It all began with an unexpected invitation.
My friend’s wife hurt her ankle. I was offered her spot in an 8 km race 4 days away. I jumped on the opportunity. It was too good to pass. The only thing left to figure out was how to survive the race.
The week went by and I didn’t work out; just took stretches during hot showers. I joked around a couple times about how bad shape I was in and how fast I’d run.
On Saturday, the day before the race, I decided to go to Parque Omar to see If I could at least ‘power walk’ 7 km; to get my mind and body ready for the experience.
Sunday morning. Clock hit 6:00 am. I rushed out the door and hopped in the car.
The sun was shining. We were on our way.
KM 0. Affirmations
After a couple stretches and excitement amongst the crowd, we lined up at the start line. The race was about to begin. I decided to start this experience using affirmations. I kept repeating to myself:
- “I can do this.”
- “I am ready for this.”
- “Today is going to be a great run.”
Using affirmations helped me overcome my pre-race jitters.
KM 1. Deep Breathing
The 1st kilometre was basically a mess of people passing each other to try to create a space for themselves. In the confusion of it all, the most important thing I did was to focus on my breathing. By taking deep breaths in and deep breaths out, I was able to find a rhythm to run at.
Soon my friend and I were speeding through the crowd.
KM 2. Compassion
Two kilometres in I started ‘flatting’ out. I wasn’t keeping up with the pace we had set. My mind turned against me; stirring up feelings of
- “You should not have done this.”
- “You were not ready.”
- “You won’t make it.”
This time, I resorted to practicing compassion with myself. I said to myself:
- “It’s ok… You are doing your best.”
- “Don’t worry about what others think.”
- “Just focus on finding a pace you are comfortable with.”
By leveraging the power of positive self-talk, I was able to overcome the negative feelings of guilt and shame that had kidnapped me. Practicing loving-kindness gave me the fuel to go on, at a slower more comfortable pace.
KM 4. Visualization
By the time I hit the 4th kilometre, fatigue and pain started to reign. My stomach wasn’t at its best. I had a burger for lunch and a burger for dinner the previous day. I had now begun breathing heavily through my mouth. I needed to dispel ‘pain’ from my thoughts.
I decided to practice an ‘Touch-n-Go‘ form of visualization. With each step I took, I imagined the next one. Before I had time to get captured by it; I had already “let go” of the passing moment and moved on to the next one.
Visualizing the next step helped me through the next stretch.
KM 6. Concentration
The last two kilometres felt the shortest, but my heart was pounding through them. This time I resorted to mentally counting down the steps to the finish line. Believe it or not, counting each step all the way up to 500 steps, focused my attention on maintaining concentration while protecting it from impostor thoughts and realizations.
KM 7 ½. Competition
The final stretch was the best. A ‘pacer’ for the 44 minute mark caught up to me. I decided I couldn’t let him pass me in the final minutes of the race. Inspired by the moment, the cheers, the noise and the competition; I sprinted my way to the end, side- by-side him; raising my hands in a sign of “Victory” as I crossed the finish line.
KM 8. Gratitude
As I crossed the finish line, I was overjoyed by a sensation having conquered myself; a challenge both physical and mental in nature. My friend and I spent some time cooling off and shortly departed home.
The last technique I practiced that day was gratitude. I wrote to my friend:
“I am grateful for the invitation to participate in the race, to push my physical and mental limits, and to having shared this experience with you. Thank You.”
Overall, this was an incredibly humbling experience, a full reality check.
I realized that I am not as healthy as I thought I was; neither physically nor mentally; and was reminded of how important it is to continue challenging myself and pushing my limits.
I am glad I was able to blend mindfulness with physical contest; while making use of various techniques to help me along the way.
These were the mindfulness techniques I leveraged throughout the race:
• Affirmations helped me establish the right state of mind.
• Deep Breathing helped me find a pace and rhythm in my stride.
• Loving Kindness helped my be compassionate with myself in moments of self-doubt and guilt.
• Visualization helped me overcome pain by bringing the present moment into existence an instantly letting go to focus on the next one.
• Counting down put my mind to work; created a sort of tunnel vision that concentrated my thoughts on the task at hand.
• Gamifying the final stretch created a momentary rivalry between the pacer and I which fuelled my last 500 meter sprint.
• Gratitude helped me acknowledge the incredible experience I had just lived and appreciate how fortunate I am to have lived it.