Universe conspires only after you conspire………Accountability

I generally run solo. Even on occasions when I start few of my runs with some buddies of mine, we end up running at our individual paces, so we mostly run separately and meet at the end of the run. So, I’m quite used to running solo — with its many advantages and many disadvantages. A couple of weeks ago, I attempted a Time Trial run for Half Marathon distance (21.1K). Time trial is meant to simulate “performance” pressures of a “race environment” with critical emphasis on (fast) pace of the run. I have developed this dread for speed runs in the last few months. I skipped all 10K TT runs, ran only two 5K TT runs but this was my second 21.1K TT run in a month. One way to deal with this fright relatively effectively is to run with the running group (most of my running group was attempting TT that day) but that involves waking up a good one hour earlier than the normal (5:00AM) time. Not wanting to stress myself with more load, I tried to come up with ‘reasonable-sounding’ justifications (excuses, really) to get out of the attempt altogether. In the end, I could not find a sufficiently guilt-reducing excuse — so I had no choice but to attempt it. Ironically enough, it rained heavily that morning for many hours — it was raining rather heavily even when I started the run. But rain can’t be an excuse — if at all — it gives more reason to run — humidity becomes low and sweat gets washed away instantly. All I had to worry about was to find a different route for the run — one that has fewer water puddles. So, I started out accordingly. I did remember a few silly errors that I committed in my previous TT attempt — like running too fast in the beginning (I wrote about it in my post titled “Incorrigible Bad Habits”). I tried to make amends and was partially successful. I was going with reasonable control until I got into my 13th Kilometre which involved a bit of downslope and about half way into it, my left knee hobbled a bit and my gait got lopsided and I realized that my dodgy left knee (owing to a freak injury from a few weeks back) has taken a beating. I decided to quit the run rather than risk an aggravated injury. I felt a bit of disappointment but more guiltily, quite a bit of relief. I did not have to run rest of the fast paced run.

So, I had to contend with two issues here:

  1. Knee injury: As my friend Rahul always says, rest it and ice it. No runs for the next 2–3 days and ice it a few times a day
  2. Overcome the new found dread of fast runs: Today’s post is about this

Dread of pacey running is similar to a fear that I developed in the past for travelling on aeroplanes. I remember my first flight ever was when was I was 22 years old and it was from Hyderabad to Mumbai on my way to Florida (with a stopover somewhere in Europe — can’t recollect the country now). On the one hour flight, the plane developed a technical snag and we were flown back to Hyderabad to address the snag. Once that was taken care of, we flew to Mumbai again. The entire experience of descent and landing in Mumbai airport continues to be amongst my most wonderful experiences of life. This wonder called aeroplane that transports 150+ people magically via air and lands them right in the middle of a megacity. I was hooked. I loved my plane journeys for many years — particularly — the take-off and ascent until cruising altitude and the descent and the landing. My favourite seat continues to be window seat. But a few years into this, I somehow developed a fear for flying — every time, the plane goes through turbulent weather, fear used to bubble up from deep within me. I avoided plane journeys as much as possible. Then one day, I decided that life cannot go on like this. I had to somehow deal with this fear. I decided that turbulence is just part of what is to be expected on a flight journey — it is just par for the course. Also given that I had no control over the consequences once the flight takes off, I decided to give into whatever is to happen. I decided not to worry about things I did not have in control. Just like that, I overcame fear of flying.

Now, of somewhat similar nature, I developed this dread for fast runs. It was not always like that. I decided that help is not going to come from outside. Coach can only help so much. It was up to me, really. I needed to take accountability. I resorted to techniques that worked for me in the past. I started to visualize the effort and the pain body will go through and started to make that part of expectation. As opposed to fearing the pain, I am now thinking — yes this is expected — it is par for the course, so just go through with it. Given that I do my training rather religiously, I had to remind myself that my body has the capacity to perform. Also, one other big elephant in the room is the weight of expectations from myself in terms of performance. So, I also needed to (re)train my mind on letting go of the expectations of results — just to focus on the inputs. Applying these techniques, the following weekend, I was able to run a 26K aerobic run rather comfortably and also did few speed and hill runs during the weekdays.

Transitioning from “finding external factors to blame” to taking accountability of everything that happens in my life is important — most of us experience this transition, albeit at a slow pace and for some of us, it may never happen. For a precious few, they never experience a need for this transition, for they have always taken accountability for all results in their life — the good ones and the bad ones.

Accountability is powerful because it transfers power of overcoming hurdles from external factors to us. It makes us powerful. Its flip side is victim mindset by giving into rationalizing aspect of our brains. For evolutionary reasons, one of the many roles of our brains is to protect and fortify our self-image and this makes it particularly difficult to adopt “accountability” mindset.

Like all other growth attitudes, “accountability” mindset needs constant focus, alertness, nourishment and reinforcement.

“If the whole responsibility is thrown upon our own shoulders, we shall be at our highest and best; when we have nobody to grope towards, no devil to lay our blame upon, no Personal God to carry our burdens, when we are alone responsible, then we shall rise to our highest and best. I am responsible for my fate, I am the bringer of good unto myself, I am the bringer of evil.” — Swami Vivekananda

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