothes and gear the night before, I stuck a Sharpie in my shoe. After getting dressed, I wrote Define Yourself between my watch strap and my palm. I have not let events define me. Today, though, I would choose to define myself out on the track.

I am strong. I am persistent. I am relentless. I am choosing to face this adversity.

After some warmup laps, dynamic stretching, and strides, I took some deep breaths, cued up my Run Fast! playlist, and began.

The Execution

screenshot of Garmin workout details

Is it even a workout if it’s not programmed into the watch?

Everything around me disappeared. There was just me and the lane ahead. I could feel my coach’s presence beside me, but I kept my eyes straight ahead and tuned into my body, my breaths, my legs.

I kept my mind clear those first five minutes, focusing on maintaining a moderate pace.

My watch beeped, and I kicked it up a notch or two. By the end of the first lap, I knew I was where I needed to be. It was hard but do-able. As the track unfolded beneath me, I thought of the people who believed in me. My coach by my side. The first time I completed a Turkish getup with the 16 kg kettlebell. My breath. My legs. The high-resistance, low-cadence trainer workouts. The adversity I choose morning after early morning.

P!nk singing in my ear: “I am here/I’ve already seen the bottom/so there’s nothing to fear…My heart it is racing/but afraid I am not/Afraid I am not.”

My watch beeped, and I found another gear. I pressed forward, hanging on for dear life. Wanting with everything in me to stop. Wanting with everything within me NOT to stop. You can check your watch after the first lap. 3:30 to go. It’s okay. Just one more lap. Then one more lap. Afraid I am not. Courage. Courage. Courage.

Make it to the trash can. Just make it to the trash can. I want to puke. Okay, now to that flag. I want to puke. I am choosing this adversity. 00:49 to go. I can do anything for less than a minute. To the high jump mat.


Emoly Sisson crossing the 10k finish line at the Olympic trials, choosing adversity

This is not Pam, but Emily Sisson’s Olympic Trials 10,000 meter race—and expression—captures Pam’s feelings perfectly

The Finish

I stumble over to the grass and collapse onto my back. 

Well,” I say between labored breaths as I lie on the dew-damp blades of itchy grass inside the track, “I have no idea how fast I ran, but I do know I did it right!”