What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger: A Lesson in Mental Courage

I do not like cross-country running. I assure you this is not an excuse, I am going to share with you a way to make yourself stronger not only as an athlete, but as an employee/r, a partner, a parent, a stronger you.

Before the start! #babyitscoldoutside

Before the start! #babyitscoldoutside

Yesterday was the Athletics Ontario Cross-Country Championships at Fireman’s Park in Niagara. I have been training for X-Country all fall in an attempt to build a better base and get stronger on the track. As championships approached my coach and I decided it would be good to race.

X-Country is cold. It’s snowy. It’s slippery. It’s unpredictable. It’s hilly. On a training run it is all the things I am hungry for, but in racing my body does not like to be cold or the unpredictable.

That what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? I know that x-Country has been a nemesis for me in racing and training. Learning to work through your weaknesses makes you stronger in everything else you do. Yesterday was about mental resolve, trusting the work I had put into training, digging deep when it hurt, and racing like I know how to race.

The gun went off and I tucked in behind the leaders group. I know that I have great speed in x-country from my 1500m training. If I could just ‘hang’ with the leaders I was pretty sure I could out kick them at the end.

The race was a bit of comedy of errors. My teammate, Rachel Hannah, and I were leading 1-2 through the first lap (~3k). As we approached the lap marker we were sent in the wrong direction to the finish line; 3rd and 4th passed us as we had to turn around in the finish chute and head back out on course.

Stay calm, stay focused, run through but don’t panic and blow up. At about the 4km Instax Pictures0003mark we had made our way back to the front and Rachel was putting the hammer down. I focused, just stay with her, sit on her shoulder and push. I thought to myself, ‘You can do this.’ With approximately 1200m to go I thought about trying to take over the lead and started picking up the pace in an attempt to get away from Rachel. I got about two strides on her before she was passing me again. Up the little hill, I ran the wrong way and directly into Rachel (!), where she then put a few metres between us. ‘Close the gap’ I thought and I did. As we rounded the last 700 we were running stride for stride. A minute later I heard, ‘It’s only 400m from here.’

Ok, I thought, after the hairpin drop the hammer and sprint for the finish. No matter what you will have tried and if she catches you, she catches you. To my chagrin, I was the first across the line.

This was my first win, let alone my first podium in X-Country. It still feels surreal, but it felt awesome to win.

Instax Pictures0001So what’s my point? Work harder at the things that are your weaknesses they will only make your strengths stronger. That doesn’t mean beat yourself up all the time and lose your confidence. I am suggesting a blend of getting better at the things you are already good at and the things you find challenging.

Yesterday was a great lesson in resilience and courage.