In mid-May after a winter and fall of not following any sort of training plan and honestly mostly only running on weekends I decided, on a whim, to sign up for the Colfax Urban 10 Miler. I had done the Colfax 5k and Marathon Relay in the past years and the thought of not participating in a race on Colfax weekend was starting to get me down. So, I signed up on Saturday for the Sunday 10 miler. The most I had run at one time since last year has been about 6 miles, but I was confident that, even if I had to walk, that I would be able to finish this race. I was pretty excited because the race started in my neighborhood (the undesirable West Colfax) and ran east on Colfax, through the Broncos football stadium, up the Platte River, through downtown Denver to Denver’s City Park. The beginning of the race was almost all downhill adding to my confidence that I would be able to finish the race.
For the first couple of years of running I was strictly an interval runner. I would do a 3:00/1:00 run to walk interval and had gotten pretty comfortable with this routine. Last fall I decided to push myself at the Rock-n-Roll 10k to see if I could actually run a race straight through without intervals and shocked myself that I actually could. Apparently, my training had paid off and I was becoming a “real” runner. So, for the Colfax Urban 10 miler I decided that I was going to run the first 6.2 miles straight and see how I was feeling. Depending on how I felt I would just continue running or switch to a 3:00/1:00 run/walk interval.
At the 10k mark of the race, when I was going to make my decision on how I would finish the race, I was feeling really strong with my running and was pretty sure I would just continue running straight through when suddenly my left hip was in excruciating pain. I had been having issues with my hip all year (and had issues with my other hip last year which only resolved after getting a cortisone shot) and at that moment it felt like someone was shoving a nail into my hip. At that point, the decision was made for me and I had to switch to a run/walk interval in hopes to get the pain under control. I was still making good time and keeping up with the group I was running with, I had just switched to the run/walk interval to give my hip a break every once in a while. I was feeling really confident that even with the change of plans I was going to have a great race.
During one of my short waking intervals a stranger came up behind me and started giving me and the woman I was running near encouragement. Telling us that “we could do it, we just needed to put our minds to it and we could finish.” While I usually like encouragement from fellow runners, there was something about this particular encouragement that just pissed me off. For one, the woman that I was running with was an older woman who was absolutely rocking it. And secondly, I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that I was going to be able to finish the race and I didn’t need to put mind to it because my mind was telling me I was going to finish – until he planted a seed of doubt in my mind. Yes, I was walking at the moment the stranger offered up his encouragement but it was part of my plan, not because I wasn’t able to run. I obviously looked like someone who needed extra encouragement, which kind of sucks because I was feeling really good about my race. This stranger’s words, which I am sure were meant to be encouraging, suddenly made me feel horrible and sent me in to a spiral of self-doubt. I immediately started thinking about how I wasn’t a “real” runner because I didn’t look like a typical runner (ie. I am not super skinny or particularly athletic looking), I don’t run fast and did run/walk intervals, and that I would never be in the front of the pack. All of these things never really bothered me before but these words of encouragement from a complete stranger really got to me and really made me think about how others look at me when I’m running. I wish I was a stronger person who wasn’t bothered by these kinds of things. I know that it doesn’t matter what my time was or how gracefully I ran, I still ran 10 miles, which is a lot more than most people do on a random Sunday, but it still planted that seed of doubt in my mind. And obviously, because I’m writing about almost two months later, it really stuck with me.
I’m not sure what the morale of this story is. I think encouraging others during races is great, but I am definitely going to be more mindful about the words of encouragement I share with others. I would hate to make others feel the way that someone’s words of “encouragement” made me feel. I can only speak for myself but the fact that I get my ass out of bed and get to the start line of any given race is a huge accomplishment for me. If you would have told me five years ago that I would be running a 10 mile race I would have told you that you were crazy. We’ve all taken different roads to get to the starting line and it’s important to make sure we are encouraging each other in the right ways.