Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Make It or Break It Moment

With the Lincoln Half Marathon quickly approaching, I have found myself thinking a lot about my goals for this race and how I'm going to accomplish them. I won't talk about how unfortunate it is that the timing of the race coincides catastrophically with the beginning of Finals Week or how taper time (the time when you cut back your weekly miles to rest your legs before the big day) SHOULD equal more time to think about school work, but in fact it equals more time spent thinking about the upcoming race, reading books and magazines about running, etc. etc. ...

As I have been considering these goals, I have been thinking back to previous races that I've run, the goals I had for them, and some of my moments of glory and failure. I have set goals that I had no idea whether or not I could reach and no idea how to go about reaching them, which usually led to me falling short. I have set goals and worked hard to achieve them, and a few times have set no goals at all. Now, let me tell you, looking back, that seems odd. I am a VERY goal oriented person (can we say Type A personality?). I operate best when I have clear goals and clear ideas about how I am going to achieve them. This has always been the case for me - in sports, in school, in life. This year, I have a clear goal, and I'm going to work out a very straightforward plan that I hope will help me reach it.

One thing is sure, though: whether I've met my running goals over the last couple of years or not, I have learned at least one important lesson during every race. Maybe it's about what to eat next time, that 40 degrees is just a little too warm for a jacket, or that I like to talk during the first part of a race, but prefer not to towards the end. Some of the lessons are a lot bigger and more important. Like last year during the Novartis 10K (6.2 miles), I wasn't having a great race, but decided I wanted to finish strong. As I was climbing the last big hill, I realized that it may hurt for a few minutes, but I could do it. Or during the State Farm 10 mile race just a few weeks ago when I learned that if I'm tired, I just need to focus on putting one foot in front of the other for a while, and eventually I'll make it.

When do those lessons come? Once in a while they come during the few miles where I'm feeling great, smiling, and in love with life, but most of the really important lessons have come at what I like to call my "Make It or Break It Moment." The "Make It or Break It Moment" is that one moment when you are faced with two choices: stopping and quitting or breaking down the brick wall that is fear and pain. During that moment I think to myself, "Ok. You can stop right here, right now and walk. Or, you can find a little more strength and push through this." It's the hardest point in the race - the part that challenges literally every fiber of your being. It's also the defining moment of your race.

We have defining moments like this in life all the time (or at least I seem to). Moments when things are really hard and the last thing you want to do is take one more step forward into a sometimes painful or scary situation. But I continue to be reminded, with each run and each race that taking that step (or hundreds of them) is the only way to get to the other side - the heavenly side with food and Gatorade on it. ... except in life, no one is there to put a medal around your neck...

I don't know yet when the defining moment of my half marathon will come. Last year it came during the last tenth of a mile. In the State Farm race this year it came as I was running around that stupid building, searching desperately for the finish line (any of you that have run that race know exactly what I mean). In last weekend's 12 mile training run, my "Moment" came at mile 10. My legs hurt, my knees hurt, my shoulders and neck were tight, my lungs were burning. I didn't want to take one more step forward. But I did. And I learned that even when I don't want to, even when I think I can't, even when I feel like everything is falling apart, I can still put one foot in front of the other and continue on.


  1. Life lesson indeed. Very well stated.

  2. I feel like I learn something new (or maybe I forget the old) every single race and every long run. Running teaches you so much! glad you enjoy it and are in tune with what it can teach you!