NO REGRETS And Other Kick Ass Advice From Dr. Bob
Before I left California, I got to sit down with Dr. Bob to talk about my BQ Or Bust journey. Dr. Robert Corb (AKA Dr. Bob) is a licensed Psychologist and he was the former head of Sports Psychology at UCLA. His patients include Olympians, elite athletes, college athletes, and normal everyday athletes like me and his ability to make even the most complex hiccups and speed bumps simple is what makes him so good at what he does. But most importantly, Dr. Bob understands play and finding the balance between performing at your highest caliber and having fun doing the thing you love to do.
My biggest set back throughout my time as a runner has been pushing through pain and discomfort. There are days when I'm able to do it but the majority of the time, as Dr. Bob pointed out in our first meeting together, I make the choice to suffer and my negative self talk stops me from giving my best effort. The second he said that to me, my harder workouts started to click. He asked me to try taking "have to" out of my vocabulary and instead use "get to" and "want to". He asked me to rethink how I talk about my more intimidating runs. Instead of saying "I can't do this" try "I'm going to try and give it everything I have" and "Let's see what happens". The second I stopped defining my limits, my assigned paces stopped feeling impossible. And I wasn't really doing anything different! The world wouldn't come to a stand still if I didn't hit my paces, but instead of immediately telling myself I couldn't do it, it was so much easier to just go for it and see what happens.
It was a tempo run in Central Park and even though it was hot and humid, I was feeling pretty good. I was running with my friend and teammate and a little over halfway through, she told me to go on without her. I didn't want to go alone so I told her that I wasn't feeling well and didn't want to go faster. A half of a mile after telling her that, I actually started to feel like shit. I retreated into the dark part of my brain and started dragging my feet, screaming excuses at my Coach Josh Maio who was right in front of me, encouraging me not to give up. "You can do it, keep pumping your arms!" he'd say to me. "I feel like I'm going to puke" I would scream back. It was 4 minutes of my life that I could have easily pushed through had I not dug myself a grave and made the choice to lie in it. 4 minutes! But I gave up. I miserably pushed myself what I thought was as hard as I could and I felt like shit every step of the way.
In that moment, I couldn't remember why pushing through the pain was worth it. I wasn't able to think big picture and remember that it was only 4 minutes of my life. I just wanted to get comfortable. Dr. Bob saw the footage and he gave me a few pieces of advice--
First, he told me that I need to remember that it's going to hurt. Running a marathon will never be a pain free experience. I not only chose to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon (BQ), but that I really do enjoy running marathons. I need to embrace the hurt instead of pushing it away and panicking when it creeps in.
Next he told me that I need to write something that resonates with me when I pull out of the moment. He suggested no regrets and 3:32. Two things that will remind me that when I start to hurt and pull myself out of the moment, I can see no regrets and remember that giving 100% is the only way I won't fail. It doesn't matter if I run 3:42 or 3:32, if I give 100% every step of the way, there's no way I will fail and look back wishing I would have given more.
Then he told me to check back in with a picture or video of the last time I pushed through pain to hit a difficult goal. I immediately thought of the 2015 New York City Marathon when I broke 4 hours.
I thought running a sub 4 was never going to happen and I ended up finishing in 3:59 and change. It was close and those final 6.2 miles were some of the most painful miles of my life. But that feeling of accomplishment and pride that still to this day feels overwhelming and incredible made every single painful step worth it. A few hours of pain is nothing compared to a lifetime of joy.
And finally, he told me to really attack this final month of training. To not get ahead of myself and panic when I realize how close I am to race day and just give 100% to every single day of my training. And it's working. Just today I was struggling through 6.2 recovery miles. It was hot and I felt like I was moving through mud thanks to yesterday's track session. I was going to stop at 4 and 5 miles but I remembered no regrets. Justifying giving up wasn't giving it my all. So I pushed on and struggled through the entire 6.2 and yes it sucked, but I didn't give up.
Running is a mental game. It doesn't matter if you're trying to run a single mile without stopping or if you're chasing a BQ, we're all fighting for our own personal bests. The most important part of the journey is letting yourself celebrate the tiny victories. You have to look forward to your runs or workouts and see them as opportunities because it's too easy to dread them. Positive self talk is the answer to everything. If we can change the way we see ourselves and our goals, everything else will fall into place.