I was in the Big Apple and running the New York City Marathon for the first time. Training hadn’t gone well over the last year due to injuries and stretches of poor motivation. But things looked better in the last couple of months leading up to the race so I was determined to give it a go.
The gun went off, and it was go time. I jostled for position in the massive crowd and even when clear my pacing was terrible. Nothing felt right at all and I was thinking that finishing was going to be an issue. My stomach felt cramped, I thought I had a better chance of completing some type of port-a-potty crawl than collecting a finisher medal. As if that wasn’t bad enough my legs just wouldn’t loosen up.
I knew going into this that pacing would be an issue, and that was proving to be correct. Too slow, too fast, too slow…all the while feeling awful. I didn’t want to give up, I wanted to find my SISU, so just before mile five I latched onto a guy who went by me that looked to be running my target pace. We soon caught a group and things slowed. For a brief second I contemplated working within the pack to fight the wind early on, but then thought better of it. To run the time I wanted to run, I was going to have to find my SISU and run my race, wind or no wind.
I surged ahead on my own, still feeling pretty bad but with a renewed determination. A couple of miles later the course converged at Mile 8. That scene was reminiscent of turning the corner at the Newton firehouse in that the crowd was just amazing and I was staring at a hill. The crowd energized me, and the hill didn’t really phase me. SISU! With each step up that hill I could feel something change inside of me. All the bad energy seemed to be converting to some type of SISU. I was oozing SISU. I had so much of it that I thought I should start offering it to people that I was passing. “Hey, would you care for some SISU?”
All of a sudden I was back. It was as if nothing had gone wrong over the last few months and I was back to thinking about race strategy. I had gone from thoughts of a DNF to hoping for a PR.
My SISU carried me through those middle miles. It helped me push through the tough hilly stretch near the end in Central Park. I crossed the line that day with a new PR and with new knowledge of myself. You need to fight for your SISU, earn it, and the harder you work for it the stronger it gets. Things won’t always work out for the best on a given day but even in failure you’ll be setting yourself up for future success by tapping into your SISU and giving all that you have.
Even outside of running it’s important to find your SISU and always keep that in mind. I hurt my hip in the fall of 2011 and then had surgery on it during the fall of 2012. That’s a long layoff and I’m struggling to find my way back into my old habits. In the midst of all that, I got laid off. Time for a pity party? No! All this means is that it’s now more important than ever to remember my SISU.
Adversity? SISU. Challenges? SISU. Difficulty? I highly recommend the SISU. It’s the difficult situations that reveals one’s true character. The characteristics of a champion are forged in the way they respond in these times. We’re all going to get knocked down at some point; it’s inevitable. In each case SISU should be your rallying cry. Don’t just get up, but get up even hungrier for success and meet those challenges head on. SISU, damn it!