Today, as I contemplate the word, “voice” I’m thinking about the voices that we hear over and over in our heads… like a record. Sometimes the voice is negative and I have great experience (as do we all I suspect) at listening, repeatedly, to the negative voices.
You know, the voice that says, “it’s too hard,” “you’re not ready,” “you’re not fit enough,” “you’re not……..” Listening to these voices, like a broken record, can certainly wear us out. The good news is that these voices don’t need to have the final say. But to silence them we need new voices and we can get them when we surround ourselves with, and listen to, helpful people. This might sound a bit abstract, so here’s a running story.
When I first started running four years ago, I was training on my own. After some initial progress, my training kind of stayed at the same level for a long time. It seemed that when I raced or had a really hard time running, I was very hard on myself. The record going through my head was, “this wouldn’t be so hard if I’d lost more weight,” and “you should have been eating better,” and “you’re not getting better.” These voices are certainly not helpful in the midst of a race, or any activity. For the longest time I equated any difficulty encountered while running to be a sign that I was lacking in some way.
Last year I joined a training program for the 2015 Ventura Marathon and then later joined the running club. An early revelation for me occurred when I was talking to the coach about my inadequacies and he told me that it is supposed to be hard. He said that if it wasn’t hard, then I wasn’t working hard enough. Suddenly I had a new record playing in my head. “It’s hard…and I can take it!” My running started improving after that.
The other voices came from those in the running club. I still don’t know everyone’s names, but I appreciate them all. First, there were the long runs on Sunday mornings. I couldn’t run with everyone because, as a pastor, I had to get to church (and I’m slower too). So I would start an hour early and pass them on my way back and every time, I’d hear words of encouragement.
Then I began going to their track workouts. It could be intimidating to be running all out and still have people pass and pass and pass you so easily. But it never was (or is) because so often the person passing is saying “good job!” “keep it up” “you’ve got this”. New voices that continue to help me to push and push some more each week.
So now here’s the really good part of all this! Last Sunday’s Surf City Marathon was my third. In both of my previous efforts I struggled to finish and could say that I pretty much had to drag myself across the finish line. A goal for Surf City was to finish strong… to actually run the last 10k. I was doing well but started to slow down at miles 24 and 25. I think that at this point I had to decide whether I was going to dig in and push or allow fatigue to win. Then the voices came, “it’s ok if it hurts” “good job!” “keep it up” “you’ve got this!”
With this help I sped up and finished with a new PR by 30 minutes. I could say “I did this”, but I would never have been able to do it if I were still trying it all alone. And that’s the really big lesson, we need each other… we need to hear one another’s voices.