(Percy Sutton Harlem 5K- left 2012, right 2016)
Harlem stand up! I had such a blast running my “hometown” 5K this past Saturday. The last time I ran the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K was in 2012. I was qualifying for the 2013 NYC Marathon, the Olympics had just ended and I was beyond fired up from all the “gold medal” glory – same story this year.
That 2012 5K was a special race because it was the fastest I had ever ran more than one mile in my entire life. I didn’t have any running gadgets or anything back then, so I remember calculating my splits on my iPhone calculator using the final time on the New York Road Runner official race clock.
7:50?! Surely my calculations were off. So I computed it again and again and eventually checked the official time a few hours later when NYRR posted the results on their site. Yep, 7:50.
I was in shock then, and let’s just say I had a similar moment of shock this past Saturday.
“Home is where the PR is!” I hope you enjoy this recap and the inspiration that Saturday’s glorious 3.1 miles provided.
I Run With Wings
No one has ever been more inspired and supportive of my running addiction more than my mother was. Ever since my first half marathon in 2011, I would call her before a race. Then post race I would text her photos and basically talk on and on about the “run-spirational” gems each mile had provided.
She thought it was so cool.
So now that she’s gone my pre and post race emotions are challenging.
However, thanks to those special moments, it always was and always will be more than a race to me.
I say this because while we didn’t discuss it much, we both knew that my body had endured so much before 2011. Having survived a 14 year long eating disorder, multiple broken bones in my childhood and countless car accidents, we undoubtedly knew that the only reason I was still here was by the grace of God.
So when Facebook kindly reminded me of our “mother-daughter-pre-and-post-race” exchange during the Percy Sutton Harlem 5K in 2012, just a few days before the 2016 race, I immediately became overwhelmed. Here is the text she sent me post race:
A Necessary PR
I am so glad I screenshot that text. I hadn’t read it in a long time, so when this Facebook memory popped up on my screen I knew that a 5K PR was necessary. I always wanted to beat my 5K PR from four years ago, but I also knew that I can barely run a 7 minute mile for more than one mile anymore. Yes I train hard, and yes I’m a faster and stronger runner than I’ve ever been today. However running faster than a 7:50 pace, four years older, seemed impossible.
I was definitely down to try though.
I trained extra hard the couple weeks prior, all while pre-forgiving myself in the event that 7:50 would remain my 5K PR after August 27, 2016. This is a funny balance.
But the night before the race, I had a change of heart. I didn’t want to PR. I needed to PR.
Remember Where You’ve Come From
The night before a race I do the same exact thing. I eat carbs. I look at my medal wall. And I reflect on prior victories.
Not only the races themselves, but who I was when I ran that race. So since this hometown race was a repeat race I reflected on who I was four years ago. Older obviously, stronger gratefully and motherless unexpectedly.
These three truths ran through my head like a broken record, and since I’ve been meditating a whole lot more lately (more on this soon) I immediately took the advice from my last guided meditation and “reformatted my thoughts” based on what I knew to be true.
The words were the same, but the intention was different. Saying to myself now, “Motherless has made me fearless.” Guardian angel life is a different type of life y’all.
I’m constantly humbled knowing that my strength is not limited to my physical abilities or my personal triumphs, but solely powered by the grace of God.
So off to bed I went knowing that I would be running a powerful race in the morning. A race with wings.
The Mental Push
However the morning of the race I was silly anxious. Typical. So I had to map out the three miles in my head before I crossed the start line. Not typical. Usually I just like to be in the moment when I race. But in order to conquer my desired PR pace and fulfill the promise from the night before, I had to get my head in the game. Literally mentally pushing past the physical demands that those miles would require.
Starting with mile one.
Everyone kept talking about “the hills” that would be at the beginning, and how intense they would be. So I instantly decided that no matter how steep the hill was, I was going to maintain the grace of my pace. Translation, I’m coming out this thing strong. As in above my PR pace.
I run hills. Every single week. Precision Running starts with incline. So every single class, the second half of the run feels challenging but possible due to the (literally and figuratively) strong start those inclines provide. Same thing in life. By remembering where I’ve come from, I’ve found that the harder I start, the stronger I finish.
So I came out the gate at a 7:33. 12 seconds above my PR pace goal of 7:45/mile.
It was hard. But I also knew it would be the hardest part, and if I could push through, it would be downhill from there.
Then came mile two. Which was actually for real downhill.
My hard pace paid off and my mental focus was simply this – surrender.
In my meditation practice I’ve been learning this through breath. The more intentional I am about my breath the more relaxed my thoughts become. However in the physical sense I’ve found that while tension tends to live in my shoulders and neck, the more I can relax these areas the deeper I can breathe.
The deeper I breathe, the more I relax. And the more I relax, the faster I run.
So I dropped into a moving meditation during mile two. Inhaling the word “you” and exhaling the words “got this” over and over again.
The result – 7:28 minutes later, mile two was threw.
I was literally high off of this mental magic and couldn’t believe that I was maintaining this crazy fast pace.
So no iPhone app needed this time. I knew I was going to PR when mile three started.
I was so excited that I started celebrating before the finish line.
Telling myself things like, “yes girl!” and “run into your destiny girl!”
And that’s when my wings kicked in…
Doing hard things with grace because of grace is what fuels my destiny.
I could instantly feel my mother saying all the lovely things she would always speak over me before and after races.
This brought me so much peace.
Peace in knowing that while there will never be another phone call or text from her again, her presence in moments like this is priceless.
I felt free during mile three.
My spiritual wings physically and mentally took me across the finish line in 7:07.
It was every ounce I had. I left nothing behind. And because of this I will always remember…
No matter what this life brings, I will always have these wings.
How do you face new personal and physical challenges? Let me know below.