"That's it. I can't do this. What was I thinking?" I remember these thoughts beating me into submission during cross country practice. It was my first year of high school and my delusions of grandeur were being smashed with each lap we ran. (Our punishment for a road run etiquette transgression was running the next day's workout on the track. Ugh.) At some time around lap infinity one of the seniors on the team pulled up alongside (as he was lapping me) and started telling me a tale. He went on an on as he set the scene and provided background - and I picked up the pace to stay with him and involved in the story. Lap after lap he went into minuscule details that made me think I was in for one of the most epic yarns ever spun. I became fully invested and hung on his every word as we conquered the miles. Then, rather abruptly, it was over. We had completed our miles and the story just ended with a thud. After I looked at him with "That's it?" tattooed all over my face he simply smiled, said, "You're welcome," and jogged to the locker room.
In every race, long run, or hard workout that truly tests us, we all go through that moment of doubt. It's that time where we question our pace, our ability, our sanity. We all go through it. When you watch the Olympic Games, even its athletes experience that moment of doubt creep. Through years of straining, training, and practice, however, they have learned to quickly recognize any negativity and redirect it before it inhibits their performance. Not being well-trained Olympians, though, how do we tackle the big, bad, negativity monster that attacks our races or long runs? Find a buddy.
I didn't realize what that senior had done for me for several weeks. He had redirected my focus and got me out of my own head; out of my own way. The miles we ran together clicked by. The great thing about having a running buddy is that even though each of you will likely have that rough patch during the same season or even the same run, the tough spots probably won't be in the same place. By helping one another you become stronger than the sum of your parts. This is the reason you see strong high school and college teams run as a pack. It's the reason for the development of running teams like the Runnababez. It's one of the reasons that FLEET FEET Training Teams use pace groups. It is using the strength of the pack to support the vulnerability of the individual.
Whether you are training or racing, find someone to share the experience with. Literally and figuratively, the run will go by faster. You will hold each other accountable to your goals. And you will likely have more fun. There are many prospective buddies out there to help you conquer the miles with long winding stories that lead to nowhere. FLEET FEET's Training Teams and Social Runs are excellent places to find them.
Good Luck and Happy Racing!