Snow had been falling steadily for hours, sometimes floating down in lazy fluff balls, and sometimes whizzing to earth in tiny razor pellets, forcing me to run with my hand as a visor. It was late April. But it was Minnesota, and an old fashioned snowstorm had rumbled in the night before, bringing 20+ mph winds and a shovel-bending dump of snow.
It was like running in a snow globe, and just as wet as the inside of one. My frozen fingers retreated into my gloves. Grabbing a flimsy paper cup at water stations felt like picking up a golf ball with toothpicks. When I rounded the bend with 20 miles down, 6.2 to go, the northwest wind gut-punched me and scraped snowflakes across my eyes. Wiping the icy crystals from my brows and lashes, I tucked my head down for the final stretch. I repeated one of my mantras: “This is when you trust your training, and believe that your body has everything it needs to finish this race.”
My body knew that was true. My brain just needed reminding. I believe that attitude matters. I believe that in marathons, and in life, if you have trained, prepared, with fortitude and wisdom, attitude will carry you to the finish.
Lose your grip on attitude, and you might not see the finish line. In a marathon six months and hundreds of miles earlier, I started behind my intended pacing group, and I was desperate to catch up. Instead of repeating a mantra, my brain screamed, “You are alone. You’re gonna to have to do this yourself.” So I ran faster. The voice intensified. “Oh, this is hard. This is too hard. You shouldn’t be this tired already.”
Frantically, I continued to push my pace beyond my training. When I did pull back, the damage was done, and the humid and hot conditions unforgiving. After throwing up—twice—for the first time since 6th grade—I quit.
Blizzard notwithstanding, this time was different. A curtain of falling snow hid everyone in front of me, and muffled those behind me, so I was alone, again.
Literally. But I was ready. I focused on making every snow-crunching step strong, every thought positive. When my Uncle Dave yelled, “Kick’er down!” as I neared the finish, I did. Kick’er down, I mean. I finished 20 seconds under my goal.
Training for and running marathons has changed me. For one, I consistently weigh 10-15 pounds less than I did pre-marathon; that’s a plus. More importantly, I have learned that my attitude–the messages I tell myself, the perspective I dwell in–makes the difference between failure and success.
So, when running, I tell myself things like: I am strong, my legs are strong, my muscles have all that they need to do what I am asking of them. I have run many miles, and I will run many more.
Sometimes, I replay a golden memory of training along the Mississippi, when two cyclists sped past me and one commented, “I like seeing chicks run fast.”