Sunday, April 19, 2015

Carmel marathon ish

Last week I casually mentioned to my husband that I didn't know if it was a good idea for me to be running around solo for hours on end in my current mental state. I've been dealing with lots of stress lately and by dealing with I mean burying it deep down inside so that it can blow up at some point. That's healthy, right?

I had signed up for a full (road) marathon as a training run a few months ago. I'd done the race before and it seemed like a reasonable plan. But last weekend's half marathon with a five mile warm up had left me with a sore hip and back and wondering how this race would play out. 

The day started with an early (even for me) wake up call and a nice predawn drive to the race. I got the car parked, slathered on some sunblock, and hit the potty. For the next half hour before the race I tried to inconspicuously take video of the bizarre warm ups people were doing, but I'm no good at inconspicuous so I went ahead and lined up for the race. We took off and I settled into a blistering turtle pace. Before I hit the first mile I was ready to turn around and quit. But this was gonna be my tenth marathon, so I thought I would give it more than a mile. I knew I was in trouble when I reached for my iPod a half hour into the race. Normally I'm a no music til half way kinda gal, but I was too anxious and hoped that a podcast would settle me down and clear my head. It did not.

Four miles in I was greeted by strangers handing out doughnut holes! I grabbed one and thanked them profusely. This was the highlight of the day and it went downhill from there.

I don't know that I can explain how unsettled my mind was. Running typically settles my mind, but on this day I could not calm down. I couldn't stop thinking about how much longer it was going to be and how hot it was going to get. I tried to remember to be in the moment. Look around, I GET to do this. I'm so fortunate. That worked for a bit when I was on a beautiful path section through fields and trees. But when we got to a more urban setting, my breathing got shallow and high in my chest like I was on the verge of a panic attack. 

 At mile 14 I texted a friend that I knew would say something ridiculous to cheer me up. Yeah, I was texting during a race, I was so not into it I had become that person. She texted me funny encouraging words that carried me another few miles.

But, by the time I had gotten to mile nineteen I actually approached the med tent... Which I've only ever done one other time in the Chicago Marathon from hell (2010). They asked if I was ok and I immediately started getting teary eyed. They asked their standard questions,

Do you need water?
Do you want to sit?
Do you want to lay down?
Do you want some Tylenol? (I might have barked at them about this one. I don't think Tylenol and long races or running are a safe combo, but that's another rant for another day)

I left in tears. My back was killing me and I was miserable. I knew the race course went close to my car before the end and I thought.... WTF maybe I'm done? 

When I got to the 20 mile mat, I knew I was done. How did I know? I was miserable. My back muscles were so tight that trying to run was met with terrible pain, and the idea of walking six more miles was soul crushing. But I also realized I hadn't enjoyed any of it. Not since the doughnut and the little part in the field. In fact, I kinda hated it. I saw little kids cheering and thought, "ugh I'm gonna have to pretend like this is awesome". I saw inspiring people all around me and I was angry at them for their can do attitude and chutzpah. I could barely thank the volunteers because I hated everything. 

This is not who I want to be and this is not what I want running to be for me.

I pulled up google maps on my phone, realized I was 1.5 miles away from my car, took off my bib, and called it a day. People may wonder why I quit at 20 and didn't just go the stupid six miles to finish. Because I was done. Six more miles wouldn't have killed me, but what would it have given me? A medal? A banana? A broken spirit? Hatred for running? 

It's just running, I'm not saving lives out there. And to judge my life as a success or failure based on a race would be the dumbest dumb that ever dumbed. 

So I dropped. And I think it was a good choice for the day.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Quit Saying That

I can’t say that it was definitely the first time I said it, but I remember being at my first “real” trail race and buying some stuff. The woman I was buying it from asked me what I ran that day (the race had a 10k, half marathon, marathon, 50k, and 50 mile). My answer:

I just did the half

I didn’t think much of it at the time. But the more I run, the more I hear people compare themselves to others and the more I hear it. And when I hear it, it’s like nails on a chalkboard.

I’m JUST running a 5k. I’m ONLY doing the half marathon. My long run is JUST 8 miles.

Have we gotten so far from our beginnings as runners that we forget the first time we ran a mile and how AMAZING it felt? The first time I ran a 5k it was before dawn, in my neighborhood, and it took me 45 minutes. I felt like I had just climbed a mountain. In those predawn moments, I might have cried a little because I was amazed that I was even able to do such a thing.

What changed?

I have to think that part of it is due to knowing too much. When I trained for my first marathon, I just knew that was the pinnacle of running and I was the king of everything. But then I heard about ultramarathons (races longer than 26.2 miles) and I was immediately knocked down a peg and in my mind maybe I lessened my own accomplishments a little.

But let’s think about races and running. Typically, there’s always going to be someone out there that can perform a little better than you, that can run a little farther than you, and there will ALWAYS be someone that can make it look a little easier than you. But does that make you less of a runner? Less of a person?

Why aren’t we celebrating what we CAN do?

I volunteered at a race last year that had a 5k, half marathon, and full marathon. I was at the finish line, handing out “stuff”. Each finisher got a hat with their race distance on it as they crossed the finish line (which is totally cool race directors, take note). So, throughout my shift I had lots of folks saying they didn’t get a hat and asking if I could get them one. And when I asked them what distance they ran, I got so many:

I just the 5k, I only did the half

Before I got each of them their hat, I would stop and say something like, “you ran 3 miles that’s amazing! Let me go grab that for you!” or “You ran a 13 miles? You’ve done plenty of work today, let me go grab that”. It was fantastic to see their faces soften with the recognition that even though they tried to belittle their accomplishment, a stranger could see what they had done and celebrate it.

So what’s the moral here? Celebrate what you’re able to do, duh. Sure, most of us have room for improvement, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be proud of what we did today and make it fuel for tomorrow.

And, if you hang out with me and use the words only or just to describe your mileage or your race distance, I will most likely punch you (lightly) in the arm and I expect you to do the same to me (but be warned, if you punch me hard, I will punch you back..... harder). Running isn’t easy and we should really be giving ourselves more credit when we do it. ANY of it.