Monday, April 26, 2010

Fellowship of Girls

I had a fun time last weekend with 2 wonderful girls.

It's true what we've been told many many times: the most important element in anything we do (but in this case, sports) is the mental strength and willpower. I remember reading from somewhere that in most cases during a testing or a trying race course, the mind gives up 40% earlier than the body, and when it does, the body follows at an alarming speed. Also, a friend once told me, "If your mind told your body to stop, it will stop. So don't tell it to stop, and it won't."

My benchmark for my own willpower changes from time to time. When I was doing a steady flow of 10k races, it would always be the worst 10k run. If I could survive that, then this 10k is nothing. And then I went to Nepal, which for me was a test of mind, with the heavy bag and knee pain and the elements of weather and the endless miles. Every race after that, through a struggling phase, I'd remember the worst memory in Nepal and told myself to push through. This usually happens when I go up a really monstrous hill or during the last leg of a long race where you just wanted to stop.

Doing a lot of sports at once helped me with my willpower. While a particularly testing pose in yoga where one had to squat for a nice steady 4 minutes, I forced my mind to think of this particular time when I cycled up a really bad hill. I could do this, the burn in my thighs now is nothing like the burn I felt then, I told myself. When I am climbing up a hill and just wanted to stop pedaling, I went back to the time I in-line skated up a hill in Kiara and nearly went backwards from the lack of strength. But I made it, and therefore I MUST DO IT.

The worst hill I climbed was this one hill in Kg. Limau Manis. It was a short one, but very steep. I have never faced hills like that before. I think it only took me about 2-3 minutes? but it was the worst 3 minutes ever. All visualisation of other bad moments failed when I realized I was about to reverse back downhill. With nothing else to do, I chanted a steady mantra of, "Just go forward just go forward just go forward," and, "Tahan sikit tahan sikit tahan sikit tahan sikit," until I reached the sweet end.

The worst race I ran was Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon. I did a half-marathon, it was a gruesome distance to run with bad knees and feet. I felt the pain at 2km and it never let on until the end. I started to fight with myself at 16km, and I think it was only thanks to my mind that I managed to finish the race. In one interview Joan Benoit advised, "Don't look at the mile markers," but that's what I did. It was horrible chasing for one signage to another. I just wanted the race to end! The only saving grace was that my whole system had given up except my mind. I just admitted to the pain and suffering and told myself that at one point this will all be over but before it does, I'd probably just have to go through it. Not fighting to keep optimistic or to distract myself was the best thing I did on that race. I just surrendered to become the walking dead.

Last weekend was a new benchmark for me. I did not know how I did it, but I certainly did. I think I yelped and cried out, "I can't do this!" at 3km to the end. But I had an amazing company of a heavily mustached man who was beside me pushing and also a fantastic girl who was an awesome showcase of the mantra, "Just keep going." It was a sweet victory to finally stop. It was there and then that I wished to God I did not cry out, "I can't do this!" at the last leg. I need to be stronger than that!

I need to remember this for the next one. No crying out.


  1. Sometimes I forced myself not to look at the mile markers and just keep going. They are good for checking your pace, but for me, I can live without them, as long as I can complete the distance.

  2. i used them to make sure my pace is correct too, but i know something is up when you're just wishing to them to appear.

  3. I guess we are all fighters. Just that we haven't/couldn't realize our full potential yet; how far we can push through. We think we can't, but sometimes you may just be surprised how far you can. Mind over matter.

  4. I need to keep reminding myself about this. Thanks.

  5. it's amazing what our mind can do, my personal experiences was that i ran 2 half marathon without realizing i was badly injured during the time, the recent half marathon was killing me (literally), many times during the race my leg given out but my mind tells me to push it further, eventually i completed the ENR.

    Gone to doctor next day and he confirm my injuries nightmares. I was told to lay off running for few weeks till my feet recovered, now i'm bored silly without hu

    opps sorry now it seems i'm counter blogging your blog..he he :-)

  6. Guys, don't u think its counter productive to push ourselves to the edge, injure ourselves and then 'run-ridden' 'cos having to nurse an injury for weeks/months. Some injury don't heal 100% and chances of it recurring is high.

    We are just weekend warriors seeking a weekend adventure and I think we should be careful not to hurt ourselves while trying to have an adventure. Personally, I rather DNF instead of facing the prospect that I may to be out of action for weeks/months or worst, forever and making me miserable afterwards. I have a responsibility towards my children, hubby and my work and I cannot be too indulgent in my own pursuit of happiness/satisfaction.

    Understandably no one wants to DNF, since inevitably you'll be labeled as a quitter. Runners don't quit right? Says who? I am not saying we should quit when we are faced with a problem but when the problem comes, we should accept the situation and make the right call.

    All I am saying is, pace yourself. We have a whole life to race and run. What's the rush?

    No offence to anyone. Just my silly two sen's worth.

    Sorry for the long comment.

  7. Agreed with Kooky comments..sometimes it's blurred lines for me between under limit and over limit..he he

    Now i do regret being injured coz i can't enjoyed what i do most - running!

    Thanks for the advice! :-)

  8. kash, you're correct, i wanted to add to that to when i wrote this piece but i figured everybody knows since my lastpost was about moderation. it's sort of a paradox really, but i guess i just want to talk about not giving up.