“In the middle of a competition, there will come a time where you will have the choice to go or not go. I am saying you should go.”
I crossed the two-mile mark, and I could see the orange cones up ahead, the ones the signaled the fourth and final out-and-back turnaround section of the race.
Four out-and-backs, four chances to count how many women were ahead of me as they rounded the cones and ran back in my direction.
At the first turnaround, I was the 10th woman. “Good,” I thought. “Stay calm, stay relaxed.”
I ran on.
At the second turnaround, I was the 8th woman. “Good, moved up two spots. Keep applying pressure. Keep going.”
By the time we reached the third turnaround, I was 7th. Coming around that turn, the course went straight uphill. “Hold your form,” I thought. Followed by my favorite mid-race mantra: “You’re strong. You’re fit. You’re in control.” I repeated that over and over, letting the rhythm of the words merge with the rhythm of my breathing, trying to find the sweet spot where you’re giving everything you’ve got without giving it all too soon.
The two-mile marker came and went. “One more mile to go,” I told myself. “Hold it.”
I counted the women running toward me after the final turnaround, and I was still in 7th. We ran on for another few minutes, and my eyes were pinned to the 6th place woman, just up ahead.
As I got closer to her, I felt myself start to go deeper into the pain cave. There was still over a half mile to go, and my head was suddenly flooded with self doubts.