This week I watched “Hook”. If you don’t remember that movie, it stars Robin Williams as a middle age Peter Pan who returns to Never Never Land to retrieve his lost son, Jack, who has been captured by the dastardly Captain Hook.
When Peter gets to NeverNeverLand, Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) has to teach him how to fly again. Peter can fly only if he concentrates on a happy thought and holds onto it long enough to fly to Hook’s ship.
This is also true in marathoning. In the Non-Runners Guide to Marathons, the authors tell us to think of a visual cue, such as crossing the finish line, or watching an olympic athlete run, and then to play that visual over and over like a video tape in our imaginations. This is especially helpful when you are running looooong miles by yourself.
When I thought about what I’d use for my happy thoughts, I thought about the very first 5K I ever ran. Yes, the one where I ran from one light post to the next. That one. It was a St. Patty’s Day run and all my friends came out to cheer me on at 7am on a Saturday. My mom came out and took my picture near the finish line. Everyone told me how proud they were of me. It was a great day.
There have been many firsts since that one- first 10K, first triathlon, first marathon, but nothing compares to your first first. Long distance running is about nothing other than exceeding your own expectations, pushing your body farther than your mind thought you could go, and proving to nobody other than yourself that you can do this. I feel like someone flipped a switch in my brain the moment I crossed the finish line that day. For the first time, I erased my own doubts and started to really BELIEVE I could do this. I started to believe that I could do just about anything if I just followed the training plan and stopped telling myself I can’t. There’s some interesting feminist psychology about the tyranny of the shoulds, but I think women should take a close look at the tyranny of the can’ts.
I dug out some old pictures of that very first first, and I’ll be using it as my happy thought on my long runs. Note- I am wearing cotton at this 5K. The price of wisdom, grasshoppers, is experience. Don’t be a Megan. Cotton is rotten. NO COTTON!