This morning, I ran the Longhorn Run, an annual 10K around the University of Texas at Austin’s campus put on by Student Government and Rec Sports. I’m no longer a student at UT (in fact, I have the privilege of working there now!). So, I woke up early, rode my bike to campus, ran, and then rode back to my house—making for a pretty active day all before 10 a.m.
I ran with my co-worker, who was running his first 10K ever. I was happy to bounce along the side of him and he learned some fairly essential basics when it comes to racing, such as learning how to pace oneself, letting the crowd guide you up the tough parts, knowing when to use a surge of adrenaline up a hill, and letting the downhills (and gravity) do the work. When we finished, I congratulated him for the great work and got a little nostalgic about my first 10K…which was 10 YEARS AGO!
That’s right: I’ve been running for 10 years now, and it seems crazy for two reasons. First, I feel old; the last time I came close to doing something for ten years, it was playing alto sax, or rowing. I definitely hope, though, that I have many more years of being active within me.
Second, time flies when you’re having fun. I can’t even get an accurate count of the races I’ve run, but none of them resulted in me tripping, faceplanting on pavement, or having to deal with any sort of awkward bathroom situation—all in all, I think that means I’ve had a fun 10 years of racing.
But I think when I initially signed up to climb Kilimanaro, I was wondering if all my training, running races, and doing stair climbs would actually be helpful. Seriously: I don’t have a 19,000 foot mountain to train on in my backyard (who does?). Running seemed like a logical way to train, but who knows what would happen when I started climbing in Tanzania? Would I get sick? Could I make it? How cold will I be? Overall, the main question that lingered in my mind was, “would it all be enough to get me to the summit?”
Well, this morning, when I was running alongside my coworker, I realized: I’ll be okay on the climb, because climbing Kilimanjaro isn’t going to be entirely physical. It’s going to be more mental than anything else. During those 6.2 miles, I was happy, motivated, and willing to look at the glass as 110% full—reminding the person next to me that for every uphill, there was a downhill; or that we had less than 2 miles to go; or that we were more than halfway there. One thing I have going for me is that while I don’t have long legs, I’ve got a good outlook. Texas 4000 taught me how to have faith that everything works out okay even when it’s hard—and sometimes, things work out better than okay, too.
I’m absolutely certain I’m not going to have the same positive sense of sunshine, candy canes, and rainbows when I’m climbing in Tanzania in a little over two months. I’m sure when it’s cold and the altitude sickness sinks in, that I’ll have to dig deep and remember all the amazing people for whom I’m climbing. But right now, I’m training as physically and mentally as possible to come out on top. When I think about it, I know: I’m ready to at least give those 19,000 feet all I have—physically and mentally. And that’s truly training, even without the mountain in my backyard.