Every now and then I'm asked where I find my inspiration. The answer to that is both very simple, and very complicated.
The simple part? Inspiration is everywhere. As an example, driving my daughter to early morning figure skating practice I see the same two women running. I don't know them, but I've come to notice when they aren't there. I first noticed them back in January. I remember them because they were running in the pre-dawn light with headlamps and it was cold and icy. And I was impressed. Then I saw them a few more times that week. And I was more impressed. Looking back, I think we've missed more skating practices than they've missed runs. On more than one occasion I have wanted to bail on a run for one stupid reason or another, and the thought of these two women out there crushing it has been enough to get me to put the shoes on and take that seemingly impossible first step out the door.
See? The simple part is simple. If they can get a run in, so can I. Examples of that nature are all over the place if you look.
But there's a complicated side as well. Let me see if I can do this justice. I have met my biggest enemy. He knows me better than I know myself. He's that voice in the back of my head. The one that really determines if I will or if I won't. Watching an army of people running won't mean a thing if that little voice has determined there will be no run today.
I'm the first to admit my weakness. Sometimes I give in. Sometimes I even give in gladly. Sometimes I give in, and then I sulk about losing to the voice for hours, or days, or weeks.
But there's another voice. This one is usually much quieter. This voice rarely says much, but when he does it's often powerful enough to echo. This is the voice that tells Mr. Negative over there exactly where he can stick those negative thoughts. The problem is, I usually have to be completely beaten down to hear this little guy. Mile 2.5 of a 5k where I've given my all. My lungs are on fire. I can feel and hear my heart in every inch of my body. Everything is telling me to stop. Or at least slow down. And maybe I do. Maybe I do ease off. Maybe I even keep easing off and stop. And that's fine. Easing off provides a sense of relief. You can literally feel it washing over you sometimes. And in that relief there's a moment of silence and calm. Sometimes it's as brief as the gap between heartbeats. It is so nice there you just want to sit right where you are and revel in it. In that small gap, there's an even smaller voice that says all the right words at just the right time.
Mile 5 of my usual spring 10k. I've gone out too fast again. I can see the hill at the finish. Mr. Negative comes through again. Ease off. Get ready for the hill. Walk a bit. And maybe I do. Just like the 5K, a moment of peace, and that little voice chimes in.
Mile 24 of a marathon. Not only have I gone out too fast, I've fueled wrong. Mr. Negative is in the corner laughing as I'm hugging the trash can. There is no silence. My bodies violence roars in my ears as every muscle begs for peace and my stomach churns and expels so many half digested packets of gel. Somehow through this violence the little voice is there again.
And more often than not, I do. I lean forward. I pick up my knees. I quicken my step.
Why? How? Well, that's where it gets really complicated. That little voice is my inner strength. He knows if I've given it my all. He is the one that will feel bad if I look back on a race and realize I could have pushed a little more on that hill, or could have kicked into the finish a little harder.
I love to hear from this voice. Not only does it push me to go, it congratulates me on a job well done. This is the voice that recognizes not every race is a PR. Not every finish is a win, or an age group place. The battle may seem to be with the clock, or that one guy who keeps showing up and beating me by mere seconds every single time. But this voice knows the real battle is inside. It's the little voice against Mr. Negative and his loud, obnoxious voice. Every time this little voice wins, everything is happy. If I can look back on an effort and know that I gave it everything I had, I really can't ask for or expect any better.
But this is where it gets interesting. That little voice will congratulate me on a good effort and a good finish. That little voice will help me celebrate. And then, after the celebration it comes back.
Keep going? What does that mean? That was the voice that convinced me it was OK to sign up for the first 10k. That was the voice that convinced me to sign up for the first half marathon. That little voice convinced me to sign up for a full marathon. I've heard this voice before. Back in the day, this voice would often go rock climbing with me. This was the voice that pushed me to go higher. Climb harder. Try new things. This is the voice of the explorer.
And what an explorer. A true adventurer this one little voice is. But this little voice isn't always pushing to see new things on the outside. Just as often, this little voice is pushing to find something new on the inside. Just how much farther can I go? How much deeper can I dig? Like the fading phoenix, how low and dark can I get before the voice comes back to rekindle me.
We're about to find out. I'm taking on a new challenge. The explorer is pushing me again. I started training. I'm going long. Real long. The next 14 months will build slowly. September 2015 is the big race. I'll be pushed beyond where I've been. I'll be leaving my comfort zone and things known. I'm sure I'll spend a fair bit of time with Mr. Negative. And I'll fight through it. Because at the end of the fight, there's that little voice.
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