I had run the half-marathon at Penang Bridge International Marathon, Malaysia, in November. I was really excited—it was my first international half-marathon, it was supposed to be a scenic route over the beautiful Penang bridge and it was to start at 3 am. There were a number of things that were different here for me, but I was all set, nonetheless. And I had trained well too! I was hoping to get my personal best timing here, owing to the flat route and awesome roads. But I didn’t. What was the reason? Here’s my analysis.

Reason 1: The weather was extremely humid – 91% humidity, to be precise

My answer: I had trained well in humid conditions, not just in India, but also an entire week prior in Penang, at times when the sun was shining brightest.

Reason 2: It was too crowded. I had not practised running in humidity plus an overdose of carbon dioxide.

My answer: Perhaps yes. But the crowd evened out at the 2 km mark.

Reason 3: There were no kilometre markers, and my watch stopped working.

My answer: Yes, that’s 100% true. But is that a reason to slow down?

Here’s what I am coming to. The above variables were all undoubtedly contributors and challenges I faced. But the biggest challenge I faced, and that I eventually succumbed to, was my self-talk.

The author, after completing the half-marathon

We all speak to ourselves, all the time. Most of the times, we are unaware of what we are saying to ourselves in any given situation. Thanks to my profession, I am aware. But awareness is only half the battle won. Consciously choosing self-talk that is constructive and goal-driven is an ongoing process. Here’s a peek into what my self-talk was like, and how I finally didn’t achieve my goal (of getting my personal best timing):

“Oh no, this is crazy! This kind of heat at 3 am! This is ridiculous. But I have trained in humid conditions. I think I can manage this.”

“What kind of a crazy crowd is this? I can only see people around, and can barely walk. What horrible management. So much carbon dioxide. This is terrible. But let me keep going. I’m sure this is going to happen just at the start. It’ll get better as we go along”.

“What!! No kilometre markers. Is this really an international event, that was publicised so much?! It feels like all dead people running in the silence of the night. It is so annoying. I’m not liking this at all. And my watch had to stop working only today out of all days! Great. Why am I even doing this? I am sure I will complete this run well within the qualifying time. Chuck the push!”

And that was it…that became my predominant self-talk, and it had an influence on my speed, my willingness to push myself, etc. There is no denying the fact that the conditions were difficult. My brother, who has been training so well, found it extremely tough too. But he did much better, because he chose constructive self-talk. 

So, in conclusion, let’s make a conscious effort to first be aware of what we are telling ourselves about any situation, and second, to say things that take us towards, and not away from the goal we wish to achieve in that situation!

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  • Sushma is the Founder and CEO of ReFind You, a company that offers Coaching, Training and Counselling services to individuals and corporates. She started her career in digital marketing, working with renowned organizations such as Shemaroo Entertainment, Hinduja Interactive and eBrandz, but soon gave in to her inner calling and equipped  herself with a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology, along with specialized certifications, including training in Rational Emotive Cognitive Behaviour Therapy from Albert Ellis Institute, New York. She has been in the field of counselling, coaching, mentoring and training since the beginning of the year 2011, and has been successfully creating and delivering programs to reputed organizations.