Beating the Bully and the Brat in Birmingham

A Mercedes Moment

A Mercedes Moment

Yesterday I skipped church and ran the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham instead. Yes, I said Birmingham, not Burlington.

I had decided to travel to Alabama’s largest city to try to qualify for next year’s Boston Marathon by running 26.2 miles in 4:00 hours or better – my personal BQ (Boston Qualifier).

I kept my qualifying quest a secret from most people, because  I knew it sounded crazy, and was afraid if I missed my goal it really would be crazy – and embarrassing.

I couldn’t keep the last-ditch attempt from my bully and my brat, however  These are the  unwelcome but all-too-familiar voices in my head that surface to squelch the urge to dream big.

We all have an inner bully and inner brat. We also have an inner best friend. Here’s what they sound like:

Bully
Your bully likes to intimidate you just when you begin to consider going for a big goal. He has an arsenal of confidence-crushers like, “Who do you think you are? You can’t do that, why even try? You don’t have what it takes, get serious, girl!”

Brat
Your brat is another dream-dampener. “It’s too hard,” the brat whines. “You don’t have the time. Maybe you could do it, if it weren’t for (insert excuse here).”  Beware your inner brat. It may get you off the hook, but it will keep you from realizing your dreams.

Best Friend
Your best friend won’t accuse you, but she won’t excuse you either. She believes in you, encourages you, and tells you what you need to hear. Your soft-voiced best friend can be easily drowned out by the loudmouthed bully and whiny brat. You have to learn to listen to your best friend and quell the bully and the brat if you are ever going to overcome self-doubt and inertia.

Going for a Boston BQ
There was a full-blown bully- and brat-fest going on in my brain as I contemplated going down to Birmingham this weekend to qualify to run my tenth consecutive Boston. I had already spent months training and failed to BQ in the Richmond Marathon in November, and Miami Marathon in January.

The bully told me I didn’t have a chance. Hadn’t I already fallen short two other times? And what about that lingering pain in my knee? That would surely take me down.

The brat wasn’t any better. Why am I spending so much time when it’s so hard to qualify? What do I need to prove? Aren’t nine Boston’s enough of an achievement? Do I really want it that bad?

I decided I did. My inner best friend was a little quiet at this point, so I decided to bolster her up with some outside support. I contact two people I knew would understand my crazy quest, and asked them for some words of encouragement.

My friend Rick Muhr, a marathon coach and personal motivator, told me this:

“Trish, I KNOW you have the qualifying effort in you. Go out conservatively, find your rhythm, then go to work. Be mentally strong at the end and put all your cards on the table.”

My friend Ann‘s advice was a bit more succinct:

“You will rock it,” she told me.

I grabbed onto these affirmations and my best friend flourished. There was no room at the Start Line for my bully or my brat. I left them at the hotel and took my best friend along for the run, as I confidently clocked the 26.2  miles at a fast clip.

I not only qualified yesterday, but set personal record of 3:49:10, over ten minutes ahead of my goal.  Yes, it was a physical feat, but I believe the race was won as much by confidence as capability.

The biggest surprise? I placed second in my age category and got a very cool Mercedes trophy. This all from a woman who was a complete non-athlete most of her life. Go figure.

As you consider your big dreams, identify first your own inner bully and brat and kick them to the cerebral curb. Bolster your best friend with words of encouragement from yourself and others. Then, do the work to get yourself to the starting line, put all your cards on the table, and proceed with confidence. You’ll be amazed at the result.

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