By Laura Kantor
Sixteen months ago, a friend helped me realize how self-defeating thoughts and behaviors were affecting every area of my life, including my running and racing goals. Running took a back seat last year while I did difficult work with my therapist to improve the rest of my life. Way Too Cool was the first race where it was apparent how far I have come and how much my mindset has improved.
I was having a joyous day in the mud and rain on trails that make my heart sing. But at mile 12, I felt my confidence shake. Was it because a volunteer at the last aid station said there were 20 minutes until cutoff?
I drew on my newfound strength and I reminded myself not to let that take away my great day. My mantra was: “Enjoy this moment. Hello, moment, I am here.” I hooked up with other runners for a few minutes, and soon it was a few miles together. We pushed and pulled each other along, then one of us would move on. It was glorious teamwork – the best of ultrarunning, where we both help, and compete with, each other.
I was still 20 minutes ahead of cutoff at mile 21. The final 10 miles of single-track on the Western States Trail were my favorite. I was home free. I knew I could pick up the pace and cruise from there. But the rolling hills, normally so runnable, were now icy-slick mud. It took a lot of energy and concentration to stay on my feet.
With four miles to go, and the rain picking up, I’d lost the 20 minutes I had banked. Would I make it before the 8:30 cutoff? Again, a new strength and confidence welled up from within me: Don’t give up, just go, go, go. There was no anxiety this time, no feeling of desperation, no typical disheartening “I’m not going to make it.” Instead I ran relaxed, yet pushed every step and fought to move as efficiently and quickly as I could. I decided that even if I didn’t make the 8:30 cutoff, I was proud of my effort, and that I am “good enough.”
I crested the final hill and could hear the cheering at the finish line about a half-mile away. I wanted to be there so badly – but I was here, and so I did only what I could do: I put one foot in front of the other. I made the final turn and saw the clock at the finish chute about 50 yards down the straightaway, and I realized only then that I had it in the bag. I was elated to finish in 8:29:10, and I felt like Superman crossing that finish line. That day I learned anew that the bravery to confront difficult personal issues pays off in more joy in all areas of life.