Went for a run last night, and wanted to share a quick story with you. I’d attempted a leg workout earlier in the day where squats were well below average. After 3 sets, I moved on and did 15 minutes of leg extensions and hamstring curls to at least salvage the feeling of doing something while I was there, but if I had to rate the workout it would be 2/10...and that’s being somewhat generous.
All week (and all of September if I’m completely honest) my weights workouts have been fairly average. You know when you just don’t feel it?
So last night as I was taking my dog, Basil, out for his second walk, I thought given the weather I wouldn’t mind punching out a run after I dropped him home (he is terrible to run with on the lead, so I usually leave him home unless I can take him off the lead).
I dropped him home and put my runners on. Slowly I dragged myself down to the bottom of my apartment before walking toward ‘The Tan’ (about 2km from my house). After 400m, I decided I could jog there to warm the legs. So I choose my ‘run’ playlist on spofity and started a steady jog.
I arrived at a main intersection where if I went straight, I could go to my gym, or if I turned left, I could go for my run as originally planned. I knew if I went straight, I could ‘slack off’ inside the gym and justify long rest periods etc. So I decided, tonight was not the night for another average workout. I needed to blow out some cobwebs. I turned left and kept running.
A few minutes later I arrived at my destination; “The Tan” (Botanical Gardens running track). For anyone who knows The Tan, they’ll know the semi-brutal hill. As I approached it, I had another decision to make. Was I to go straight ahead, and avoid the hill, or would I turn left and get the hard work done early?
Left it was.
As I started the ascent, just in front of me a man was also climbing. Whether he knew it or not, all of a sudden, we were in a race. I crossed the road and in parellel, we were both running up the hill. Out of the corner of my eye, I kept my eye on him, and he was slowly gaining ground and pushing ahead.
“Not today” I told myself as I shook my head and stepped up the pace. Slowly I gained back the distance from the opposite side. Like when you watch the horses at the Melbourne Cup on TV, because of the angles, I couldn’t really tell how far ahead he was.
I pushed harder. I was not going to lose. I stepped it up and pushed to the top of the hill. Poor guy probably didn’t even know we were racing (ha), but still, this was the first battle of the night, and I won.
This fuelled me to continue my pace as I continued running. The entire track is around 3.8km, which including the hill, I can run in around 17:18 when I push it. But tonight was the night I was going to shatter that record.
I wrote in my book, Why Wait To Be Great, how I have a concept called ‘No saving anything for the trip back’ where as you might’ve guessed, the goal is to not save any energy for anything other than what you’re doing in the moment. Today, was one of those days. I was going to lay it all out on the table. Give until there was nothing left to give.
After the hill, I continued the pace. Being my own toughest critic, the voice in my head said; “You're slacking. This is easy”. So I switched from my spotify playlist, and put on a motivational speaking track by Eric Thomas (Hip Hop Preacher).
I have this thing where I don’t like getting passed. I’m certainly not the quickest, but I’m not slow either (especially for a 90kg guy). The entire run I hadn’t been passed yet and so I kept pushing.
At about the halfway point I saw a really fit looking guy get out of his Porsche in his running gear and set his watch ready for what I assume was a run. Something told me he was my next competitor. I kept pushing it and focusing on my stride.
At around the 2/3rds mark around the track, I started hearing footsteps from behind me…
Ahhh, Mr Porsche. Ready to go, eh?
I took a glance behind and confirmed my suspicions. Yep, it was on. (again, just like at the start when I was running up the hill, Mr Porsche probably had no idea we were racing either...at least not yet).
He drew closer, which is when my motivational mantra kicked in….”Not Today, Not Anyday”. This is the mantra I use when I think someone is going to pass me. Basically it means I will not be beaten today, nor any other day. I kept repeating it. “Not today, not anyday. Not today, not anyday. Not today, not anyday”. I stepped it up a gear and increased the volume of ET shouting inspirational material into my ears. Time to GO!
I gained back ground and pushed further ahead.
There are two types of pressure you can have. The pressure of being behind and attempting to chase/catch up, Or being out in front and having the pressure to maintain or increase your lead. I always find the latter is more difficult, because unless you’ve got eyes in the back of your head, you cannot tell if your opponent is gaining distance until you can see their shadow or hear them getting closer.
Given I had already been pushing a fast pace, the legs were feeling a little tired, but that didn’t matter right now. I was not getting passed.
I kicked it up a gear and kept pushing….”not today, not anyday”.
I gained back enough distance to no longer see his shadow, nor hear his footsteps behind me. We turned right to hit the final straight along the Yarra. About 800m to go. By this stage, my energy reserves were getting very low and the lungs were working hard to maintain my pace.
I just kept repeating my ‘Not Today’ mantra, while telling myself; “This is easy….ain’t nothing” (another motivational mantra I have).
With about 500m to go (I assume...you can never really tell until you see the traffic lights at the bottom of the hill) I was fading. He started gaining on me. In came the shadow and the footsteps drew louder. At this point I was really gassed. Not much left to give. I knew we were quick, but still, I had no idea on how to gauge it other than my breathing.
Here is what was running through my head: If he passes me, and I’ve given it my all...fair game and congratulations, he was quicker. But under no circumstances would he pass me unless I was giving my all.
300m left and I saw those traffic lights. He would’ve been 5m behind me and catching me, but now the end point was in site and I was more determined than ever to win.
As mentioned, under NO circumstances would he pass me unless I gave this my best shot. Time to find the final reserves. “Match me” I told myself as I punched it even harder for the final minute or so of running.
I could feel the Victory. No-one was going to pass me. Not Mr Porsche. Not anyone. 50m to go, 30m to go, 10m to go….and DONE.
I passed through the final gateway, victorious, and slowly recovered. I literally had nothing left. Bowing down with my hands on my knees and sucking in big, deep breaths, I gave myself a mental pat on the back.
It would’ve been easy to simply give up when I saw his shadow for the first time. What’s one person passing me? No-one would notice and he would just be quicker. It would be easy to justify. But what am I really justifying? To be completely honest, while yes, in my mind, we were in an impromptu race, the real battle was not one between a random guy around the Botanical Gardens, but the battle that was happening in my head. The real race was my current self vs my potential self.
And I was not letting myself off the hook with anything other than my very best...Not today...not anyday.
I slowly made my way home. Legs cramping and lungs burning. However, it was a small price to pay, because in that moment, I was a champion.
That’s how you sleep soundly at night. When you KNOW you’ve given everything you’ve got without holding anything back, your head hits that pillow with nothing but contentment.
Until next time…...