Yesterday I went on a hike that was identified on AllTrails as an “easy to moderate” one and 3.6 miles in length. It was about 92 degrees out and you may think that I was nuts! I lead a group in my local community, and I picked this trail because it had a waterfall. I thought it would be a nice treat for a cool-off point. I wish I could say that I am in the shape I want to be in, but I am not, and I am working to get there – so the hike was tough. We had a great group; there were 5 of us in total. All ages, abilities, etc.
We got to a point where there was a steep hill – the length unknown and I really needed to take it slow. As I was climbing up, I remembered one of my coaches from Team in Training when I was preparing for the 2006 Boston Marathon – his name was Rick. Rick was an elite runner and an amazing coach. Of the many things he did to prepare us well for marathon day one thing he said was to find him at the half marathon mark in Wellesley – right near the community center during the race. He would have a message for us that would get us through to the finish line. On race day 2006, I had to use a host of inspirational games to get me to mile 13.1 when I would see Rick and he would give me the message that would get me to the end. Now I was a “back of the pack” runner – which means I was slow. My best running time was a 12-minute mile. For me, that was an amazing time I worked up to. A real triumph and accomplishment. So, on race day 2006, I was getting close to mile 13.1 and I was anxiously looking for Rick. It was hard to locate him with the many people and the uncertainty of where he would be. But after scouring the area, I saw him crouched down in the middle of the road. Ahhh, there was Rick. Rick was going to have an important message for me that would get me through to the finish line. As I was looking at him with pure attention, I was thinking okay Rick what do you have for me? And soon I saw him taking his finger and tapping his temple. And I thought, “what”? What was Rick doing? And then it became clear as day. Rick was telling me it was all in my head! It was a mental game that I needed to continue to play and getting to the finish line was all in my head. Okay, Rick, I got it! I took that message right down Boylston Street and finished the race strong! So, what was the connection yesterday while I was on my hike? Well, climbing that endless hill required a mental game. I also want to add there were other elements at play. I was with an amazingly supportive group of people who waited patiently for each other, encouraged everyone, and made sure that we were all okay. Rick’s message was an important one – small, medium, and tough challenges are largely mental.