I just came back from what I can consider as one of the top 5 worst runs in the past four years. In the first two miles, I stopped three times and had to walk. The middle stage wasn’t much better- I felt obese, clumsy, and slow. It wasn’t until the last four miles that I got my groove back and hammered them out at a decent pace. Yet despite finally finding my footing, I ended the run hacking and coughing. Promptly after stopping at my compound’s gate, I curled into a fetal position to avoid throwing up. I only got up because our compound askari/soldier came over and helped me up. All this on a run I’ve done so many times that I can see all the potholes, ridges, and non-sidewalks in my sleep.
It wasn’t the physical aspect that ashamed me. Bouncing back from h. Pylori bacterial infection takes time, especially for a sport that is hard on the GI tract. I am ashamed by how soft and easily my mind folded in the initial stage of the run. Running is mental. How tough is your mind to get past discomforts while still listen to your body to avoid serious injuries? How can you tune out distractors on the road? How can you let go of your ego and stick with your own pace when world class marathoners effortlessly pass you not once but twice? How can you get past “failures” in the beginning to still complete the “tasks”, i.e the run?
Looking back, I should have done three things (differently):
1. Pre-run: I let go of my diet last night- I drank and ate junk food. I have always known that the food I eat the day before a long run plays a crucial role in my performance. It’s just how my body is. But I was frustrated by something at work last night and convinced myself that it was OK to have a cheat day.
2. Pre-run: I didn’t prepare myself mentally for the long run. My most successful runs have been when I spent half an hour before getting into a “trance” and giving myself a pep talk about how to deal with discomfort, etc. I didn’t do it this morning. I don’t why and don’t have a good reason for not doing it. Laziness?
3. During the run: I got distracted by the construction work, the dust, the hot temperature, and the cars whizzing by and fell into the line of thinking of, “ugh, only in Africa would I have to deal with all this” I gave myself an excuse to stop and walk. I really didn’t have to do that.
My lack of discipline is the real reason why I hated this run and am ashamed of the fact that that my mental toughness wilted. Once again, I learned the hard way how powerful my mind is and how I can talk myself into/ out of/ around anything I want. I can justify whatever needs to be justified or not justified. Its frightening omnipotency makes discipline more important and urgent, not only in running, but in everything else. From work to relationships to athletics, without discipline, we can really convince ourselves to do anything- even things that are against our interests, beliefs, and ethics.
The lack of discipline in my running really alarmed me. What if the other aspects of my life are also slowly disintegrating in discipline but I just haven’t noticed the decay? If they are not actually deteriorating, how can I make them better by becoming more and more smartly disciplined? What do I need to work on to make that happen?
My house is hosting a raging BBQ/party/shenanigans tonight- possibly the last while I am based out of Nairobi. But before then, I am going to think about discipline in other aspects of my life, i.e. work and side projects, and how I can improve it. I was humbled this morning. Time to reap the fruits of the lesson.