Superstition and San Sebastian

I don’t consider myself a particularly superstitious person. There are some things that carry on since childhood. I don’t step on cracks (I would never do that to my mother!), and there are ones that developed later, like turning my pillowcases outwards so bad dreams don’t stay in. I know that there are some runners that have certain routines that they utilize before running to feel prepared. I always thought I would never engage in that, because what if the circumstance happened that I wasn’t able to do it!?!? Would my run or race be destroyed before it started!?!?


As it turns out, I have picked up a few things over the years. I have to brush my teeth immediately beforehand. This comes from the time when I broke my teeth and had to wear a “flipper” all the time. The flipper sat at the roof of my mouth and held in a fake tooth so replace the missing one. It felt awful, blocked saliva, and made everything horrid. I didn’t wear it while running but I absolutely had to brush my teeth before any run. So now, even though I have teeth in place, I still have to brush them before I lace up my sneakers (which really, oral hygiene is never a bad thing).


I won’t wear the t-shirt of a race before the race. There have been races I haven’t finished, for epilepsy and non-epilepsy reasons. It feels like it would be tempting fate to wear the shirt before the race has even started. Mind you, I may wear the shirt later if I started the race. I don’t know if someone else would consider this unlucky, but I always think that the fact that I got there and started warrants some pride.


I also run with a little representation of a saint, specifically San Sebastián. Now, religion is just not a part of my life, except now for San Sebastián. When I was in San Diego a few years ago, I was in a little tourist shop that sold all sorts of tourist-y items for tourists. I love San Diego, the most of any city. I found a little tourist-y piece of wood, which had the image of a saint, with the description of the saint and the representations on the back. So San Sebastián is the patron saint of athletes, and Police Officers (and individuals suffering from gout). So I bought this little piece of wood that cost $6 USD. Unexpectedly, it became something that I have to have when I race. I don’t want to abuse it, so it only comes with races and significant runs (like the trail running one I did recently). The statement on the back comes with a prayer:


“Holy San Sebastian we are given such wonderous bodies. May I be of good heart and remain centered in my body so I move with strength and grace performing at my physical best”


Again, while I am not a religious person, I don’t think it hurts to have a message like that with me in my mind before I run. It’s a message of respect for my body, for my intention, for why I’m doing it. It’s a reminder to me that I love my body. I have a wonderous body. I can do amazing things with it. I can run. I can swim. I can make coffee. I can run and then make coffee and drink said coffee on my deck while stretching.


Yes, I have epilepsy.


But I’m not broken. My brain is not broken. I can choose (because I have the power of choice) to take the actions that I take. My body is not broken. There are times where I have been injured. Sometimes it’s a black eye from falling down the stairs during a seizure and sometimes it’s a fractured foot from running. My wonderous body will heal.


The part about performing at my physical best? Well, that’s different for everyone. I did a half-marathon this past weekend. I cut off a couple minutes of my previous time, which is great. In my gender/age category, I came in 20th out of 31. I suppose I could look at that and think that being in the bottom half isn’t my physical best. That would be an absolute garbage way to look at it. I actually thought I was going to be last, because I couldn’t see anyone behind me. I hadn’t seen anyone in front of me for awhile either. Did that stop me from running and performing at my physical best? NO. I can’t expect my physical best to be in the top place. If I really wanted it to be, I could train more and maybe one day be there. I can’t just expect it. What I can expect is for me to put in what I want to get out. If I want to get out a successful run, then I need to put in as much as I can. If I come in last place, so be it. I would rather come in last place having put 100% of my energy in than finish in the top ten having half-assed it. Some runs (to me) aren’t about racing either. The Disneyland runs are about having fun and taking photos and seeing the sun come up behind the iconic castle. So my physical best there is about appreciating that moment and having gotten there.


I’ve seen runners praying before a race. I’ve known runners who have to listen to a specific song or only wear a specific sports bra. I have super clean teeth and an image of a saint in my belt.


Whatever it takes to get those sneakers on and get out, do it. Love our wonderous bodies. Perform at our physical best. There is no reason to give any less.

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