This weekend, for the first time ever, I participated in the Vulcan Run, a 10K race held annually in Birmingham that attracts about 1,000 runners each year.
I have never been more nervous for a race. I couldn’t really figure out why. I’ve run a half-marathon — twice — which is more than twice the number of miles of a 10K. I also trained for this race for a month. Yet, the morning of the Vulcan Run I was so nervous my stomach started to hurt.
I was convinced I’d be too slow to finish the race in the two-hour time limit or that my legs would just stop working around mile five.
Nevertheless, I laced up my Nikes and set off to pound the pavement. This race, like so many others, would not only teach me plenty about running but impart lessons about writing, too.
I immediately forgot the advice my friend Jennifer of Stellar Fashion and Fitness gave me the night before the race. “Just go out like you’re running on your own,” she said. “Play your music and block everyone out.” But I didn’t listen. Everyone around me was speeding down 19th Street so I felt I needed to as well. So I ran harder and faster than I knew I should have simply because I was trying to keep up with everyone else around me.
Then I remembered the wise words of another writer and blogger friend. Ashley Coleman of WriteLaughDream once said, “Stop chasing goals that aren’t your own and you won’t feel like you can’t catch up.” In the world of writing and blogging it’s so easy to get caught up in the comparison game and often we start comparing ourselves to people who aren’t even doing the things we truly want to do!
Why was I trying to run so fast? I was not doing this race to win any sort of prize. I run because I have a connective tissue disease that tries to tell me I can’t. My primary goal for this and any other race is simply to finish before the event shuts down. For each race I also set a secondary goal. For this one it was to finish in 90 minutes. Neither of these goals required me to be the reincarnation of Flo Jo! So I slowed down and took my walk break.
I understand why it’s so hard us bloggers to take a break. When we fast social media for 40 days, when we take a break from blogging so we can work on a book, or when we skip a professional conference so we can take care of a personal crisis, we see everyone else who isn’t taking a break passing us by.
I walked a lot during the second mile of the race and was convinced that all 1,000 people participating had passed me.
By the third mile I’d finally stopped focusing on the runners around me, but only because I’d decided to berate myself. You should have trained more diligently, Javacia. You shouldn’t have had Chick Fil A for dinner last night, Javacia. You should have bought new running shoes before this race, Javacia.
Obviously, this negative self-talk did nothing to improve my run, just as negative self-talk does nothing to improve my writing, my blogging, or my business.
Once half of the race was complete I finally took my friend Jennifer’s advice. I picked out one of my favorite songs on my running playlist and decided to just enjoy my run. Suddenly running felt easy and fun. And I felt fierce and free. I had finally hit my stride.
Oh, how I long for the day I can say this about writing, blogging, and business, too. What if to do so I need to apply Jennifer’s advice to these areas of life, too. What if I need to just play my music and block everyone out?
During mile five I checked the time on my FitBit and realized that not only was I going to finish before the course closed but I most likely was going to meet my secondary goal, too.
I was ready to finish strong, but my left knee started hurting. Then my right knee started hurting, too. And so did my right foot. But I was determined to finish that race and I was determined to meet both of my goals.
So often when we’re going after our writing and blogging goals we’re tempted to give up when things get tough, but usually, these hardships come when the finish line is just around the corner.
Finally, the finish line is in sight and so is the clock keeping the official time for the race. I snap a picture as I pass it.
I finished the race in 80 minutes, 10 minutes faster than my goal.
I left downtown Birmingham overflowing with pride and joy, ready to train for my next race and ready to conquer my next goal.