I meant to write this post months ago, in the throws of training for a (now complete) Half Marathon. Now on the heels of the New Year, I feel inclined to revisit my experiences this year, and this milestone in particular. As it happened, I shared my running experiences with only a few people, fairly self-conscious throughout the whole process and mystified as to why I had signed up.
Outwardly, I paid to run 13.1 miles for fitness, but inwardly I allowed myself to be swayed into registration to get a glimpse of understand into the limits of what my body could accomplish. I was in the middle of a very stressful period, having completed what felt like a marathon (no pun intended) of wedding venue tours and intense financial discussions, to finally book what I hoped would be the ideal location to wear my newly acquired White Dress without bankrupting myself. The location was secured only hours before flying 3,000 miles back to reality, and planning was put on hold again. Lapsing out of wedding planning mode gave way to a nervous anxiety in which I felt like I should be doing something, but what?
I have many runner friends, totally dedicated and awesome, who advocated running to me. Running, by all accounts, was the perfect way to clear your head, to think about exactly nothing, and that’s exactly what I wanted. With all the mental exertion of late, it was time for something physical.
In the beginning, I textbook trained, sticking to a rigorous schedule running up to 20 miles a week. That feeling of accomplishment when I pushed myself, all alone, to run farther then I ever had was peaceful. It’s a wonderful feeling actually, to know you are marching toward success slowly but surely. I liked to know unambiguously what steps should be taken, and lacking that elsewhere in my life, I was trying to create that with running. But little did I know that feeling I craved was much like walking up a downward escalator, what happens when you get to the top? You go down.
Leading up to the day of my half I barely slept at all. It didn’t help I was also sick, but the nerves prevented me from getting the rest I needed to get better faster. Being sick didn’t fit into my plan and jeopardized months of training. At the same time, it presented an easy out…the lurid prospect of not having to follow through without the social consequence of public failure. Who could blame a sick person for not running a marathon booked months ago?
Luckily, a friend stepped up to motivate me to push through, whether she knew it or not. During the race I wondered if I was using this activity to feel like I was accomplishing my goals without really accomplishing my goals. And so, disappointingly, after finishing my first half marathon I felt anything but accomplished. Why? I only felt tired. Defeated.
Now I understand that all this hunger to accomplish things without the satisfactory feelings has less to do with the literal things I do, and more with how I choose to feel about them. This is why everything wedding related that I tackle never feels done, I only mentally move on to the next stressful must-do thing without celebrating what I have already taken care of. How overwhelming! It was making the whole planning process feel like a chore, like an extra full time job rather than a dream come true. Running provided stress relief and an understanding of my state of mind at the same time…but it was so physically challenging that I may actually look to other forms of exercise in the future. I injured myself and spent the day after the Half hobbling around and avoiding stairs entirely…but maybe that’s just part of it, who knows.
As the new year approaches, I get nostalgic for resolutions and think more about accomplishments. Changing my outlook about these accomplishments is now on my resolutions list for next year…more on that in the next post. Running was able to reinforce for me the idea that when you put your mind to something and be very proactive about it, you can accomplish very big things. I think Nike had it right after all: JUST DO IT.