A Way Cool Race

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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.

Laura at the Finish of Way Too Cool with her finisher medal. Photo: Keith Facchino

Laura at the Finish of Way Too Cool with her finisher medal. Photo: Keith Facchino

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