The morning was perfect. The sun had just started to rise and it warmed the air just slightly enough to keep it crisp yet comfortable. The sky was clear blue. The breeze made it interesting. The course was familiar to me but one I had not tackled in some time, dotted with different types of hills over nine miles.
Everything was great. Except that the people I was running with remained a good 30-45 seconds ahead of me.
Really? What was wrong with me?
My gremlin voices started to grumble.
There has been a lot of change in my life over the last month. My role at work shifted and while it’s a fun a move with new challenges, there is a learning curve with the job and a different rhythm to the schedule that I’m gingerly navigating. At the same time, I’m changing my living situation which comes with its own set of craziness, the good, the bad and the invented.
With all of this life movement, my gremlins have been stirring, coming to life with all kinds of stories meant to cultivate self doubt, unworthiness and general ineptitude. And my gremlins were emerging on this Saturday morning long run as I failed to keep up with my friends.
Who do you think you are? Of course you’re not going to keep up with them. You know they don’t really want to run with you anyway. How slow are you really going? Are you even working out here?
That’s when I remembered a part from the book “Eat & Run” by ultramarathoner Scott Jurek. When his mind goes south, Jurek uses a four-point check list:
- Feel the emotion.
- Take stock.
- What can I do to remedy or improve the situation?
- Separate negative thoughts from reality.
I did my own version of this, allowing myself to feel emotionally crappy. Then I took some deep breaths and looked around a the perfect Western New York November morning. This run was for me and no one else. I was grateful for the opportunity to run, to feel free, to clear the space in my head and my heart. And the purpose of this run was to get in miles over a challenging course, not to set any land speed records, personal or otherwise.
As my thoughts started to cross over into gratitude, the negativity created by my gremlins felt less like truth and more like fiction. If my thoughts create my reality — whether it’s while I’m training or writing or securing a mortgage — then it’s worth the extra work to turn toward my better angels, the allied voices in my head, and listen to what stories they have to tell.
What’s really true here? More importantly, what do I truly want to be true here? I start with that question. I lean into that question. And I realize it’s not the answer that holds the power but the world I end up creating in an attempt to find it.