Last week, I wrote about my list of goals for the summer. I’m on a quest to complete as many as I can because lately it’s been all too easy to just go through the motions of my life feeling like I’m not accomplishing much. Some of my goals are relatively easy (read a novel from cover to cover) while others require a bit more planning (go on a whale watch). One in particular was downright intimidating: complete a race event.
I admit, I was already signed up for a Warrior Dash (5K mud run with various obstacle courses) with my friends when I wrote that article. Nevertheless, I didn’t know how I’d react on race day. Would I chicken out and back out once I saw the flames that I would have to jump over or the rope walls I’d have to climb?
To my surprise, I experienced the opposite. Sure, I had anticipation jitters, but on race day last Saturday I was energized and ready to go. I’m proud to say I crossed one item off my summer to-do list and, in the process, learned a lot of strategies for facing life’s obstacles. I hope these tips will help others who find themselves facing an obstacle, no matter the kind.
1. Pace yourself. From the moment I stepped foot over the starting line, I paced myself, which proved to be a critical part of reaching the finish line. I didn’t worry about how quickly one of my friends took off or the one who trailed behind. I instinctively knew that going too fast or too slow would only make it that much harder to find my own groove and get through to the end, which was my goal. It’s one thing to have friends who can sign up with you and be part of the event – there’s a lot of great stories you’ll be able to share together – but it’s a whole other thing to complete a race side-by-side. It’s just not realistic. We all have our own pace, and no one goes through things the same way.
2. Don’t look back. I knew doing so would also slow me down. Besides, what was there to see behind me? I already crawled under that barbed wire, so that obstacle was in the past. When you’re in the moment, under pressure and fully committed, you only have so much mental energy, and it needs to be reserved for what’s ahead. This also allowed me to prepare my mind for what was around the next corner.
3. Focus. I’m new to races like a Warrior Dash, and it was surreal to me to have hundreds of people around me and yet to be completely focused on just myself. Yes, you hear all the noise and see the activity around you, but you hear your own breathing and your own thoughts. Without having to speak, my mind was talking to my body, or perhaps the other way around, to convince myself I could keep going and push through the physical and mental challenges.
4. Relax. Everyone had predictions about what the event would be like — how much running we’d do; how high the walls would be; how easy or hard the obstacles would be, etc. Since my friends and I were all newbies, there was no way of knowing for sure. We could only be as prepared as we were. In the end, there was more mud and running than I thought, and the obstacles were more daunting than expected. I learned quite fast where my strengths and weaknesses are. Knowing this helped me adjust — push harder in certain areas, hold back in others.
Warrior Dash and similar events are great for your mental tenacity, but don’t confuse this with pushing your limits unrealistically. Lack of confidence is not healthy in certain obstacles — you either give it your all or you could be risking your health. Do keep in mind, however, that much of it isn’t even as physically hard as it is just a challenge on your mind. I think that’s why people enjoy these races; it’s not every day you act like a warrior!
I walked away from the race feeling energized and proud. I have new memories and a new sense of empowerment and confidence, which will no doubt be useful next time I’m up against a life obstacle. Most importantly, I realized I’m more mentally tough than I thought, which is a really great feeling.
Would I do it again? Yes.
- ‘If You Think You Can, You Will’: Learning to Believe in Myself (positively-smitten.com)
- Off The Road and Into the Mud: Becoming an Obstacle Racer (runblogger.com)
- The dirty, muddy, silly greatness of the Warrior Dash (proactiveoutside.wordpress.com)