I never could have anticipated I’d become any sort of fitness person. I hated physical activity as a kid unless it was riding my bicycle*, I couldn’t breathe**, and I was afraid of the ball in all sports that required them. But I guess I have always enjoyed climbing on things, because learning to rappel off a mountain in eighth grade was pretty great, and high ropes course was infinitely superior to low ropes course, because it was all me and all climby fun stuff, none of that bullshit team building crap. So when I first heard about the Tough Mudder, I secretly thought it sounded cool, even though I outwardly scorned it for being ridiculous.
It is ridiculous. Mud runs are ridiculous. And I would never do one. Certainly never a Tough Mudder.
I have a penchant for signing up for things I have explicitly and recently stated I have no interest in. So last October, mainly because I wanted to make new friends, I did a 10K Terrain Race at Old Tucson Studios. I did make new friends (two cycling teachers from the gym where I work), and I had a great time. One of the girls I ran with, who is also a PE teacher, told me that even though I didn’t run at all, all the cycling I did would actually make me a more competent (in terms of endurance, not actual form) runner than I’d thought, and she was right.
So I figured sure, why not do the run again.
It was way, way harder this time. I forgot until moving back to Tucson that I have the worst allergies in the world, since in Boston and the Bay Area I did not. I cannot breathe in the spring out here. I had to stop for walking breaks so many times, which was a bummer because I have gone practice running like four times since the last time I did the 10K, and whenever it’s a real race I need a walking break, but when it’s just running to run, I don’t. I thought I had broken down that wall, but clearly there’s something to competition (and, probably, pacing myself) that I have not cracked yet.
That said, though, I got through it. And it’s partly because of a thing I’ve done as long as I can remember but only recently learned the name for – defensive pessimism. It’s what happens when you, like me, tell yourself the plane is going to crash when you’re going through takeoff. Or when you determine that if you don’t finish a thing, you’re going to quit (I’ve done that with my novel, and I’ve yet to finish it but also yet to quit altogether). Where I learned it was an anecdote about one of those people who tried to swim the Arctic because apparently an Ironman or something is for losers. He was feeling like he had nothing left to give and told himself over and over just how many miles down he would sink, just how cold he would be as he died, and said that to himself over and over again as he….finished the swim. So I spent the race telling myself I could just quit at the 5K split and call it a day. And then my friend and I got there (I’m 100% sure that this race, which had numerous logistical failures this time around, actually had it split into about 7K and 10K, but that’s another story) and she asked if I wanted to do that because she could see I was struggling, and I said no. And I did lots more walking breaks and forewent more obstacles than I’d planned to, but I finished it.
I finished. I did not check my time and I’m sure it was a shameful one, but I don’t care. It wasn’t a race for me. It was just a thing I did, and I finished, and defensive pessimism got me through it. The end.
*not all that surprising that indoor cycling was my first certification and my favorite class most of the time
**nope, not asthma. Vocal cord dysfunction!