'No Surge': My Journey Learning To Slow Down

'No Surge': My Journey Learning To Slow Down

The mantra doesn't apply to just running, though. Lately, I've found that it also applies to life.


I ran my first marathon recently, and crossed the finish line with a 2:40 marathon debut, qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Placing 3rd in my first marathon, I could not have done so without the support of my friends who journeyed with me to Savannah.

The words that crossed my mind and kept me going through 26.2 miles were "no surge," a mantra that I tell myself to stop any sudden or erratic surges or changes in pace while running. The story behind why I started saying "no surge" to myself dates back to my junior year of high school, the week before our county championships cross country race.

In a race the previous week, I ran my worst race of the season. Almost 20 people passed me in the last minute of the race as I faded. Like many high school runners, I didn't take bad races well, and would often sulk and not talk to anyone for an entire day to wallow in my failure. I let myself down. I let my team down.

However, my high school coach, Gregg Cantwell, did not let me do that. He went up to me after my race and told me that he noticed I made 6 or 7 sudden surges and sprints in the middle of a race, and that drained me of energy I needed to finish the strong and ultimately detrimentally affected my time and composure. Equally nerve-racking was that the next week was our county championship race, and my failure in this race would be on my mind come time for counties.

The gist of what Cantwell was telling me was this: you can't win a long race in 5 seconds of sprinting. Stay steady and composed, and don't try too hard. Next week, don't surge, he told me, and I would be fine.

The next week, I stepped up to the line with the mantra "no surge" ringing throughout my head. When people went off the line sprinting, I ran my own race. "No surge," I told myself. When I was slower than I usually was at the early checkmarks of the race "no surge" were the words I told myself. When I ran up the steepest hill of what is widely considered the most difficult cross country course in New York, "no surge" were the words I told myself. I let the race come to me naturally, instead of unnaturally trying to seize it.

I didn't know this at the time, but even though it seemed like I wasn't running that hard, I was running faster than I ever was. I would finish with the fastest finishing kick I ever had, and would finish as the top man on my team and lead us in our county championship race. It didn't even seem like I was racing hard, but instead it seemed like I was just running.

The mantra doesn't apply to just running, though. Lately, I've found that it also applies to life.

My life often seems runs in paradoxes. The less hard I study on an exam, the better I do. The less effort I put into work, the more I get done. The message to myself should be clear at this point: chill out and stop trying so damn hard, and you'll be rewarded for doing so. When I do give myself the chance and the wisdom to slow down, I start doing things for the right reasons. I start volunteering to help people instead of seeking recognition and credit to put on my resume. I become kinder to the people around me because I want to take time to listen to them, not because I want a favor. I stop being "busy," and I get more done. I start praying not because I want God to do something for me, but instead to thank God for the people in my life.

That isn't to say that you shouldn't push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Dean Karnazes once said that "struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you're not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone...you're choosing a numb existence." But super type-A people like myself often lack balance, try to do too much at once, and burn out in the process. Slowing down and taking life at a sustainable pace saves me. It doesn't mean I do everything slowly, but instead, I do things slower when they're meant to be done slowly, and I do things fast when they're meant to be done quickly.

There has been a lot going on in my life, and what people close to me have expressed is that you can't control your circumstances in life, and you can't even control your past circumstances. But you can wake up every day with the attitude of doing your best to react to those circumstances and make the best of them. When we're ready, we can grow from them. As Romans 5 says, "we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope." My unfortunate circumstances have, at times, seemed overwhelming and like the end of the world, but learning to slow down and living life with the mantra of 'no surge" allows me to press forward with peace.

I still think I made mistakes in my first marathon. At mile 18, feeling like I was absolutely unstoppable, I tried to make a sudden and drastic move to win my first marathon in dramatic fashion. One mile later, my body started breaking down and it took the same effort to run significantly slower, and that move was a big factor why. Predictably, it was in that mile when I started abandoning the mantra.

Naturally, I walk through life erratic and unpredictable, feeling like I have to finish everything at once. Although the outcomes in my life are still unpredictable, "no surge" allows me to proceed with steadiness, make less mistakes, and feel natural about it.

I have a peace now that I didn't have before I started applying it to my life, just like I had a peace in running that I didn't have before I started using mantra. It's what works for me, especially at times when I'm prone to anxious or racing thoughts. I can't control what life or what God throws at me; I never can. But I can control the poise with which I can react. "No surge," i say to myself as I write this article. I say those words again as I walk through a point of my life of extremely tumultuous uncertainty.

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A list Of 15 Inspiring Words That Mean So Much

A single word can mean a lot.

Positivity is so important in life. A lot of times we always go to quotes for empowerment but I have realized that just one word can be just as powerful. Here is a list of inspiring words.

1. Worthy

Realizing your self-worth is important. Self-worth can really make or break a persons personality. Always know that you are worthy of respect. And also, never compare yourself to others.

2. Courage

Be courageous in life. Life has so many opportunities so do not be scared to grasp any opportunity that comes your way. You have the ability to do anything you have your heart and mind set to do, even the things that frighten you.

3. Enough

When you are feeling down and feeling that nothing you do is ever good enough, know that you are more than enough. And yes there is always room for improvement but when it comes to my self-worth I always have to remind myself that I am enough.

