‘Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name’.
I have no doubt in my mind that the TC 10k is my ‘Cheers’. It’s the once a year reminder that we are all in this together, and that running is the place I go to get away and be with friends. And Sunday, during the Times Colonist 10k, it really hit home for me: this is literally where everybody knows my name.
It seems that on every corner and every intersection, I heard someone calling my name as I raced. People called from balconies and porches as well: some voices I recognized and some I didn’t. All the support gave me energy, and made me realize how lucky I am to do what I do.
The 10k was the second 10k in a row for me, completing the Road Racing Dynamic Duo of the Sun Run 10k and TC 10K that I love so much. The end of April is my favourite racing time of the whole year. With the two races brings some fun public speaking, a buzz of sport excitement, and many visits with running friends and the whole running community.
While some of the goals of racing have changed for me (mainly from being contender for the overall win, to putting my best out there for the day no matter what), so much of what I love about racing endures season after season. I am not sure I will ever tire of getting on a start line, the thrill of the moments before the start—a feeling that you can’t replicate in training—and the simple challenge of getting from A to B as fast and as expertly as possible.
The farther I get away from the intense side of my professional racing career, where goals were measured in seconds and finish order, the closer I get to loving all of this sport. I used to write race reports, and re caps. Writing down all my thoughts, frustrations, reflections and success was pretty important at the time and after twenty years of step by step analysis of racing, I can pretty much execute a race in my sleep. So what is left to write about when you are still racing strong at 48?
I think this can best be summed up as ‘How to have a fantastic day and appreciate the ride’. And here is my personal take of how I have learned this from my career. I couldn’t have got here now if I didn’t learn the hard way—through hours and years of practice.
1. The world is a lot more grey than it is black and white. I used to believe that things had to be perfect for a race to be perfect. I had to eat a certain meal the night before, wear the exact right pair of lucky underwear. If I followed a specific order of pre-ordained steps, the race would go awesome. The warm up had to occur at exactly the correct moment before the start, and I had to put my racing flats on and do strides at the right moment pre-race. This attention to detail, this focus on order, it held a necessary function in my path to success. It held my attention to developing expertise, to being focussed on the task at hand as it related to my goals, and to establishing and practicing good habits. I rarely made mistakes in my pre-race diet, and was almost always ready and warmed up when the race was ready to start. However, what I now know is that there is no perfect. Perfection is unattainable, but what is do able is the pursuit of excellence and the willingness to strive. In the end, there is no lucky underwear, just as there is no tooth fairy, but there is magic to be had in the believing that you deserve to be great. Nowadays when I get ready to race, I use all the common sense habits that I have learned and there is a sense of calm in knowing that this is going to be good enough.
2. Look for the Good. When we are stressed and anxious about doing well, the human brain seems to have a negativity bias. We magnify the bad and minimize the good. For some people, the tendency to focus on a negative, helps them deal with their nerves. If they imagine the worst thing that can happen, then no outcome can be as bad as that. The problem with this mind set is that the focus on one negative thing—not enough porta potties at the start line for instance, or feeling like you didn’t get enough sleep—crowds out a lot of the positive things that are going on around you. I see this a lot before races. The chatter revolves around people not feeling 100%, or the imperfect conditions. Imagine for a moment, showing up and focussing only the good. For me, this is manifest perfectly in a race like the Times Colonist. All I can see on race morning are the fantastic volunteers, or the beautiful setting in front of the Legislature and the Fairmont. Even while racing, I focus on what is going well, including the awesome Marimba Bands.
3. Everybody is important. Understanding that every single person at the race is a deserving human being sure brings the joy out and takes the pressure off. While running can appear to be a solo effort, it really is a team event and the more you embrace the energy of the team, the more you are lifted by what is essentially, an outstanding and limitless amount of positive energy. I do a lot of training solo. I absolutely have an introverted side and am totally in my bliss, happily skimming along the empty trails listening to birds, emptying my brain from all random thoughts. I also love races, the atmosphere and the excitement, and the feeling that so many people are there thriving together.
4. Embrace Self-confidence. The more you believe you have the ability to accomplish a task, the greater the chances of success. Which leads to improved self-confidence. Why can I get on a start line these days with such joy? Is it because I know I can run fast? I do know that I can run fast, but the gift of fast running genetics would be lost on me if I didn’t actually believe I could use them successfully. Years and years of practice has led me to a very strong and powerful feeling of confidence in my ability to race. Confidence is a practice and it is specific. It is the result of setting attainable goals and mastering them. I love coaching kids because when they show up for the first practice, they talk about who is fastest. They all know who is the fastest runner in the school. But I show up to coach all the runners and by the end of the first day I have given every single child a skill that they decided to master that day. THAT is confidence.
The TC 10K was once again an amazing event. Thank you to the 10 000 runners, the 800 volunteers, the police and traffic marshals, the paramedics and doctors, the multitude of friends, fans, and families out cheering, the bands and entertainment, the race committee and the City of Victoria for supporting active communities. I am proud to be a part of this community, and an Ambassador for Lululemon Johnson Street who have, hands down, the best cheering section!
Common sense and a sense of humour.