9/6/19 - SH*ITTY OPINION ALERT!
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Some days, my mantras are inspired by poetry, or even literary nonfiction. Today is not one of those days. Hi, this is Coach Sarah, and this is the Morning Mantra.
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Hi, my name is Sarah Axelrod. I'm a run coach and a lover of poetry, and a person who cares about your well-being. You don't have to be an athlete to be #coachedandloved, and if you need an anchor to hold onto as you move through a tough situation, you've come to the right place.
Today's mantra is: SHITTY OPINION ALERT!
Sometimes the hardest injuries to rehab are the mental ones. Since Coach MK and I released last week’s podcast discussing the EAT, I have heard from so many people about having had high school experiences in sports similar to mine. Feeling dismissed, feeling brushed aside, feeling benched for eternity. Feeling a lack of belonging, a reluctance to take up space after years of being told that that space was not for them.
To me, one of the saddest moments in distance running this past year - and there have been many sad moments, to be sure - was hearing about the slowest runners to finish the London Marathon getting jeered from the sidelines, harassed by spectators and even treated with disrespect by actual race personnel, who were having runners move to the sidewalk as early as 5k into the race and removing water stations so that the people out on the course for the longest time had no access to hydration. I don’t want to repeat the things people were saying, because they’re triggering and they’re cruel and you can probably fill in the blanks.
What hurts the most about moments like those, at least for me, is the way you imagine other people are looking at you and thinking about you - the way you can’t help spelling out and giving form to the things that must be going through their heads. It hurts. It hurts to feel dismissed, and even more so to be openly ridiculed. That idea that other people must be thinking the same thing when they look at you - that follows you AROUND.
I hated this story. I hate that anyone had to have an experience like this, at the London Marathon of all places. As a coach, I want every one of my runners to feel coached and loved and confident and proud of the work they do, and if something like this happened to one of my people, I would be at a loss. I personally don’t know if I’d ever run a road race again after an experience like the London Marathon of 2019. And I cannot guarantee, ever, that that won’t happen to someone I love. Or that it won’t happen to me. And there is nothing I can say that will make an experience like this one hurt any less. There is nothing I can do to drown out the way a comment that someone threw at you one time ten YEARS ago is still rattling around in your brain.
Lots of people used to think I was too slow, too fat, too mediocre, too lazy to be an athlete. Twenty years ago, I thought they were right. I thought they possessed some kind of objective lens - I thought their distance from me was proof that they knew me better than I knew myself. So I accepted their opinion as fact.
But I’ve learned some shit in 20 years. One thing I learned came from my dad’s favorite fictional character, The Dude. “That’s just, like, your opinion, man.” The Dude knew how to set aside the things people said that didn’t serve him. Fuck it, let’s go bowling, am I right?
My crew coach in high school, the track coach of the track group I tried to join in grad school - yep, they did think I was a lost cause. The spectators at the London Marathon cruel and sadistic enough to harass runners who were out there competing in an event that they KNEW would take them 6, 7, 8 hours to complete? And I just want to say something here: it is badass to be capable of doing one thing continuously for that many hours. Yeah, those spectators may have really believed that the runners they were harassing were too slow, didn’t belong. Sounds pretty rich coming from the person in the equation who is not actually in the process of running a fucking marathon.
Here’s my point, and this is where the mantra comes in. People are not right just because they have an opinion. It’s easy to think that a stranger who says something shitty or a coach who dismisses you out of hand is some sort of a magical truth-teller, an unbiased observer who’s just telling it like it is. And while I cannot remove their shitty opinion from your head, there’s one thing I can do, and it’s to remind you that this is not an omnipotent all-knowing being we’re dealing with; it’s a person with an opinion. And when the person with the opinion is coming from a place of, let’s call it assholery, then guess what - that’s a shitty opinion. And you may never be able to un-hear that shitty opinion - it might follow you around like a bad mood cloud in a children’s book - but I will be there in your head calling it out. I will NOT let a shitty opinion masquerade as a fact, not about me and NOT about you, and when it pipes up as your race approaches I will be LOUDER.
SHITTY OPINION ALERT.
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You are Coached. You are Loooved, and you ARE winning at life. And if you need MOAR reasons to believe that, follow @morningmantrapod on Instagram.