I can do hard things

The entire first turn was ice. Runners gingerly stepped across while warming up, not willing to risk a fall or injury. Part of me hoped everyone would opt for a tempo run instead of a track workout; in my head, that would have been easier to accomplish. My daydreams of an “easy workout” were interrupted by a more motivated person’s logic.

“How about 17 by 300 meters?” suggested Mark. “We could start at the 300 line and finish at the start line, then just jog easy in the grass back to the other side.”

He had a few takers, those who were not looking for an easy way out. I already felt guilty; they showed up for a track workout and were committed to the idea. After mulling over the notion for a few minutes, and some peer pressure, I agreed the workout Mark suggested sounded appropriate for the conditions and my training needs. I mean, it was only 300 meters.

Yeah, but 17 times.

Have you ever started a project with a heart full of ambition, only to make it halfway through and realize you are in over your head? There’s a part of you, at the mid-way point, that wishes you hadn’t started the project. You’re too deep into the project to stop, but too far away from the endorphin rush of completion. You want to cry, toss up your hands, and admit that you can’t do this hard thing.

I’ve been there a dozen times, at least. In my life, these hard projects look like workouts and races. Without question, the hardest part of running is taming my mind. And what better way to train both body and mind than with 17 by 300 meters in 25 degrees?

Hey, that’s a great idea. Let’s do that.

I rolled my eyes after the third or fourth 300 when Mark asked how our group was doing. “Great,” I replied. “This was a great idea, thanks for suggesting it,” I said dryly, adding a smile and a chuckle to let him know I was joking. The truth was I was struggling, and we had fourteen (FOURTEEN!) more 300’s to run.

Shit.

Every negative thought you can imagine entered my head as we toed the line for our next sprint: you’re not going to finish this workout; if you want to finish, you’ll have to slow down; you’re going to be the last one to finish; you aren’t as good as you think you are; everyone here is better than you; you might as well give up on your training goals if you can’t even finish this workout.

We hurt the ones we love the most, right?

I started to tell myself I didn’t have to finish the workout. I could do ten instead of 17 repeats. Or maybe I would sit one out, catch my breath, then continue. I’m still building back to speed work, right? I gave myself excuses – the way you would if you were talking to a friend with tender feelings. It was an attempt to comfort myself if I did fail – which I thought was inevitable.

“Only eight more!” a different Mark shouted out to our group.

Oh. Only eight more, maybe won’t sit one out. Maybe I’ll do 15 instead of 17. Then I only have six more. That’s manageable.

Five more.

I can do five more. I’m keeping up my splits better than I expected I would, maybe I’m in better shape than I think. I just need to do this a few more times.

Two more.

I can’t believe I was going to stop at 15. I can definitely crank out these last two.

And I did. I finished the workout. What’s more, I was able to keep my pace consistent through the second half. I didn’t have to slow down to get through the workout. All of those scary things I told myself when my legs burned – they were lies.

I can do hard things.

It’s something I forget often. Hell, I forget it so much that I tattooed it on my wrist – so she did. Discretely tucked under my GPS watch, it’s a reminder that I’m stronger than I realize. It’s true in races, track workouts, and everywhere else in life. Of course, that’s not always easy to see when you’re in the middle of a workout, up to your hips in lactic acid. But, step-by-step, sometimes 300 meters at a time, you realize you can do hard things. Hopefully, next time it will occur to me sooner.

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