4. Blessed

Be thankful. A lot of times we forget how blessed we are. We focus so much on stress and the bad things that are going on in our lives that we tend to forget all of the beautiful things we have in life.

5. Focus

Focus on your goals, focus on positive things, and focus on the ones you love. Do not focus on things that will keep you from not reaching your goals and people that do not have good intentions for your life.

6. Laugh

Laughing is one of the best forms of medicine. Life is truly better with laughter.

7. Warrior

Through the good and the bad you are a warrior. Be strong, soldier.

8. Seek

Seek new things. Allow yourself to grow in life. Do not just be stuck.

9. Faith

During the bad times, no matter the circumstances, have faith that everything will be all right.

10. Live

Start living because life is honestly way too short. Live life the way you want to live. Do not let anyone try to control you.

11. Enjoy

Enjoy everything that life has to offer. Enjoy even the littlest of things because, as I said before, life is short. And plus, there is no time to live life with regrets.

12. Believe

Believe in yourself and never stop. Believing in yourself brings so many blessings and opportunities in your life.

13. Serendipity

A lot of times we look for things to fill an empty void that we have. Usually what we are looking for comes when we are not looking at all. Your serendipity will come.

14. Create

Share your ideas with the world. Creativity brings change to your life. However you chose to use your creativity do not be scared to show your intelligence, talent, and passion.

15. Love

The world is already full of so much hate, so love unconditionally with all your heart.

Cover Image Credit: Tanveer Naseer

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Fiction: Whitewashed

In a world where racial roles are reversed, a white girl experiences what it's like to be a person of color.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

This piece is inspired by photographer Chris Buck's "Let's Talk About Race" photo essay in O, The Oprah Magazine's May 2017 issue.

The white girl woke up to the sunlight streaming from her window and the distant noises of the television in the background. As she got ready for the long day ahead of her, she reached for her makeup and found her favorite concealer — but discovered, to her dismay, that the container of pale, eggshell-colored liquid was empty. Sighing, she added a mental note to buy more concealer this evening, if she could find the right shade.

As the girl headed down the stairs, the distant noises of the TV became louder and clearer. "Shooting Of White, Unarmed Man By Black Police Officer," blasted the headline. As the newscaster detailed the events of the shooting, the girl felt angry and frustrated. How long would it take, how many shootings before everyone realized that these were not coincidences or mistakes, and that these shootings were a result of preconceived notions about race?

The girl felt a sudden wave of sickness. Without eating breakfast, she headed straight for her car. The radio was on and was describing the shooting of the white male in extreme detail. The girl, her light-colored fingers gripping the steering wheel so that they appeared even whiter, could barely summon the energy to switch the radio knob off.

The girl barely managed the one-hour drive it took to get to her day job at a nail salon. As she entered the shop, she could see the beginnings of a long day — groups of Asian women, clutching their phones to their ears or gossiping to other Asian women in Vietnamese, cluttered the salon and waited for their nails to be done.

The owner of the nail salon, a short, middle-aged white man, greeted the girl. His eyes seemed sad, as if he had also heard the news about the police shooting. He directed her towards her first customer, a Chinese woman who looked like she drove an SUV and had three all-star athletic children. As the girl approached, the woman didn't even acknowledge her; instead, she seemed to be arguing in Cantonese on her phone.

The girl cycled through five customers before her lunch break. She moved to the back corner and opened her lunch box, which contained potato salad and half of a broccoli casserole. As she was digging into her food, she noticed a Vietnamese woman sniffing the air. The woman wrinkled her nose, leaned over to her friend and asked in a loud whisper, "What is that smell?"

The girl was embarrassed, but this wasn't the first time this had happened. She had brought some meatloaf a few weeks ago, and all the customers had stared at her until she moved into the back room of the salon.

After her lunch break, the girl went back to the endless stream of women needing their nails done. Finally, the clock chimed nine o'clock, the final few customers left and the girl was free to leave.

Remembering her promise earlier to buy some more concealer, the girl decided a quick stop to the local drugstore was necessary. She browsed through the aisles, but she couldn't seem to find her perfect shade. Instead, there were rows and rows of brown, yellow and black foundation, but almost no white or lighter-colored makeup. The ones that were closer to white were still too tan and dark for the girl's pale, creamy skin.

As the girl was reminiscing on her bad fortune, she caught ear of an argument a few aisles next to her. "Why are you speaking English? We're in America. There's no official language."

The girl peered over and saw a Hispanic man confronting a white man. The Hispanic man continued on: "Why did your ancestors come over here, two hundred years ago? I mean, you weren't welcome, and you aren't now either. The native Americans should have built a wall to keep you criminals and scoundrels out." With that said, the Hispanic man left the white man in the dust, gaping.

As the white girl drove home, she couldn't stop thinking about the unfairness of the world. Why did she have to live in a world where her every action, her every thought was dictated by the color of her skin? Why did she have to live in a world where preconceived notions of race played the biggest part in determining the future of an individual? Why did she have to live in a world where the phrase "equality and justice for all" were merely words every schoolchild said every morning and then promptly forgot? Why did she live in a world where her status in life and how others perceived her were all based on something that she couldn't control?

In no way is this fiction piece meant to offend or anger anyone. This piece was written solely to open the eyes and minds of everyone, white and non-white, to the struggles people of color face every day, because only through open minds and hearts can we progress as a society.

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