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Mental Toughness in Quma’s Front Office

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Some of you who have called the office have had the pleasure of talking to our director of client relations, Jennifer Lee.  And not only is Jennie capable and efficient and an all-around office wonder woman, she recently ran a half marathon.  Her experience is one we can all learn from.

Jennie’s race was the 2nd annual Shun the Sun Race.  She had run the 5K portion of the race the year before and felt it was “grueling,” but she watched her sister finish the half marathon and wished she could do the same.

Jennie started 2010 with the decision to focus on her physical health.  She studied and read and made significant changes in her lifestyle and diet.  As her strength and stamina increased, she decided to “step up” her exercise goals.  While she had been running weekly, she wasn’t formally on a schedule.  She needed a goal to help solidify her commitment.  In her mind she had a picture of her sister crossing the finish line after her half marathon the year before, and this mental picture sparked Jennie’s own dreams and desires.

With this picture in her mind, she determined to run the same race.  She had nearly 16 weeks to train to be able to run 13.1 miles.  Before this time, the farthest Jennie had ever run was 5 miles.  She studied and researched and found a training schedule that she customized to a pace that she thought she could manage.  She saved her long runs for Saturday and found it was always the high point of her week.  For these long runs, Jennie would map a course out a few days prior and mentally prepare to go the distance.

She later said, “I found that some days were harder than others.  If I didn’t eat right that week or if I didn’t get sufficient sleep the night prior, my runs would be harder and more challenging.  As I got deeper into my training I realized how important a role my eating habits played into my abilities to run distance.  I also began to sacrifice Friday night outings with friends to ensure I would get enough sleep to do my long runs on Saturday mornings.  I quickly found myself learning that my running became my greatest priority.

“There was a Saturday in October I was running the peak distance, 12 miles before the big race.  I knew that if I could do 12 I could certainly do 13.1!  Mentally I told myself that I could do it.  No matter how long it took me, I would run the 12 miles without stopping.  It was probably the best run I had ever had.  Yes, even better than the actually race. . . I was prepared and rested.  Before I knew it I was at the ten mile mark and I felt good, I could feel the smile on my face and knew that I was then ready for the race.”

Jennie had prepared.  She had studied.  She had trained.  She was physically ready.  What happened next is instructive for each of us.

The day of the race she felt great on the first loop (the first 8 miles) of her race.  Then she said, her body started to hurt, and started to beg for her to stop.  She said, “My ankles were sore and my legs wanted to stop.  I remember reading a sign that said something to the effect that ‘You can’t let your body tell your mind what to do.’  I remember thinking that my mind is more powerful than my legs.  So for the last 4 miles or so, I would tell my mind to tell my legs and feet and ankles to keep going.  My mind had to take over in order for me to finish this race.”

And then came the moment she had pictured all those many weeks ago…the finish line.  Jennie said, “I always pictured the finish line, a cheering audience, tears streaming down my face, pictures being taken.  And you know what?  It was similar, but I felt like the greater accomplishment was the effort invested in the preparation.  As I reflected, I realized that I was more satisfied with all the effort and dedication and commitment that lead up to the race than the race itself.  Our minds power our bodies, our minds give us the will to go forward when our ankles are weak, our minds are the start and finish of all mortal races!”

The day before Jennie’s race I sent her an email with a couple of my favorite running quotes. One by Steve Prefontaine is confirmed by Jennie’s experience.  He said, “You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.”

Jennie had a goal.  She had a mental picture of that goal.  She trained consistently and doggedly at her own pace.  And in the heat of the moment, when her body wanted to stop, she refused to listen.

These same principles apply to each of us, no matter our goal.  I believe there is a moment in every achievement, every success and human endeavor–no matter how prepared or ready we are–that begs us to stop, to give up, to quit, to ease up.  Real satisfaction, power, and success is found in mentally willing ourselves past this moment to the finish line.

I’m interested in your thoughts.

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