A week ago, I took my four of my attitudes – excited, hyper-focused, bad-word-mad, and crestfallen – for a little jog. A 5K fun run. The 5K that I’d gotten into a froth over the day before, when I picked up my race bib.
I’m new to the fun run world, and there is still a lot I’m learning. Corrals, for instance; the grouping of runners in sections according to their self-declared pace. When I signed up months ago for this particular fun run, having no idea how fast I could go (or if I could even finish) I left the corral question blank.
Then I ran a few fun runs. And didn’t die. And I found I liked it. And found my groove. And went from mostly walking to waving the bragging flag of a 10-minute mile.
I was giddy and the expo was going full blast when I arrived; a wonderland of goodie bags, giant inflatable marshmallows, bouncy music, and stacks of race bibs. I stepped up to claim my place in the race.
“Corral G,” the bib said.
“What pace is that?” I said.
“13,” the nice lady said.
“I’m a 9,” some strange voice that sounded suspiciously like me said.
“Okay 9! Corral C,” the nice lady said, slapping a new sticker on my bib with a smile.
I smiled and wobbled off to find the people handing out samples of chips, queasy in the realization that I’d just committed to shave three plus minutes off my best time. I ate three bags of sample chips while trying to not barf or hyperventilate.
I went home and slathered my intention all over social media with hash tags like #noquitterinher, #nokidding, and #runlikeanine. I set out my most obnoxious running tights, a retina-burning top, and my propeller beanie. Then I went to bed early and worried all night.
On race morning I slapped on some attitude – excited – and dashed out the door. The weather was beautiful and I scored a good parking spot. I made my way the mile or so to the start line, and took my self-anointed spot in Corral C with the other 9s. People were happy, chatty, cheery. I took off my beanie for the National Anthem. The starting gun went bang. I wound up my propeller and got ready to run.
As I waited for my wave, excitement waned. In it’s place – hyper-focused. I said so-long to the camaraderie of Corral C and dashed across the start line, running with a gravity new to me. Some people passed me. I passed some people. Then I stopped seeing the people. I only saw the number 9. Over and over, like a Sesame Street counting song; 9 9 9. In my head a rhythmic chant. 9 9 9 9. Get that 9.
About halfway through the why-am-I-not-having-fun-run there was a refreshment station staffed with smiling volunteers offering sports drinks, water, and chocolate chips. Parched and heaving from my rhythmic breathless chanting “9 minutes per mile is the pace I’m chasing”, I clawed out for a cup of water, but grabbed Gatorade by mistake. Imagine me, humping past the line of happy helpers no doubt horrified by my macabre dance of slow-motion dingbattiness, as I threw the liquid on my face instead of into my mouth. I hope someone got that on camera. I kept on, secure in the knowledge that, even if I looked like a drenched doofus, I was destined to set a personal record for speed.
Next came cobblestone corner. Careful. Don’t fall in a pothole. Keep going fast. 9 9 9 9 9.
Then the hill. I’ve learned that hills happen at inconvenient times. I train for hills. Hills should light my spark. Not this hill. This hill rose up like a fire-breathing dragon obstructing my view of the finish line. I ditched hyper-focused and slapped on a new attitude – bad-word-mad.
Yup. I said bad words every step of the way up that hill. Some of them I muttered under my breath. I busted out at least one particularly unladylike eff-phrase. By the time I got to the top of the hill, I was spent. Sapped by my own bad attitude.
And still, the finish line was a quarter-mile away. My anger fell from me like broken armor. I could see the race clock ticking. And I knew I wasn’t going to make it. Crestfallen wrapped around me like an attitude shroud. I kicked up my pace best I could, but I knew there would be no nine for me.
I crossed the finish line with my heart in my throat, feeling like a failure.
I grabbed two bags of chips, two bottles of water, two bananas, and plopped down alone in the middle of all the happy winners.
“How’d you do?” Some merry Corral C comrades skipped up to me, faces bright with expectation. “Did you get your time?”
“No.” I sulked into my lap full of crumbs. “I mean, six seconds faster than last time.” Big whoop, I thought to myself.
They made lovely consoling sounds and kind faces. I smiled a pretend smile and we parted ways. As personal punishment, I ran all the way back to my car, mostly because I was in a hurry to get home and pout.
After I showered up, I found this note from one of the merry girls on my Facebook page:
“Awesome run today! No downers about your time! You got up, you did something and you gave it your best shot! Glad to be at the starting line next to you ☺.”
She made my day. She made me cry. She reminded me that fun runs are about fun. She pointed out that six seconds faster is most assuredly a personal best.
And I realized this: Being so serious had slowed me down. I can be focused and still have fun. Tiny victories stack up. And positive words and winning attitudes work.
Thanks merry girls! You’re smart. And you look perfectly brilliant in those beanies.
Want to learn more about the power of Choose Your Attitude? Check out the FISH! Philosophy!