Run Like Flanagan

Saturday I didn’t run because I didn’t have any motivation to do so.  I was feeling down and out – not to mention stressed – and pretty much made up my mind early on in the day that running was not how I was going to deal with my emotions.  Bad idea (that I always regret), I know.
Sunday I didn’t run because I was too busy (doing nothing, I know) I was still lacking in the motivation department.  And Sunday, I had the privilege of watching the last half of the NYC Marathon on TV. 
Today I will run like Flanagan.  (Okay, well, not exactly like Flanagan because she is a super-speedy gazelle and I am…not).  Watching her race yesterday has given me a new motivation for running, particularly training to run my first full in May.
If you haven’t heard, 29-year-old US Olympic track star Shalane Flanagan, placed 2nd in the NYC Marathon yesterday. 
It was her first marathon – ever
Flanagan’s second place finish is the best result achieved by an American female long-distance runner since 1990 – 20 years ago.  And she was literally seconds away from breaking a 33-year losing streak for U.S. women on the streets of New York.  She finished the race in 2:28:40 and while her numbers are impressive (it takes me longer than that to run half that), the fact that she finished – strong, I might add – is winner enough for me.
It has been said that Flanagan has reinvigorated the American public with a love for distance running and I must say I love watching her run. 
I got to thinking about the things that have made Flanagan a successful runner and I started finding out more about her.  You can read some of her thoughts on preparing for the NYC Marathon in her blog.  For example, she writes, “This morning I laid in bed visualizing of all the things I will be doing and feeling on November 7th. I got mammoth sized butterflies in the pit of my stomach just thinking about it. I imagine I will have a flood of emotions. I will try to act tough, put on my game face, and convince myself it is just another race, even though I know deep down, it means more to me than just any old race.”

What struck me most about her words is this: “This morning I laid in bed visualizing all the things I will be doing and feeling on November 7.”  Visualizing.  We all can – and should – do this.  For all the goals we set for ourselves, no matter how big or small, no matter if they are fitness related or not. 

Visualize where you want to be – dream it, talk it, live it – every moment of everyday.  We should do everything in our power to believe we will be successful.  Ever heard the old saying, “Think yourself thin?”  I think there is a lot of truth to that statement.  If I envision myself – actually feel the body I want to have in my mind – I am that much more empowered to make smart dining choices and stay committed to my fitness plan.  I want to live as if I have already accomplished my dream: running a full marathon.  I doubt Shalane loads up on empty carbs and sugary snacks as she prepares for her training runs.  I doubt she skips breakfast because she is too busy or gets by on cupfuls of sugary coffee.  Of course, I’m sure she has her cheats – she’s human – in fact, after NYC, all she said she wanted was, “A hamburger and a beer.”  But after accomplishing your dream of running 26.2 miles and placing 2nd in one of the most esteemed races around – who wouldn’t deserve a hamburger and a beer?
Along with visualizing, we should also write down our goals.  Statistics show that writing down a plan and what we did or did not accomplish, will give us a 50 percent advantage over those individuals who don’t write anything down.  A 50 percent advantage!  Who can really turn that down?
So, aside from getting back into the habit of keeping a food and fitness journal, here are my other goals in writing:
  1. Run the Pittsburgh Marathon in May 2011.
  2. Loose the last 50 pounds – the healthy way.
  3. Be at my goal weight by next summer.
Shalane also writes, “Instead of focusing on all the things I can’t control, I am enjoying the moments in front of me. The marathon is going to be an amazing journey and I get the chance to write the ending.” 
I need to take her advice on this one and stop worrying about the things I can’t control and focus on the things I can while enjoying the rest.  The marathon will be an amazing journey, there is not doubt in my mind, and I am writing the ending in my mind.  I am already crossing the finish line in May!
Lastly, I have learned to attach emotion to my hopes and dreams.  I think Flanagan might do the same – or else she would not have been so passionate about “being sworn into the secret society” of marathon runners.  My hopes and dreams come alive when I attach vivid and sometimes fierce emotion to them – it is one of the reasons why I was so devastated when I had to back out of the full training this past summer.  Without my emotions, I would have never of had the desire to change – to even start running at all – and change my life.  It’s scary, I know, because your emotions can get shattered, you can get hurt and have to start all over, but without them, you would have never have taken the first step.  At least this was true for me – literally. 
Finally, Flanagan says, “Don’t give up at any point because things can happen.”
I know this is true.  I have run five half marathons to date, and I am not going to stop.  There is no turning back for me now.  I will accomplish my goals and I will not give up because things do happen.  I’ve lost 50 pounds so far and am no longer on the verge of being diabetic; my mood and self-esteem have improved sometimes beyond my own recognition; I take risks; I lift weights; I cook my own healthy meals; I work out almost everyday…and all of these things happened because I did not give up.
So, you ask, still going to run like Flanagan?
I think I just might.

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