I apologize if I’m starting to sound like a broken record. I’ve been beating the topic of my running rut to death lately, and I’m sure you’re wondering how this post is going to be any different than the other ones I’ve written as I scheme up ways to pull myself out of Slumpville and reclaim my running mojo.
The difference now is that I had a lot of time to think during this past week of vacation – really think – about my running, training, and goals but more importantly, about myself as a runner and the direction I’ve been headed lately.
The ship pushed off from land Saturday afternoon and not even an hour later we were surrounded on all sides by miles and miles of uniform blue ocean, as far as the eye could see. Not a building or a speck of earth in sight. With all the noise of life as usual out of sight and out of mind, I found myself alone for the first time with so many of my demons and was forced to see myself with new eyes, as if the unending miles of the Atlantic were like a giant mirror all around me.
Neverending pressure, beating myself up, obsessing over minute workout details, and feeling like I’m never good enough. Jealousy, competitiveness, never giving myself a break from comparing myself to others. Spinning myself deeper and deeper into frustration, aimlessness, and unhappiness and further away from a place of love and fulfillment.
And, lately: being dominated by excuses and procrastination, pushing hard when I know it’s counterproductive, feeling more out of shape every week.
All of these monsters stared back at me as I watched the waves of the Atlantic gently bob up and down all the way to the horizon. But this time I finally felt the urgency of it, I finally realized with uncompromising clarity: I can’t go on like this. I need to do something. I need to change.
This is not where I wanted to be right now. I thought I’d be able to capitalize on the fitness gains I worked so hard for this Spring. But it’s not Spring anymore: life has happened and I am not in the same situation I was a few months ago. Grandma’s Marathon is over and it’s time for me to stop living in the past and start focusing on what’s going on now. I’ve made losses in my fitness since June 20. Some of them are my own doing, while some of them are the inevitable result of life and the fact that progress is not linear. It’s become obvious that the goals I set for this fall and dreamed about achieving while I was at my peak this Spring are just not going to happen. I’m not as good as I thought I was – and ooooooh boy do those harshly true words sting. There is a time for everything, and it’s becoming clearer every day that this season is not my time for exciting improvements and big gains. It isn’t meant to be right now, and the more I fight that reality, the more I will continue to regress.
I finally have to face the truth that the right thing to do now is let go of everything – my time goals, my obsession with getting faster, my ravenous desire for progress and improvement. I need to go back to square one and spend the next 10 weeks rebuilding, both physically (getting my strength and fitness back) and spiritually (re-learning to love running for its own sake and practicing gratitude and appreciation). Like it or not, my best option now is to focus on simply finishing this marathon strong. It’s very possible that the best I can hope for this time is that I set myself up to do better next time.
And you know what? I hate this right now. It hurts. It’s frustrating. It’s humbling. It makes me feel sad, mad, embarrassed, stupid, and weak. It makes me want to quit. It makes me feel like a failure.
But I can feel that something new is beginning. Despite the fact that I am tempted to give up on this marathon pretty much every single day, here I am and I still haven’t given up. I have to believe that my little Summer of Setback is happening for a reason, unclear as that reason may be right now.
I question all the running goals I thought I ever wanted now. I thought I wanted to qualify for Boston more than anything. And now I’m wondering if it’s worth it, if the dogged devotion to the equation of BQ=success is costing me far more than its worth. I am not saying I’m giving up on it. But I can’t help but admire the fact that for the first time, I find myself challenging something I never thought I would question instead of just taking it as an absolute truth and I have to say, it is refreshing and empowering.
The inevitable extension of these changes in my running is that it’s time for me to go down a new path with my blogging as well. There won’t be many more traditional weekly training recaps. There will not be any more mentions of what paces I’m running at or how many miles I’m logging every single week. Of course, I will still blog about running. It is a part of my life, and a part of me. It always will be. But I feel compelled to set an example in my blogging by shifting the focus of my writing to what really matters and staying true to myself. I’ll write about new workouts I’m trying or would like to try; I’ll write about breakthroughs in my training; I’ll write about some races; I’ll write about random thoughts and philosophies of running and training; I’ll write about how I’m navigating the inevitable low points or I’ll ask for help in doing so. I will write about the journey instead of just the destination. This is an opportunity for me to explore a new side of myself and maybe, if I’m lucky, inspire other runners and readers along the way. It may work or it may not, but I need to try. I need to write about what lifts me up instead of what will please other people.
There are inspirational runners out there who have shaved 2 or more hours off their marathon times over the course of their careers, or who went from 20 minute gym class miles to winning 5Ks. Reading about their training and their journeys to becoming super-speedsters is fascinating. But, frankly, I’m not sure that becoming a super-speedster is my destiny. I’m trying to learn to be okay with that. I think I’m meant to inspire people in other ways, and I feel a calling to explore what those ways may be. I don’t know what they are yet, but as I go along I can definitely tell when I’m getting “warmer” or “colder”, if you catch my drift.
But with big changes come big fears. I have never found such a community or made so many new friends as I did when I joined the running world. The main thing holding me back from making these changes a long time ago is that I’m afraid if I don’t talk about running as much, I will lose those friends and that community.
But I have to follow my instincts and do what is right for me. If I lose some friendships because of that, I will just have to find a way to deal with it. Popularity just isn’t worth feeling bad about myself and being unhappy with the way I live my running life. I have to remember that if I lose friendships because I’m not talking about running all the time, well, I guess that tells me how strong those friendships really were. Running is something I do. It’s not who I am.
Yes, I know I owe you an update about my vacation. But this just had to come first; I started to write and the thoughts just poured out.
So thanks for listening. I hope this made sense to at least someone out there. I’m excited to blaze a new trail (so to speak) in my running and in my writing that will bring me more learning, more fulfillment, more joy. Because a more joyful and fulfilled me will be able to take that joy and spread it around and be an even bigger and better cheerleader for the rest of you as you continue on your own journeys.