Mile 60 of the Freedom Park 24 Hour Race.
It happens in every race – sometimes even in training runs. The point of reckoning, that moment when energy and motivation wane and I begin to question my reasons for continuing. Sometimes it occurs three hours into a twenty-four hour event, and sometimes at mile two in a 5km. It doesn’t seem to matter how far I’ve run or how many miles I have yet to travel – whatever the distance I have to cover, it just feels too far.
I’ve been running and racing for over three quarters of my life, and until recently, I was surprised every time this feeling struck. I’d be running along, feeling pretty confident and psyched to test my fitness level, when all of a sudden the bottom would fall out. Maybe it would occur at the base of a huge hill, or possibly as I was being passed by a competitor. Suddenly, my legs would fill with lactic acid and my mind with self-doubt.
It’s at that point that the reckoning begins. In the accounting world, this is when the figures are totaled — the income and the outgo are stated in dollars and at the bottom line we see the result, the profit or loss. In biblical terms, this is the day the fates of individuals are determined according to the good and evil acts of their lives.
In the runner’s mind, the point of reckoning occurs at that moment when we begin to total up all of the work we have put into our training and add it to the feeling of accomplishment we will have once the race is over. On the other side of the balance sheet are our immediate discomfort – sometimes even pain – and the mental and physical strength that it will take to continue. Our minds go back and forth between the two options – call it a day or stick it out – while every fiber of our being screams to STOP NOW! Pain is the feeling of weakness leaving your body? I’m not sure…sometimes pain is just pain.
I try to live my life by the directive to “be here now”, but sometimes in a race this can be a challenge. The only way I can find the fortitude to continue is by focusing on the past – how much work I’ve put into this, how much this goal means to me – and the future – how great it will feel when I finish, how disappointed I’ll be if I allow myself to quit. Usually this works and I’m able to push myself to persevere, and I’m always glad afterwards. The other thing that I’ve only recently learned is to expect this point of reckoning to arrive at some point in every event. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s not unique to me, or a sign of a bad race. In fact, sometimes it can be an opportunity for learning how deep I can dig when I need to. I haven’t quite come to the point of embracing the reckoning, but at least I’m not afraid of it any more.