It’s 5 p.m. on a Saturday and I’m in the middle of running 48 laps around the indoor track at the gym. It’s an easy run that I don’t have to think much about, but given the fact that my last run was outside in shorts and a t-shirt (who knew it could get into the 60s in February — in Wisconsin?!) having to run in circles inside is quickly becoming a bore.
So I do what normally works when I feel my mental focus fading on a run: think about the race I’m training for.
As I start picturing Cincinnati and the Flying Pig course, my mind goes to pacing. I don’t have a goal time — I just want to have a strong performance and know I left everything out on the course. But it’s a marathon, and trying to leave everything out there too quickly is a surefire way to crash into the wall at mile 20 and have just enough in me to walk the last six miles. That is not my version of a strong performance.
So I start thinking about the concept of running by effort, a race strategy I attempted to implement at the Chicago marathon before stomach and back pain knocked me out the last half. And out of nowhere I hear that little voice of knowing, aka my intuition, tell me the last thing I want to hear.
“You need to run without your watch.”
Suddenly I’m 17 again at a track meet in Middletown, Ohio. My coach is demanding I hand over my little light pink sports watch to him before the 3200. It’s one of the first track meets of the season and he wants me to learn to race instead of focusing on my time. When I can do that, then I can run with my watch again.
I resisted the idea at the time but he was right. I did become a better runner and my times dropped when I focused on racing vs. paying attention to the clock. (And eventually I was allowed to race with my watch again.)
But here I am, 10 years later, and my first reaction to the thought of running without my watch is a flat “no.” Especially my Garmin watch, the one thing I’ve worn in all three marathons I’ve run. The one piece of technology I rely on to make sure I’m hitting my paces and getting all my miles in. And it may be a little “Cast Away” to admit this, but I’ve grown attached to my little white and lime green Garmin Forerunner 210. Rain or shine, it’s there for me every run.
Besides, how will I know if I’m going out too fast in the beginning? Or if I think I can pick up the pace toward the end?
“You need to learn to trust yourself,” the little voice responded.
And that’s when I realized it wasn’t just referring to running.
Right before I went to the gym to get my workout in I wrote in my journal, specifically to my intuition, about a goal I’ve had for years and a decision I’ve been trying to make around it. I’ve been debating recently whether I should still pursue this goal — whether I still even want it — or if I should let it go and move on.
I’ve spent a lot of time, money and energy trying to push this goal along. I’ve purchased online courses, consulted with experts and people who have already achieved said goal, read hundreds of articles, hopped on at least a dozen email lists and somehow still feel just as lost and clueless today as I did 2 years ago.
But tonight it clicked. I’ve been turning to external sources — “stopwatches” — to try to tell me if I’m on the right track and what to do next. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Stopwatches are incredibly useful and helpful tools. The problem is I learned to rely on them solely instead of realizing when it’s time to tune in to my intuition and listen to what it wants me to do instead.
Just like when I was a junior in high school, I need to learn to race on my own first. When I’ve mastered that, then I can bring in the tools that should help me go even farther.
So come Sunday, May 7, my left wrist will be a little lighter than usual. There will be no worrying about finding a satellite signal (and dropping it). No pace to rely on. I won’t even know my current race time. It’ll just be little ole me, out there on the roads, listening to my body and learning how to reach the finish line one step at a time, all on my own.