Monday, May 22, 2017

Finding my way from disappointment to joy

A few years ago, I ran a marathon that I wasn't proud of. The training was a train wreck, I wasn't physically or mentally healthy, and my end time reflected both of those realities, but still left me completely bummed out and doubting myself as a runner. Ever heard that running is 90% mental? Yeah. True story. Except maybe it's 99% mental. Since then I've struggled to find my happy place while running. Since then I've also felt like I needed a "redemption marathon." I guess I thought I needed to prove something to myself. To that end, I signed up for the Colfax marathon for May 21, 2017. Yesterday.

I started training for it and things were going well enough. I was getting my long runs in, but not being as consistent with mid-week, shorter runs due to parenting duties, Jim's travel schedule, homeschooling four kids, and generally being a grown up with responsibilities. I assume almost all of you reading this know what I'm talking about. Being a grown up is just so much less exciting and freeing than I imagined it at age 7! At any rate, I was still feeling good about training. Then I went to Mexico with my oldest son to build a home with friends from church with the organization Casas por Cristo. That meant I missed two big runs, an 18 and 19 mile run. I was sorry to miss the long runs at a key point in training, but would also do it a million times in a row for the experience I got to share with my son, people from church, and a truly amazing and deserving family from Mexico.

I tweaked my training schedule and set out for my 18 mile run on the Saturday I got back from Mexico. I had my route planned, but was dreading the run from the very start. I drove to Flying J ranch to get the show on the road, started running, and just stopped. It was a gorgeous morning, the temperatures were perfect, I was healthy, but I just didn't want to run 18 miles by myself. I just didn't want to. So I decided not to.

There are plenty of things in life that we have to do. DMV. Laundry. Wash the dishes. Gynecological exams. Here I was dreading running, which, by the way, is something I choose to do for fun and for release and relaxation. If I am dreading it, it has fully lost its joy and just becomes another thing I *have* to do instead of something I *get* to do because I love it and it clears my mind and helps me feel strong and capable.

So I just didn't run 18 miles that day. Instead, I hiked for about 2 hours on the beautiful trails I intended to run and assessed my goals. How important was this marathon to me? Why did I even think I needed a redemption marathon in the first place? Would training for this marathon add to my joy or detract from it?

After a few weeks of soul searching, I decided the marathon wasn't that important to me, I didn't need a redemption marathon because my first (and only, so far) marathon was the very best marathon I could have run that day, and continuing to train would only detract from my joy and love of running. These decisions didn't come easy because I psychoanalyze myself to a fault and took just enough psychology classes to be a danger to myself. Annoying. Plus, I felt like a loser for dropping this race. Also annoying.

I finally started telling some friends that I wasn't doing the marathon, and a few of them were kind enough to inform me that I could drop to the half. (I should also note that none of them taunted me and called me a loser for not running the full. We really are stupidly hard on ourselves!) Well, I can run a half any day, which is both a blessing and a curse, since a person really should train for 13.1 miles, but since having a fourth child, I just never do anymore. So, instead of running a full 26.2, I dropped down to the 13.1.
Race day. Downtown Denver with the Rocky Mountains in the background
That happened yesterday. I'd love to say that I trained well and consistently for it, but that would be a big, juicy lie. Instead, I showed up with no goals or expectations other than to finish. Thankfully I wasn't shooting for a great time because I forgot my watch at home. Whoops! Therefore, I just got into my corral and ran a pace that felt good. I figured that if it started to feel hard, I'd slow down, and if it started to feel easy, I'd speed up. Novel idea, huh? Listen to my body and do what feels good.
It's go time. My corral inches closer to the start line.
I ran my slowest half marathon (2:18), ran a negative split (second 6.5 miles was faster than the first by a hair), didn't run with a single person I knew, had no family of friends to cheer for me or meet me at the finish line, and loved it. It felt good, comfortable, fun, and easy. I shouted thanks most of the volunteers. I looked at all of the animals during the mile that took us through the Denver zoo. I gave high fives to all of the kids. I smiled my biggest smile for all of the race photographers in hopes I'll have a nice race photo. I had fun. That little word, fun, has been missing from running lately. I hope yesterday's race serves as a long term reminder that run and fun belong together.
Happy runner earns cool medal.


  1. heck yes! I'm doing grandma's half in june and i'm not trained. I did a 10k at the end of april and it was alright...the second half was better than i expected. I'm not crazy enough to think i'll have a negative split, but I'm trying to remind myself that it is okay to go out and try. and if i want to quit, i can quit. it won't really affect anyone other than me, and i can choose how i react to quitting.

    1. I'd love to run Grandma's half or full some day. What a gorgeous course. You are definitely going on with the right attitude. Running is supposed to be fun, so get out there and have fun! I'll be cheering you on from Colorado.