Jack's Journal: Climbing the Mental Mountain

Every day is an opportunity. Every day is an opportunity to test your limits. This can mean many things to many people. Perhaps it is your children who like to test the limits of your patience. Perhaps it is your significant other that tests your limits of affection. Perhaps it is you testing your own limits of living by climbing Mount Everest! Not always do we live in such extremes of climbing Mount Everest or running a marathon; nevertheless, that doesn't stop people from doing it! I did.

Ran a marathon, that is. My first one, in fact. Am I proud of myself? Of course. A lot of the fear around running a marathon is built on the physical aspect, but the mental monster can bite you in the butt if you're not careful. Months of heavy training and long hours on the road in the humid and hot days of summer can take a toll on you, and I know because it did to me. Toward the end of my training, I found myself at a crossroads: running, which had been an emotional release for me for so long, was no longer enjoyable. The wheels started turning, "what did I do wrong", "how can I right this ship?". Once those wheels start turning, they are difficult to stop. Eventually, that's all I wanted to do was stop. I confided these thoughts to my closest friend, my fiancée. She sided with me no matter what I decided to do. I confided in my coach. She told me to keep trying because I was too close to the end of the journey to stop now. I didn't know then, but I needed a confidence boost and talking to those around me gave me that boost.

Getting through the race was a whole different test of my mental capabilities. Mental stress can exacerbate physical stress and vice versa. So when I started getting cramps in my glutes around mile 8, the wheels that had finally stopped turning started turning again. My glutes were the first domino, then it was my hamstrings at the halfway point. By mile 16, my calves decided to join the party and I was questioning things all over again. Mile 17.5 to 18.5 I walked to reset myself and my mindset. It wasn't ideal, but I had to deviate from my goal and strategy if I was going to finish. What I decided to do was run and walk. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way, and my reward for running was to walk! I never thought that I'd be saying that, but eating a slice of humble pie is good for you every once in a while (everything in moderation, right?). I did that to mile 20, along with making sure to hit every water station to get water and electrolytes. At that point, I was still on the fence about finishing, and my fiancée gave me the final nudge I needed. At mile 20 she sent me a text message saying "you're almost there, you got this!" Did I want to keep going? Not really, but her message flipped a switch inside of me; I was going to finish this race! I did finish the race, not at my goal time or pace, but I finished and I battled through adversity and won.

​What did I learn from all of this? First thing would be not to camp outdoors in sub-freezing weather the night before, especially when you are not a camper (even though your camping partner may be experienced). Secondly, I learned that even though running is a highly individual sport, it is not necessarily the best for you to do it alone. As I highlighted earlier, I didn't know it but I needed others' support, even though I was the one doing the physical work.

The moral of the story is to accept help when you need it. You can do things alone but having others there to support you can elevate you to new heights that you never thought possible. Having a group to support you while you're testing your physical and mental capacity unlocks a whole new you. Lean into that group of support. That's why I am so glad to have Run For It, our run club that we just kicked off last week! I know I am not the only one that needs support to reach their full potential. If any of this resonates with you, please join us. We'll be happy to include you and support you!

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