One Sunday morning in February 2013, just before my fortieth birthday, Andrew sent us off on a 20-mile long run. We were running a new route Andrew had created, which linked together many of our favorite runs. It started from a park in town, ran through Shady Rest, and headed north on a dirt road toward Lookout Mountain before dropping us on to a long stretch on Owen’s River Road. Winter storms had subsided. It was cold, but sunny, a beautiful day. Andrew had staggered the start to make it easier to give fluids and by mile 15, the guys had dropped me. I was far behind them and somewhere in front of the women, in no-man’s-land. I took in the view for a bit, my eyes following the sagebrush-covered valley to the peaks beyond. The run became physically challenging and so the mind-wrestling began. My left hamstring hurt, so I focused on the right one. It didn’t feel as good as I’d hoped. Focus on the six inches above your shoulders, I heard Coach say. But rather than turn to my mind, my focus went to my shoulders, which were hunching up toward my ears.
Why not, I thought, just hop in the van? You don’t need to suffer. The others are putting in the work now.
I told myself to be positive and thought of Mike’s phrase: Okay, I’m positive this sucks, which gave me a few minutes of relief thinking of him.
My hamstrings tightened more, pulling for my attention. My ankles felt clumsy and fatigued on the washboard road. Get out of your body and look ahead. But the road ahead seemed long. You live in a beautiful place, look up for inspiration.
The sky was strikingly blue, cloudless. A bald eagle!
He glided smoothly, effortlessly, overhead. I wondered where he’d come from. Perhaps the canyon up at Convict Lake. If I were a bald eagle, that’s where I’ d live. He must be hunting. What if he dives down and catches a fish in the river? I’ve never seen that before. Actually, I have, on Planet Earth, watching back-to- back episodes of eagles, snow leopards, and cave crabs. Nature is amazing. I’m so glad my parents gave me that Planet Earth series. I thought for sure I’ d get bottles of wine from everyone that Christmas, but they’ d surprised me with that DVD set, I wonder why. . . .
The van’s horn ripped me out of my stream of consciousness. Andrew shouted out the window that I had run over twenty miles.
It was a few minutes of distraction, but my mind had once again taken me out of a place of struggle. It had pulled out my potential in the moment. Every time I reached the crux of a workout or a tough moment in a race, I uncovered deeper layers of strength and optimism, and reinforced what was already there. Growth was constant, self-mastery was never-ending. This excited me. My competitive days had a short window, but I could push my mind and strengthen my positivity for a lifetime. How optimistic could I become? How much richer could I build my life? What joy and potential lay ahead?
Pursuing positivity felt infinite, limitless, and in the van, I told Andrew I wanted to get training hard and racing again, push my limits.
“Because that’s how I grow and learn. I don’t ever want to lose that.”
Reprinted from LET YOUR MIND RUN. Copyright © 2018 by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton. Published by Crown Archetype, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.