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Have you ever felt down? Have you ever felt, that whatever you start, end up being a failure? Have you ever felt that despite a hard training effort you are regressing instead of progressing with your run?

If never, good for you and please make sure to let me know your secret.

If you have experienced this feeling before, then welcome to the “club”!

Lack of confidence...

Lack of confidence…

Recently that is exactly how I felt. Nevertheless I kept pushing forward, but I have not seen the progress I was hoping to see already months ago. I was expecting 2013 to be a year full with PRs. Breaking one PR after another. Instead, two Half Marathons with finish times showing a disastrous trend (my performance in Cleveland was really poor). Both were great events, I was not living up to my own expectations. There are multiple reasons for those results, but it does not change the fact, that none of them helped to boost my quickly depleting confidence level.

One thing I knew for sure is that keeping a disciplined approach was the way to go. I even started to follow one of Hal Higdon’s Marathon training plans instead of trying to “reinvent the wheel”… However as excited I am to run in Chicago in October, despite of all the efforts of envisioning me running strong every step through the 26.2 miles and crossing the Finish line victoriously, I observed a growing nightmare: losing confidence that I can do this. Sad I know and I have been trying lot of different things not to feel that way.

Finally the breakthrough came this Thursday. After weeks into my new Marathon training plan, few stronger training runs in the pocket and the consistently increased weekly mileage finally started to pay some dividend. On Thursday we had a test drive to Chicago, which always means a very long day. This time it was no different either: spending almost 14 hours on the road, driving and testing. This is nothing that anyone should feel sorry for me or my colleagues, it was just one of those days and this is anyways a fun activity, especially that I always enjoy going to Chicago. Through the day clear skies, almost no wind, reasonable traffic, so everything was given for a nice drive. One thing I had to think about was how to squeeze my daily run into this busy day. We were scheduled to leave from the office at 6AM and I had a 35 minute long tempo run prescribed for the day. Knowing my biological boot up time, how long it takes for me to stop sweating after a run (so it makes sense to have a shower), the amount of time I need to get to the office called for setting the alarm clock for 3:30AM, so I can start my run around 4AM and continue with the rest of the daily schedule.

I went to bed at a reasonable time, no problem there. Alarm on at 3:30AM, everything according to plan. Here came the serious doubt: do I really want to run? Other days, I would just stick to the excuse of “let’s make it a rest day, because rest is good for the body”. So I reset the alarm to 4:20AM. As I tried to go back to sleep an enormous wave of guilty feeling hit me. Right in the face.

“Did you think training for your first Marathon is going to be easy?”

“Is this what you call dedication?”

“You are not really a runner!”

That is when I realized, this might be a key “make it or break it” moment in my 18 weeks long journey. Since I have been tossing and turning for 20 minutes, I realized I might fall asleep for five more minutes at best, which is useless and have another lost battle on my resume or get out of the bed right now and get running.

I made the right decision.

Few minutes later I was already preparing to leave for my tempo run, which I finally started shortly after 4AM, still on track to keep my schedule of arriving to the office by 6AM.

As I stepped through the main entrance of our house closed the door, walked down the driveway, I stopped. I looked up: 100% clear sky. Millions of stars, reminding me of the endless opportunities that are right in front of me, starting with the freedom of going out running at 4AM if I wish so (or in this particular case if I convince myself to do so). I started to run, taking it easy at the beginning and increased my speed with every mile, until the very end of my run.

Maybe you will say now, that I must have a very boring life or running schedule, but one of the best runs I have ever had. Enough street lights to keep me on the road and not run into any trees or objects, but few enough to keep the magic of the night running. Absolutely zero traffic, not even noise from the nearby road that otherwise carries a modest traffic during the daily hours. Cool, refreshing temperature with occasional breeze crossing my path, touching my skin as an alternative form of refreshment. I felt great and felt strong as I was continuously increasing my speed and somewhere in the dark I must have dropped my baggage: a heavy bag full of doubt and lack of self-confidence. I felt that with every step I was getting further and further away from that unwanted cargo. Never looked back and completed my perfect tempo run. I have not felt this energized in a very long time. I felt that I could take up on any challenge that would come my way.

Are you hungry already?

Are you hungry already?

With my churro in my hand - what can go wrong?

With my churro in my hand – what can go wrong?

Then hours later we stopped for our scheduled lunch break in downtown Chicago, where one of our colleagues suggested we should grab lunch at the Taste of Chicago event. Great idea: stretching our legs and eat at the same time, so we agreed in no time. Reasonable crowd, still blue, crystal clear sky and refreshing breeze coming from Lake Michigan. Enjoyed every second of it. As I was enjoying my churro was when I looked up and realized, that I was standing at the same spot where I will be running in October. I was staring at the high-rises towards which we are going to start running on the morning on October 13, 2013. I still felt strong and energized from my morning run and right there I pictured standing together with tens of thousands of fellow runners excitedly waiting for the Chicago Marathon to start and realized I am not scared of the challenge. I had zero doubt in my ability to tackle that enormous challenge and I successfully envisioned myself crossing the Finish line.

91 days to go...

91 days to go…

If just simply standing right there triggered all these strong feelings and emotions, I can only imagine how it is going to feel like on race day.

Obviously there are still hundreds of miles and long hours to spend training for this event, but right now I can hardly wait for the race to start.

I hope you can also drop your unwanted baggage soon and look forward to see what tomorrow brings.

Thank you Running!