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“This isn’t a race,” the guy behind me grumbled. “If I wanted to dick around doing this I could have gone for a hike.”
Clearly he had not read the course description for the Jay Peak Trail Festival 25K or heard of its listing as one of the most adventurous trail races in America. While there were plenty of runnable sections, there was far more climbing on technical terrain that required quick feet and glutes of steel.
As I pulled ahead of the grumbling guy, I couldn’t help but think that his attitude was the worst possible place to be. Yeah, the course was tough. Incredibly tough. But the weather was perfect and the views were stellar.
Sometimes our attitudes and expectations make a bigger difference than our training and effort do. Maybe we expect to PR or maybe we build it up so much in our minds that it will be so hard that we don’t give ourselves the possibility to do well. Whatever your attitude, it matters. It can make a moment excruciatingly tougher than it needs, like my grumbling friend or your mind can overcome momentary pain and lift you to a place you didn’t think you could ever go.
Like later in the race, when my legs felt chewed up and empty and I saw two women move ahead of me bumping me out of third place into fifth. In past moments like this I’ve given up a little and resigned myself to the fact that maybe they are just having a better day than I am. But this time instead of deciding my race was over, a little spark ignited inside and I made a move. I focused in on the moment, and what I could control.
I could control my attitude. I could let go of doubt. I could control my effort. I couldn’t control how tired my legs were, but I could control how I felt about my tired legs. So I bombed down the hill passing the women who had passed me, moving back into third place. Willing my legs over the last few climbs to go just a little faster.
I crossed the finish line with no regrets, knowing I’d given everything I had and more.