Why Do You Push Yourself When It Hurts Like Hell

It's easy to lose sight of what you're chasing. 

I'm not an elite athlete. My finishing times and average pace per mile aren't exactly impressive to anyone besides me. But winning or being the best never motivated me to want to start running. Being the best version of myself did.  The more I ran, the more I started stepping outside of my comfort zone and proving myself wrong whenever I told myself that I couldn't do something.

Like the first time I ran 3 miles without needing to stop to walk.


A photo posted by Kelly Roberts (@kellykkroberts) on

Or the first time I ran a timed mile. (Only a casual 3 years after I started running...)

Or the first time I ran a sub 4 hour marathon, a feat that took 4 tries.

Hell, here I am crying my brains out after I ran a 3 hour 41 minute marathon last year. 

All the tears.

All the tears.

While a 3 hour 41 minute marathon isn't groundbreaking, it felt like a world record to me. It didn't matter that I was still 5 minutes off of my goal. I truly didn't believe I could run that fast. I didn't think I would be able to finish the training without quitting when the going got tough.  

And while time goals have helped me continue to push myself out of my comfort zone and re-remind myself time and time again that I'm stronger than I think, running what I think are really fast times isn't what keeps me going. That's just a piece of the puzzle. I'm inspired every time I tell myself that I'm not capable of something. 

That's why I'm trying to run a Boston Marathon qualifying time. Because I believed that it was impossible. That I'd never be able to take myself seriously enough to make it happen. 

And after one failed attempt and a really tough first few weeks of training, a part of me still isn't sure I'll be able to do it.

This weekend, I had my very first race of 2017 and my goal was simple, run as fast as I possibly could. My coach Josh Maio wanted to see where my fitness level is at and if I'm being honest, I needed a confidence boost. The way I've been working towards BQ or Bust, you'd think I was training for a world record. And I'm embarrassed that I've let my bad attitude influence my experience

Which is ridiculous because no one is forcing me to run. In the grand scheme of things, my fears and doubts about running faster aren't just petty, they're a little ridiculous.

So you could imagine how stupid I felt on Saturday night when I was sitting with my friends, explaining how I was dreading racing the 5K. I knew it was going to hurt and I was really terrified that I'd choose to get comfortable when the pain train left the station.

I couldn't stop asking myself why I was so nervous. It was just a 5K. My only job is to give it my all. No time goal just no regrets, no excuses. 

But the truth is, I was nervous my irrational fear that my athletic level isn't where it needs to be would be validated. I was nervous I'd finish knowing I'd given everything I possibly could and see numbers that were nowhere near where I needed to be running in order to qualify for Boston.

Luckily, before I went to bed I started pulling clips from last year's BQ or Bust vlogs for a project I'm working on. As I started watching, I quickly realized that I was neglecting the biggest lesson I'd learned from my first BQ attempt. That the only way I'll embrace pain and race my heart out is if I'm having fun doing it.

And saying that is easier said than done. It's hard to have fun when your legs feel like they're going to explode or fall off. Or when you can't focus on anything besides the voice in your head that is screaming, "SLOW DOWN! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS! THIS HURTS! STOP RIGHT NOW."

It took some practice but the best way to have fun when everything hurts and you feel like dying is to slap a smile on you face, tell yourself that you're going to fun 100 million times before and during the race, and then get REALLY, REALLY, REALLY present. Like "time is moving in slow motion" present. 

So I ran my warm up miles and toed the line ready to see how I do embracing the pain. I spent the first mile running just outside of my comfort zone but not in the place that is all out no regrets, no excuses. Basically, I was pushing my pace but was nowhere near the place where I feel like I'm going to puke or I ask myself how long I can hold it for. But that was fine, the race was 3.1 miles (5K) and I didn't want to go there until I was halfway in.

Unfortunately, I never got to go to that place because the course was off by over a half of a mile.

Once we took off, I quickly realized that there weren't mile markers and to add insult to injury, my watch was off. I was looking around the course for any sign of how far we'd run when we started approaching the finish line. I was confused. The clock read 17 minutes 50 seconds. There's no way in hell I can run a 5K in just under 18 minutes. That's 6 minute miles. 

Turns out, the course was about 2.5 miles and at first, I was a little angry. I paid money to run a race and I really wanted to push myself to see where I was at. I turned to my friend Rachel who ran with me and after maybe a minute of confusion, we turned around and went back out to get 3.1. 

I didn't get the test I wanted and yeah, that's a bummer, but I did walk away feeling really grateful that I didn't have to waste time not committing to having as much fun as humanly possible while I run down my BQ.

It doesn't matter what you're training for. Maybe it's your first 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon. Or maybe you're working towards a specific goal time; to break 2 hours in the half or to qualify for the Boston Marathon, at the end of the day, you have to know why you're doing it. Because if you don't want it for the right reasons, you'll never push yourself to the place you don't think you're capable of getting to. 

For me, I have to have fun because that's the best way to stay present when I get really uncomfortable and doubt set in. If I know that what I'm doing is going to be worth it, I end up enjoying my ride on the pain train.

It's a waste of time to spend the day before a race drowning in dread and fear. I know better than to doubt the work I've put in. The hardest part about running down a goal is training for a goal. If you give 100% in training, all you have to do on race day is go for it. You just have to trust that you're ready.

Running really is a mental sport. It's learning how to say I can do this and actually believe it when you look at your watch and see that you're behind. It's remembering that every painful step is worth it after you've spent months making sacrifices and working your ass off. 

If you can figure out how to have fun and enjoy the process, it's a hell of a lot easier to embrace pain.

You just have to believe in yourself.