One More Mile has a great sticker that says "Running is a Mental Sport and We Are All Insane". This definitely holds true for me - every time I lace up my shoes the mental game begins. How far am I going? How much will I push myself? The competitive type A personality wonders if the mile splits will be faster than the last, can I push myself around the track for one more set of 800s... To know me is to have a mental image of all of this and be smiling in recognition. No one is harder on me than well, me.
To commit to running Nike I had to also commit to the realization that I wasn’t going to achieve a new faster, personal best on a course where mile 6 starts a steady climb that doesn’t end until about mile 7.2. In a somewhat genius move, the race organizers cleverly place photographers at mile 7.3 to capture the grins that come with being on a downhill stretch. Nike also meant learning how to run hill repeats - I spent many a Thursday night this summer running up and down Independence Ave from the front of the Capitol building to the back. Even it wasn’t going to be fast, after my experience in May I didn’t want it to HURT, because after that first downhill and its glorious views of the Golden Gate Bridge, comes another uphill.
Running Nike was also about something bigger than me – 5,000 people from all over the country wore the same purple Team in Training singlet that I did to tackle 13.1 or 26.2 miles. Together we raised over $18 million for leukemia and lymphoma research. I knew that every time I thought I couldn’t hurt any more I had only to think about my honored teammate Rhonda, whose chemotherapy regime has put her blood test levels in a state of remission but sapped her daily energy.
About that crying thing – after the second hill between mile 8 and 9 I crested the hill and was rewarded with a panorama of the Pacific Ocean. All of a sudden there were tears of joy as I thought about my honored teammate, what I had accomplished, what I knew I could finish if I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I had achieved that moment that John “The Penguin” Bingham described the night before – knowing that I could do this. The self-doubt made a brief return at mile 11 where I made my first Team in Training coach run a stretch of Golden Gate Park with me while I mentally pulled myself back together. As I came out of the park and onto Great Highway with the finish line in sight, I realized that I had mentally won in a way I never have at any other race. I crossed the finish line and made the time goal I had set for myself (you didn’t think I went without a goal now, did you?!?). The reward for all this?
A tuxedoed man handing me a Tiffany blue box with a finisher’s necklace.