When I was 22 or 23 I went horseback riding. I went with a group of friends and my mom, who's always up for an adventure, came along. About halfway through the ride my horse stumbled on a large rock as we were running and I went face first into the ground. (Note to self: Break fall with HANDS, not FACE) I was fine. Bumped, bruised and scraped, but altogether fine, albiet a bit shaken up. On the other hand, my mom was terrified. This was around the same time that Christopher Reeve was thrown from his horse and paralyzed. As I lay on the ground thinking, "I'm mortified, can I just get up now?", my mom, voice shaking, was asking the trail guide to "get her off the (f-word-ing) horse." I'm her baby after all. If this was scary for me, it was twice as scary for her. In fact, my first visit to the emergency room was probably more traumatic than the incident itself, but I digress.
About a month after the accident, when I was all healed, my mom insisted we go for another ride. Her reasoning? That old saying, "You gotta get back on the horse." She refused to let the last memory of horseback riding for both of us be a traumatic one. So, we went for a lovely ride. Shaky at first, but we did it. My mom was right. We had to make a bad experience better.
I recently signed up for a Summer Series of 5Ks at the local community college. Every Thursday for eight weeks in the summer, a group of people get together and run a pretty difficult cross country trail that goes through the college and into the surrounding hills.
I only started running in October. I'm slow and I prefer pavement. I know it's harder on my body, but I like it. The city I live in has 30 miles of paseos that are perfect for long or short runs. Needless to say, this Summer Series is difficult for me and yesterday was the worst!
First of all it was hot. I live in the Southern California desert and we've had a fairly mild summer by normal standards but it's still hot for running. Secondly, most of the people doing this run are really good runners. Like 200 kids from the local cross country teams and 7 slow pokes. These people are crossing the finish line in 15 minutes. I'm lucky to get in under 40 minutes, so it's a little intimidating. Lastly, I was just plain not feeling it.
So I went yesterday. My friend bought me the series as a birthday gift and I wanted a run and want to do this, right? Honestly, I could have easily been persuaded to blow it off, but I made it there.
Mile One Sucked. I couldn't get a good rhythm in my running or my breathing. It got better when I realized I was further along when the leader past me that I had been the week before but then the water table was set up on the side where the FAST runners were going and I had to STOP, sneak through the line of young, fast, in shape runners to get a drink, then WAIT to find a place to cut through again.
Mile Two Sucked Harder. This is the roughest mile anyway. It has two pretty nasty hills. These hills have been named "F You" and "F You's Little Sister". They suck. I always try to run, but usually end up walking most of them. Again, I couldn't catch my breath and was feeling out of sync. I had a cramp for most of this part of the run that I couldn't shake and my feet hurt during a run for the first time. And the water table had no water left when I ran back by. I was thirsty!
Mile Three Sucked Too. Mile three is usually my best mile in most races. I was annoyed at the water situation, mad at the fact that I was pacing the 70 year old man that "walk/runs" and pissed that I wasn't doing my best. Then, clarity.
I literally thought to myself, "Well, I have to come back next week because this has to be better." Then I thought about horseback riding. I knew in my heart and my head that I couldn't have a bad taste in my mouth about this or any other run for that matter. I KNOW, with certainty, that I will go back next week and try to make it a better experience. I'll go back every week for the next 5 weeks and run. If my last run there feels bad, I may go back again to make it better. (Although the In-N-Out Truck comes after the last run, so I think I'll have very warm and fuzzy feelings after that race ;) )
That's the point, right? When we have negative experiences, we can choose to leave them in our memories or we can choose to replace them with better, more positive ones.
I'm trying to replace my negative trail running feelings with positive ones. It may take one more run or one hundred more runs, but I think I can do it. Maybe when I can start running as fast on hills as I do on the road or maybe when I just have a particularly strong day and it feels really good. Either way, I'm not going to stop trying to make the last memory a good one.
I'm going to keep getting back on that horse.