This Saturday morning I awoke at 5:00 a.m. and took a look outside. The stars were shining bright so I anticipated clear skies and clean air. As soon as I exited the rear door and inhaled the morning air, I knew Fall was here. Today was the first morning since Summer where the air was uninhibited by humidity, and I felt my run this morning would be delightful.
I hit the track for my first mile and purposely took it at a slower pace. My knees were giving me a little bit of irritation, but I attributed it to the colder weather and I had on shorts. My slower first mile pace didn’t bother me because I took pride in being the first person to set my foot imprints on the dirt track this morning. On my last lap to complete my first mile, I hear footsteps behind me, and a man named Shelly passed me on my right side. Shelly runs a lot, and although we’ve only shared a few laps side by side, my stride usually outpaces his. However this crispy aired morning, he decides to pass me.
I thought to myself, how dare you have the audacity to pass me, and then purposely pick up your pace once you get around me. My competitive drive instantly went primal. I had on relatively new shoes since my other ones had began to tear with holes. Because I was breaking in the shoes, I made this an excuse as to why I wasn’t running around our entire perimeter which measures 1/2 a mile. Running the entire perimeter is harder than running on the circular dirt track because the grass on the compound is cut by landscaping relatively high at 3-4 inches. It’s also pitch black dark outside except for a couple of flood lights along the perimeter that don’t provide much light. The terrain is uneven, and it reminds me of running on trails back home.
My point is, I was being weak minded, and looking for an excuse to not run the longer and more challenging route around the compound. Glenn your knees hurt. Glenn you have on new shoes and you need to break them in. Glenn it’s dark outside, and you could twist your ankle if you hit a hole in the tall grass. Glenn you’re out here running when 99% of the other men at the camp are inside, so be happy that you are out exercising.
Do you hear this bullshit? Do you hear how my mind was giving me every damn excuse to not push myself? Do you see how repetitive voices can gain momentum in our thoughts and our body becomes the mind? The hell with the cesspool of excuses, let’s get uncomfortable!
Mental toughness will reside if you don’t use is consistently. Despondency looks for any crack to creep in and flow like a river. We must maintain higher vibrating thoughts in our times of solitude. We are either moving forward towards our greatness, or moving backwards towards defeat. There is no grey zone! There only degree marks that separate their polarity. Every step towards the right direction no matter how small equates to 1 degree better, 1 percent better, 1 step closer to the destination. Small things add up to big things.
On my mental shift towards my greatness, I made a reverse move on the track and began running the opposite direction. The change in direction would structure my route more difficult. The change in direction would change my attitude. The change in direction would head me directly toward the outside perimeter to hit the wet, dark, and tall uneven grass. As soon as my feet hit the wet grass my mindset shifted. My pace quickly picked up and I thought to myself, here you go Glenn, how does your mind like these apples? You want to be comfortable, nope, not today!
After 4 miles in, I’m feeling great. I’ve overcome a lazy minded mental barrier and thrown it a dose of screw you, you don’t control my mind, I do! As I made the way off the perimeter back onto the track, I see the guy that passed me on my first mile. Seeing him really fired me up! I said to myself, I’m going to run a normal lap, then reverse my run back the original way, run him down, and then pass him the way he passed me. My plan went from an imaginative thought, then quickly transitioned to an executional plan.
When I reversed my path and increased my pace, I was surprised how fast he was coming into my scope. I thought yep you started off fast today, but after another anaerobic burst through my lungs, I will catch you, pass you, and see if you can hold my pace on the last leg. I passed Shelly almost as if he was standing still. I checked my watch and saw I was running under a 7:30 minute mile pace. I hit the straight away and when I made it to the next curve, I glanced back over my left shoulder to see where my competition was, and was happy to see he had not chosen to draft off my lead.
See there really was no competition other than me competing with myself. Did Shelly purposely pass me early on my run to give himself a boost? I don’t know, but he gave me a boost. His presence was silent, but his energy was felt, just like I know he felt my energy as soon as he saw me reverse course, hit the outside perimeter trail, and then pass him on mile 5. As I came inside to make a cup of coffee, we passed each other at the ice machine. We nodded, made a small brief comment to each other, but it was a friendly competitive battle that he and I shared outside before the sun rose, and most people were still dreaming.
I needed him to pass me this morning and kick my ass into gear. I needed to win the mental battle of complacency of my run of the mill, stay in your comfort zone, slow paced jog. I needed to feel, and know that my primal training mindset is still here at 43, as it was at 23. The competition is always with self, it’s always from within, it involves no-one but me in my Garden of Gethsemane.