It was around 20 degrees fahrenheit this morning when I arrived at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park. I had dreaded the moment ever since I started seeing weather forecasts a few days earlier. The Prospect Park Track Club Cherry Tree 10 Miler sounded like fun when I signed up a few weeks ago, but that was when I was enjoying temperatures in the high thirties and low forties.
But as with most of my fitness commitments these days, as long as I didn’t get injured or sick, I knew that a couple hours of being active would leave me feeling better once it was over. And I was right. A couple hours later, I was sitting at Naidre’s, waiting to pick up my spinach burrito and bike back home, having successfully completed the longest race of my life.
My time was fairly slow–nearly an hour and 28 minutes (or about 8:46/mile pace), but I finished strong and I also didn’t feel too much discomfort running in the cold. My four layers were actually more than enough, and my mittens, face buff, and hat kept me pretty warm. Towards the end of the race, I found myself taking off the mittens to cool off my overheating and sweaty hands. I’m hopeful about running faster times in the future, and know that if I continue training, I’ll be able to bring my times down.
Mentally, I felt great. I listened to an audio book the entire time I ran. It was Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes. Lucky for me, the 90 or so minutes that I ran was mirrored by his recounting of his first Western States Endurance Run, a grueling 100-miler through intense terrain in California. I almost felt a luxurious comfort not having to contend with blisters on my feet, dehydration, and kidney failure, all perils documented in the book. Listening to Karnazes’s struggles made my run feel much easier, and I forgot about the numbness of my cheeks and soreness in my calves.
I liked the lesson contained in today’s experience. During the course of a year, a month, a week, or even a day, I’m presented with so many opportunities to exert myself a bit more and to push myself through some discomforts in order to accomplish something worthwhile. Most of the time, I succumb to the path of least resistance and decide to limit my engagement or make excuses about how I’ve “done enough.” I don’t mean to make myself feel bad about my default behavior. Sometimes, I surprise myself and string together productivity, perseverance, and focus. What I’d love to see is a growing capacity to align these three and to get more out of my time. The ten miles I ran today was possible because I put in the time during the past six weeks to increase my capacity to run, and because I’ve been good about my diet and not consuming alcohol. The discipline gave me the willpower to overcome the freezing cold. Likewise, when it comes to everyday work, I hope that the habits I’m putting down today will continue to increase the capacity for me to contribute, create, and be better at what I do. That way, when I do have to exert myself and feel some discomfort, I’ll actually feel really good at the end of it, glad to have put myself through the experience.