the story of the trash-talking lady

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you know that I have had an on-again-off-again affair with running. I’m proud to say that for the past long while, I’ve been pretty consistent with it. Consistent enough that two days ago, I decided to increase the distance of my normal running route by almost double. As I started the second half of my run and my brain realized that I was about to go a lot longer than normal, it started in with the trash talk. 

“This is really long. My legs are so tired. My left knee is feeling tight. I think I’m going to vomit. I better turn around and go home. I better start walking. Is it possible to have a heart attack from running this slow? I really don’t think I can do this. I should just quit.”

What a drama queen. As this inner monologue went on, I became hyper-aware of my breathing, the spit in my mouth, the way my dri-fit shirt was clinging to my back. Convinced that I was going to die, I decided to slow down. Waaaaay down.

As I rounded the corner, a woman was sitting in her parked car across the street from me. I saw her talking to me out of the corner of my eye, so I took out my earphones and said, “Pardon?”

She says, “You know you’re supposed to be running a little faster than that.”

What do you do when a stranger makes a comment that could either be taken as an insult or a mildly offensive joke? I had no idea who this woman was, so I had no way of knowing whether or not she was being sarcastic. She had no idea that I was beginning the second half of a newly lengthened route, and that I was just about to talk myself into turning around, going home and conceding defeat. But as I stood there in front of her jogging in place, sweating like a pig, panting with my mouth open, I realized that I was indeed going at a snail’s pace. So if I was being honest with myself, it really didn’t matter if she was joking or not. There was only one dignified way to respond to her. 

I laughed. 

She laughed. 

I awkwardly said, “Thanks!” (I have no idea why).

Then I ran the rest of my route. And as I did, I picked up the pace

That was two days ago. Today, my pace per mile was a full minute and a half faster than it was on Tuesday. The total time for my 2.6 mile run was shortened by three minutes. And I’m pretty sure that it’s all because some stranger decided to give me a little bit of friendly (well, maybe friendly) trash talk right when I was about to throw in the towel. 

The ironic thing was that I was already giving myself plenty of trash talk. It’s just that for some reason, I accepted it when it came from my own head. It wasn’t until some random stranger put it into words and said it out loud that I found it in myself to fight back. I don’t have to take any crap from anyone; not from a stranger in the street, and most definitely not from my own defeatist brain. 

I have no idea why I said it at the time, but I’m glad I said thank you to the lady. She has no idea, but our little exchange made me a better runner. She also taught me a valuable lesson: don’t take crap from anyone. Not even yourself. No matter what the world hands you, take only what you need to become better, work harder, run faster. Everything else is, well, just trash.

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