“Hit the wall.” You might be familiar with the phrase. The feeling? I know I am. Very.
It happens for me on every run. I take my first few strides out the front door and think: “Good, you’re doing well. You’re out, your feet are moving, you’re even feeling a little peppy. Maybe you’ve still got it after all?!” Aaaand, then I hit mile 1 and the voices coming from the cheer squad in my head stop yelling for me to “Go, run, win!” and they start “Hisssing… Booooing." Why? Because this is the moment when my lungs begin to seize, my breath become short, my head starts to feel a little cobwebby, and my legs feel a whole lot less peppy. This, my friends, is “The Wall." When I’m not-so-trained up, I run right into this wall at mile 1. When I’m consistently running long and strong, this wall appears at mile 4… on every.single.run.
“Be the Wall.” Yes, I’m good at that. The Wall appears and it’s not just my breathing that’s affected. It’s my mental state that suffers. This is when I face a framed collage of self-doubt, negative self-talk, and insecurities. This is when I start to lecture myself like a coach would lecture a team losing at half-time: half tough love, half pep-talk, all fire under the belt. “Who are you kidding? You can’t call yourself a runner if you don’t run. And you can’t even run one mile anymore.” This is the all-too-familiar moment when I become the wall.
But why? I know that I feel this way on every run. I know that I just have to push through the fog in my way and I’ll break wide open into the sunshine – my breath will steady, I’ll find my happy pace, and my legs will carry me as far as I want. Mostly, I know that I’ll be glad I got out there.
In last month’s post, I mentioned my identity as a runner in transition. What I do know is that I am squarely in the huff-and-puff stage and in need of a BRF to do all the talking for while. Because I really need someone to drown out the ‘tough love’ voices in my head for a while, to maybe pep-talk me right up and over my wall, and to keep that fire lit under my feet. Following me? No? Ok, let’s trade places – I’ll run on the outside for a while.
Say I am your BRF. I meet you in the parking lot at the elementary school just as the sun begins its rise over the eastern hillside. I’ve already had my first cup of coffee and read an interesting article in the paper. You hop out of your car and I immediately notice the tired look in your eyes and suspect that you might just have rolled out of bed, tangled wisps of your hair are peeking out from underneath your beanie. I don’t say anything. I just offer you a smile, a hearty “Hello!” and a hug. We press “start” on our GPS watches and begin, both our voices a little hoarse and our first few strides a little stiff.
My legs stretch and my breath evens out, our conversation landing on the article I read this morning about the recent election – we’re in the meat of things now, though I notice that you are still breathing hard and you only offer sounds in response. I’m ready to pick up the pace a bit – I have to run 2 miles at tempo and 1 mile at race pace, but I slow myself down just a bit when I notice that your shoulder has fallen ever-so-slightly behind mine. We cover 5 miles this morning, coming back to our cars sweaty, both of us smiling now. We high-5, make promises to meet again two mornings from now, and head home to hot showers and the regular morning rush. Feels good, doesn’t it?
Up and over! Friends don’t let friends hit the wall – alone. Friends shoulder friends away from becoming the wall. And when all that fails, friends push you up and over the wall. The thing is, the best part of having a best running friend is being a best running friend. And you are your own best running friend – you are the friend who ignores your disheveled hair when you hop on the treadmill tucked away in your basement; you are the friends who pushes you past the first stop at the corner of your street; you are the friend who keeps pace with your own heartbeat; you are the friend whose inner conversation carries you through every huff and puff, mile by mile. From one friend to another, I’m going to start by being a whole lot nicer to myself.
As for being ‘lost’… I’m carrying a glittery sign that reads: “Weekend Warriors!” Who’s with me?!