Habits have no “Sundays”

As I stood with my running partners, Urmi and Mulraj, at the start point at Nariman Point, my mind was filled with doubts. To begin with, the weather had turned, and I had a fast-finish for today’s long run (a run where most of it is done at an easy pace, and the last 25% at race pace). My Friday night “cardio workout” at the Dandiya (all Binita’s fault for making this awesome plan! ;-)) had left me with tight calves and a weird tightness in my right leg. Adding to that was the exhaustion from that late night (Friday night’s sleep is the most important for the Sunday run, we have been told!), a hectic Saturday, etc.  Nevertheless, we started off.

Warming up with some easy running, by Haji Ali (approx. 7km) we were in good rhythm.

Distance for me, has never been an issue, but what was weighing on my mind was the last 5km of the 22km at half marathon pace. My first fast-finish of the season. To achieve this was critical towards my Delhi race. I just had to do it.

The one thing that I have learnt over the years is that, only if you believe you can do it will you be able to actually do it. By the time this wisdom came back to me, we had already been running for 40 minutes. This meant that I had just about 50 minutes, including the uphill of Peddar Road, to find my faith!!

This shift in paradigm was triggered by the slight breeze at Worli. And I smiled. The niggle in my leg seemed to have disappeared. Suddenly I felt in control. What a beautiful, cloudy morning, I thought as I climbed up Peddar road, slowly. I consumed my gel just before I got into turbo mode, post the downhill, for my fast-finish. The three of us ran in a tight huddle.

I thought of the book that I was reading, The Power of Habit. There is a story in that about how Michael Phelps swims his 200m butterfly race in the Beijing Olympics – blind, as water had entered his swimming goggles. What does he do mid-race? What could he do? He relies on instinct. He had established a pattern – habits created over the years –  and had faith in that routine. And that’s what we Runners do. We have our well-set morning routines – pre-run nutrition, warm up, stretches, and the like. We know what works and what doesn’t. So we simply follow that. As I went over my morning, I had done all that I always do. Foam rolled and stretched well the night before, hydrated well with Fast and Up Reload. In the morning I had had my pre-run Activate and warmed up well. The routine was in place. So things should go as per plan.

800m into the fast section, I told Urmi and Mulraj that I have a good feeling about this one, so let’s go! And we ran. We used the momentum of the downhill and then just held the pace. I controlled my breathing and ran relaxed and easy.

After winning that gold medal in the race, when Phelps was asked how it felt to swim blind, his reply was, “…just as I had always imagined.” The book also tells us how his coach had once made him swim blind in a pool as a part of his training. So, on race day, he dipped into his bank of memories, relied on his muscle memory, and performed. He did what he had trained to do.

I have done a fair amount of running at half marathon pace over the last 2 weeks. So today, for my fast finish, I relied on that muscle memory, and ran. It was comfortable and I felt good. I have done it before and I can do it again. Yes, it is going to be hard, but I can do it.

And I did it.

As I completed the run (thrilled to bits and completely smashing the fast finish pace) I remarked to the others how great the weather had been, and what an amazing run we had had. They stared at me in disbelief and quizzed me, “Huh, where did YOU run? Did you not feel the humidity or the temperature?” I had no idea what they were talking about. Which took me back to a post I had written a couple of years ago – What you focus on, expands. I focused on my routine and everything going for me, and it worked.

What we have heard and seen as wisdom and motivating thoughts are working in our sub conscious. Only when we allow them to enter our conscious stream of thought, is when they empower us and become a part of our reality. When these thoughts become a part of our daily life, our “habits”, is when we have grown. And today I feel that.

A huge benefit of any endurance sport is that it makes us introspect, evaluate and hence increase awareness. And awareness is the first step towards changing behaviour and making it a habit. I am grateful to running for making me who I am today.routine

From “The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg:

“The key to victory was creating the right routines. Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”

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