I have thought about my running journey a lot this week. It has been an emotional path of nervousness, excitement, determination, accomplishment, and a whole lot of hard work. I think about where I started… a very unhealthy, unfit body that struggled and hated everything about running (actually, I hated everything about exercise in general) and where I am now… in love with running and always anxious to get home, lace up my tennis shoes, and get some miles in… and this total transition still amazes me. Three short years ago I couldn’t even imagine running an entire mile without stopping…but then I did. Even after that major accomplishment, I never thought I would run in a 5K race… and I did that too. Then a 10k?? It seemed impossible, and I remember the overwhelming feelings of fear and doubt that filled my mind… and yet I did that too. And here I am today, staring in the face of thirteen point one miles… and I don’t fear that number at all. Because if I have learned anything on my running journey it is this – I am capable. It took a couple of years and hundreds of miles to reach this point, but I finally know that I can do anything I set my mind to do when I put in the hard work and give it my all. For me, this is the greatest gift running has given me, and one of the many reasons I love it so much. I will never give up on running or on myself ever again. But (yes, there is a but…) despite my unfailing confidence in my ability to run this distance, my body has placed certain limitations on me these last few weeks, and I don’t know what that will mean for me on race day. Let me start from the beginning….
Running put living back into my life. What exactly do I mean by that? Simply this… running has greatly increased the quality of my life physically, mentally, and emotionally. It released me from chronic stomach pains. It released me from stress, anxiety, and worry that weighed heavily on me every day. It released me from thoughts that I wasn’t good enough or that I wasn’t capable of certain things. I am so much happier and healthier now, and for all these reasons… running gave me my life back. Some of the most exciting parts of running has always been setting new goals, reaching them, and of course, celebrating them. And while there was a day that I never thought I would have the ability to run a half marathon, I eventually gained the strength and the confidence that I would, just as I had conquered those other milestones.
There is a distinct mixture of excitement and nervousness when you register for an event like this, and I have spent the last few months getting even more nervous but equally excited. Thankfully, I have not been alone on this journey, and I have had the opportunity to share the nerves and excitement with not only my husband, but also the best running friends I could have ever asked for. They have encouraged me, celebrated with me, and they have been there every step of the way to remind me that I can do this. It is with their encouragement that I finally reached that “I’ve got this” moment and I hope they know what a priceless gift that is to me. Together, we followed a training plan that increased our mileage safely and gradually, and we stayed hydrated and fueled for every run. My alarm went off at 4:30am many Saturday mornings for our long runs, and my husband and I met up with our running group with sleepy eyes and lots of yawns. But I can’t tell you how much I loved being with my friends, working towards this once unimaginable goal, and watching the day awaken with them. I put in the miles. I stayed focused and determined. And while it was hot, humid, and very hard at times, I have loved every single sweaty mile. Ten miles is my number though; to date, it is my longest consecutive running distance, and I remember the emotions that soared through me when I hit that milestone like it was just yesterday. It was a really good run. I left feeling strong and excited, and it was just what I needed to keep my confidence alive and strong. Just remembering that feeling is making me smile (my post 10-miler is my feature picture for this blog). My next Saturday long run, however, did not go as well. Sciatic pain caused me to cut my run short by a couple of miles… and so it began. This was the point I realized that piriformis syndrome had joined me on my training journey. Which really, really threw a curve ball into what I considered my perfect path to the finish line. A wave of constant emotions began. One day I was mad, and I yelled. The next I was sad, and I cried. The reality of it is…this is not the reality I had envisioned in my head. I had done everything right, I had put in so many miles, so much effort, and so much determination. The question of why this happened continues to race through my mind every day. But many times it doesn’t matter what we do or how well we plan, because life steps in and reminds us that we don’t have total control. What is to come, will come. What happens, happens. It is what it is. That doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it or that I understand why, but it also doesn’t mean that I’m giving up. That is the furthest thought from my mind.
For the last several weeks, I have read plenty of articles on this injury, I have seen a chiropractor, and I have been consistent with ice, foam rolling, stretches, and strength exercises. I have rested, cross trained, eased back into running with intervals, and rested some more. But the pain keeps creeping back up when I run. It has been extremely frustrating, heartbreaking, but also humbling at times. But while my frustration and concern seem to take over from time to time, I assure you that it has not taken away my excitement and my hopefulness. As I was reading story after story from runners who have had injuries that interrupted their training and even kept some of them from running their race, I realized something very eye-opening to me. These were their stories, their struggles, and their memories to share. It wasn’t the end but rather a part of their running journey to look back on and grow from. Life isn’t seamless, and things don’t always go as we plan, but that doesn’t make it any less a part of our story. The important part is how we choose to move forward from it and let it grow us as a person. Ultimately, this has been one heck of a rollercoaster ride for me…major highs to major lows…but I am not stepping to the side. The only place I am stepping is across that start line in three days. I have dreamed of how it will feel to cross that finish line for too long to step aside and give it up. I will fight until the end, and no matter what the outcome may be, I will be thankful and embrace it as part of my journey. I am a runner. And this is simply part of my story…
Three days. One goal. It is my journey to embrace no matter what.
This one is dedicated to my biggest running supporters…you know who you are