I always scan through insta, looking at runners and their smiling, perfect race photos, looking like they are having a blast. Well let me tell you, this is what I look like (yep, that’s me right there – not a stock photo). Not really pretty right? Reality usually isn’t, its messy and all over the place. So here is a sneak peak into my mind when fighting for that messy 1st place.
I’m at the start line, everyone is staring me down since I’m a female lining up with the men at the front of the line. I’m wearing a singlet, and I see females in sports bras, six pack abs showing, and I’m thinking to myself, “I’ve already lost” (with my one pack). The announcer says 3 more minutes until “Start.” I take my gel and caffeine strip to wake me up (I’m not a morning runner). The countdown begins.. 3..2..1…GO! My heart beat sky rockets, I can feel it travel up my body and into my throat. One guy passes me, then another, then some female runners. I don’t let this falter me, I just have to stay on their tail. I try to convince myself that they are starting too fast so they will fade eventually (right)? Breathing is getting harder. I start to hyperventilate and have to close my eyes while running, reminding myself to take slower, even breaths. After 4km I finally start getting into the groove and all the sudden I pass a female runner, then another. I read a sign someone is holding saying “you are our inspiration,” and it almost brings tears to my eyes, but I have to keep running. My legs are starting to get heavy as 7km approaches; holding a sub 4min/km pace is starting to get harder. Then someone from the side cheers saying “first female, keep running!”
The adrenaline rush that hits me is unreal. I start thinking “I can actually do this,” and I can feel the warmth spread through my body like electricity straight to my fingertips and my toes. At this point the world does not exist, I can do anything I put my mind to. Nothing is impossible anymore! One kilometer to go – I’m on fire. At this point it feels like everyone I love is pushing me forward. My uncle who, rest his soul, is telling me not to give up like he did, while my dad is telling me I’m running too slow and can go faster (typical dad). Everyone that ever doubted me can no longer bring me down. I sprint the last 600m, and i’m stumbling over the line. I come to a harsh stop almost crashing into another runner. The crowds are cheering, I have to sit down with my head between my knees to try to regain my regular breathing pattern.
The announcer calls my name over the mic, “…and first female, Paulina Backiel, has just crossed the line!”
Distance running is not about how good you look in your running photo or how big your six pack abs are. Distance running takes training and, most of all, mental strength. Trust your body’s abilities. If you believe you can do something, do it. That belief, along with the time you put in your training, can get you farther than the person next to you at the next race. So train hard and believe in yourself. If you want something, you have to be willing to reach for it, even if it feels like reaching for the stars at the moment.