A Stair Race and the Perception of Can and Cannot Do

I am not a stair racer, I am not a runner, I am not a lifter and I am not a martial artist. Don’t get me wrong, I do all four of those things and the last three I am doing frequently but I do not identify myself as any one of those. Because my training is so diverse, I probably will never the fastest runner, accomplish the best lifts or master the martial arts I do. I run at a good pace, I have good lifts and I am good at martial arts, just not great.

After this rather lengthy intro, what is this blog post about? Like the title already stated, it is about can and cannot do and that you don’t have to be a master of anything to attempt something for the experience.

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can‘t, youre right.” Henry Ford

I have a tendency to explore new things, try new things and discover the limitations of my body and mind. Some might think that it is not healthy, or that I am nuts, others think I have an obsessive need to prove myself. There is probably truth in all of those statements. May it be running a marathon, ultra-marathons, doing Spartan Races, carrying a client while doing Spartan Races or Stair Races or living outside of social norms in regards to my relationships, I have a tendency to go if not against the grain, then definitely at an oblique angle, lol.

What those things have taught me though is that exploring things that are slightly uncomfortable in the beginning, have led to fulfilling life experiences that I would have completely missed out on if I had not dared to try something that I was afraid of or uncomfortable with. I do not want to paint a picture of perfect bliss, there was sometimes a lot of discomforts or emotional distress but in the end, I have grown for it and not regretted it.

The day before the race

Michael, a friend of mine struggling with cerebral palsy, and I had signed up for this race a while back. I would do the race and then strap him on my back in a modified Molly-Backpack and do it again. I did it last year and it took me a grueling 30 min to get to the top with him. I was exhausted. The experience though had been great and we had been able to motivate a great number of people and received the warmest support and welcome ourselves. A beautiful thing.

This year would be different. Michael had to cancel short notice and let me know he would not be able to make it. In my head, there were thoughts of why should I go now? I am on a date and rather would sleep in the next morning. I decided to do the race anyway and told myself I just would have fun…fun climbing over 1195 stairs to the top.

Race Day

Suzanne Bergen, Linda Viner and me at the finish line

We made it pretty early to the race and I met a good friend and former client, Linda Viner, before the race. Having a decent time I had signed up as an elite and started at 8.30 am with some really fast people. What I loved the most was the caring for each other, nobody pushing for placement, everyone looking out not to be a hindrance for a potentially faster stair climber. Linda and I talked a little and she voiced her concerns about being nervous. This building was not her strong suit and had never felt great racing in it. We both agreed to have fun, be in the moment (heart pounding through the chest, lungs burning and thighs heavy as lead, lol…)

She took off before me, historically a faster racer than me by far, she is a competitive stair racer unlike me, I did not want to hold her back. 30s later it was my turn. The light turned green and got into the building. At first slightly disoriented, I had forgotten that the building has a stretch where I have to run a hallway, I finally found my rhythm.

Being in the moment is tough, thoughts start to wander, what if I cannot make this, what if I am slower than last year, what if I am holding the person behind me back….The race does not take very long from a runner’s perspective. Last year I had done it in 10:14 min but when your mind is going hard, while your body threatens you to quit (there is no downhill in a stair race, just up), 10 min seems like a long time and the numbers of the floors would pass more slowly over the course of the race.

Finally, I made it to the 50th floor and not seeing the timing chip line, kept running (call me Forrest Gump). Linda was already waiting upstairs and we chatted. She had a great race, she had crushed her previous record and felt like she had more in her. I looked at my time and knew I had been faster than my time from last year as well.

The Take Away

We all get distracted, every day, we continue to do so even while doing something that we might enjoy. The focus for me is to come back to the here and now. Acknowledge my fears, worries, and anxieties and make peace with them. They have proven false many times, there are no guarantees. Focus on experiencing the moment, being there and having an open attitude towards the experience. I won’t fool you. I am not like Henry Ford, I don’t think I can, but I think I might :).

What in your life occupies your thoughts, takes you away from the here and now and tells you that you cannot accomplish something? What if you thought you might?

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