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Sometimes A Train Comes Along: A Life Lesson From My First 10K

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I was on track to meet my goal of under 54 minutes. In fact, I probably would have finished under 51 minutes... had it not been for the train. I heard it tooting as I approached the end of the race, but thought nothing of it. I arrived just in time to see the first car of the train put itself between me and the finish line with one-tenth of a mile left to go.

Not the actual train.

As I waited 6 minutes for the train to pass, my thoughts ran the gamut from
1. "Of course. Typical. Something ALWAYS has to interfere with MY races" to
2. "No matter how much I prepare nothing ever goes as it's supposed to for ME" to
3. "I passed him up half a mile ago, and now he's going to finish before me" to
4. "I can never reach any goal I set."

Due to anger issues, I recently started some Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. First, I'm supposed to classify my thoughts using a list a cognitive distortions. The thoughts could be characterized as
personalization -- seeing self as the cause of some negative external event
overgeneralization -- seeing a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat
all-or-nothing thinking -- seeing self as a total failure if you fall short of perfect

Then, I'm expected to replace my thoughts with more positive/realistic ones. This part has been particularly challenging (read, impossible for me). To my surprise, I came up with the following:
1. "No train interrupted any of my other races"
(I've run 4 races so far, all of which have passed near those tracks. 2 have crossed them. 1 raceused to cross them and was interrupted by a train the previous year. Therefore, I've always known that was a possibility. But I've never seen a train on those tracks. It's so rarely used that people drive ON, not across, those tracks.)
2. "I'm not the only one who's been stopped by the train" and
3. "I'll probably finish before people I wouldn't have otherwise" and
4. "My initial goal, way back in April of 2012, was to finish under 75 minutes."

Unlike the handful of previous replacement thoughts I've developed, I actually believed these. I could see that they were much more in touch with reality than my initial thoughts. Standing there with 100+ other racers who were cost PRs really helped to put things in perspective. (A few with pedometers ran alongside the train to get that final tenth of a mile in...)

I was waiting for 6 minutes, so I also kept reminding myself to try and think of my thoughts the way I thought of the train. It was an event that was not part of me. It was event that would pass. 6 minutes later, but still, it would pass.

Pre-race PhotoBooth shoot. It was a Mardi Gras themed race.

The clock read 57:22 when I crossed the finish line.

I'm still irritated of course. A part of me can't help but feel that had I pushed myself just a bit harder, I could have avoided the train altogether. That train cost me a PR. This was my first 10K, mind you, and that helps a little because I'll have another chance. I know I need to apply this lesson to my real life. Even though I didn't finish with the official time I wanted, I finished. In life, I typically just give up when a train comes along/things don't go exactly as I expect. However, I would have looked pretty silly if I had just sat down on the train tracks and not finished. On the other hand, I keep thinking that there aren't always 2nd, 3rd, 7th, and 100th chances in life. (I hope to run 100 races at some point.)

Admittedly, my time cast a slight shadow over the other positive therapy related thoughts I had while running. Namely that I have to pace myself. I didn't go from a 12 minute to an 8-ish minute mile overnight, and I won't change my thought patterns that quickly either. I'm pretty sure it will be at least another 2-3 years before I run the best times I'm capable of. While being with other runners helps me to push myself, I'm not really competing with or comparing myself to them. Therefore, I shouldn't do that when it comes to my personality and mood.

All in all, it was thought-provoking first 10K. And the hot gumbo at the finish line was pretty decent consolation.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    There was a train crossing just before the finish?! How crazy! Which 10K is this?
    1888 days ago
    Wow, the train was turned from a negative to a positive. emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1888 days ago
  • COOP9002
    Sounds like you've got the right attitude to deal with this inconvenience. You will be knocking out a Personal Best before you know it.
    1888 days ago
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