Monday, April 14, 2008

Discouraging Words

When I was in college, I initially began as a music major, focusing on piano performance. I'd already been studying with the Chair of piano at this private college for sometime long before my freshman year. But, after about a year and a half, I discovered this wasn't what I wanted to do, and I yearned for something new. Befriending a few Science majors, I decided that taking Zoology with them sounded interesting, but it had a few pre-requisites that would require some special consideration by the Chair of Biology at the time. A man I had to stand in front of to ask permission to take the course without having completed the necessary Biology 101, Chemistry 101, and so on. Only because I was one of a handful of honors students enrolled in a special program who already had a number of basic core courses waived, was I eventually granted this request. But not without this stern, condescending warning: "You know, Alex, some people are just not cut out for college. You might be one of them."

It turned out alright. Less than three years later as I prepared to graduate with a Biology degree, he ended up having to personally hand me an award for scoring higher than anyone in the department (across all science majors, including the pre-med students) on an intercollegiate science exam that had recently become a requirement for graduating. On top of it, I had the highest grade point average in the department. I'm not sure if he remembers his sneering comments years earlier, but I'll never forget them.

I am reminded of this story as I enter into a period of extreme self-doubt before really trying to qualify for Boston. Self-doubt in me is somewhat commonplace. I was born thinking or being taught that everyone had a better set of "tools" than I did. I often just work harder than everyone around me because I always feel inadequate; or not good enough to belong. Which can bring me good results, but often leaves me quite lonely.

Hoping I could find a running partner, I stepped out of my comfort zone and I've been contacting a few experienced somewhat local marathoners with whom I might be able to share a couple of training runs. I think this was a mistake.

My last contact was to an older male (and I use the term "older" loosely; let's just say, a bit older than me), very experienced marathoner (more than 50 marathons), with times better than, but somewhat comparable to my goals. After a brief introduction, I was quickly dismissed and told that I should consider the run-walk method as preached by Galloway if I really wanted to do marathons, as that was far closer to matching my ability. My current goals and training methods, he authoritatively spoke, were "too fast and too young" for me.

Not to debate this method ("Gallowalking"), I will at least for this moment state that it currently has no room in my training philosophy. But, the superior, scoffing tone in which the message was delivered has left me wounded and worrying if I am just too dumb to know any better, and any silly dreams like running a 3:50 marathon is ludicrous.

There are plenty of reasons I could fail here in a little over five weeks. And I'm still going to try. Maybe I'll even try harder than I would have, just to prove him wrong. Perhaps that will be the one thought that will carry me over the finish line. I know it was something sillier than that for my first marathon.

At this moment, I am working on promising to myself to never dash anyone's dreams; never crush their spirit; and encourage everyone. I hope to never make anyone feel as stupid and inadequate as I do right now.

1 comment:

Rick said...

Don't let one person's opinion get you down. 3:50 is definitely reachable. Only you know how bad you want it. You'll figure that out at about mile 18 :)

You've got the right attitude with wanting to prove the naysayer wrong. That's what got me through my first marathon.