Do you ever ask why I do it? I had 17 miles scheduled to run this past Sunday morning and it was one of those tough runs that tested you physically, mentally, but also gave you one of the greatest gifts long distance running gives if you are willing to let it. It gives me insight to who I am. It leaves me naked. I can’t hide from myself or my most basic pieces. It is just me. Why do I do it? Because those hard runs, those that you struggle with, those that hurt, those that are often the worst are the best damn thing for you. That’s why I do it.
This weekend started in pain. I’ve had a minor stress in my upper quad (rectus femoris – so fun!) for a few weeks, but it was more of an annoyance rather than hurt. However, it was consistent enough to give me pause. BUT all week I was distracted by work, family, and responsibilities and didn’t give it much more attention.
I should have.
Every single step hurt. And instead of 17 miles I ran 18 miles. (Went ahead to hit the loo) Instead of talking about the run itself I’m going to get directly to my point today:
How I dealt with my pain on that run is exactly how I deal with pain in my life.
It hurt, I acknowledged the pain and kept going. That’s just fine for 4-5 miles, but by 10 or 11 it was weighing me down, slowing me down, corrupting my thought process and bringing me to the point of break. I made the choice to continue and finish since it hurt just as much to slow down or walk. This is the point where I realized I have changed. For the better.
This time I wasn’t being reckless about the pain. I considered it, I measured it and I took a gamble. It may have been the wrong choice (it probably was), but I had no way of knowing that. I also made the choice to still get on my phone and do a FBLive video. Not for the people that like to watch my shaky camera action, but because I needed the distraction and I needed people. I acknowledged that consciously.
Thinking it Through
Important things here. If I continued on in the past, it would have been an exercise of sheer will, of my unwillingness to “fail”. Me refusing to give in, but also my inability to LISTEN. Sunday I understood if I stopped running I wouldn’t be a failure, it just might be the smart option.
After carefully considering things I decided to go forward. I did also slow my pace, and I did reach out to people and not only told them I was struggling, but I showed them. In the past that vulnerability would have been a sign of weakness to me. This time, I thought it was important for everyone to know how hard this can be, and that I’m not a superstar and just go run 18 miles like it’s no thing. Nope, it’s hard and sometimes I struggle.
If I had Stopped
On the flip side, if I had quit in the past it would have been because I’d given up. Emotionally and physically. It would have been because I believed I was a failure and wasn’t worthy. I wouldn’t have asked for help, I wouldn’t have talked about it, and I may have even halted all forward motion on my training.
Not today. If I had stopped, it wouldn’t have been quitting. It would have been to preserve my body with the hopes that I didn’t hurt myself worse and create an injury that would stop me from reaching my long term goals. I’d have been pissed, but I wouldn’t have felt like I was a failure.
At some point in my FBLvideo I realized all of this. I didn’t elaborate the entire epiphany because I was legitimately struggling just to keep going, but I did say how important these “bad” runs were, and how important the struggles were for personal growth.
Are We There Yet?
When you run into problems you can’t fix, when you are exhausted, or when your brain is verbally assaulting you, what do you do? How do you react? What do you do when you are faced with these mental and physical challenges? How does that mirror what you do in your life?
These are the important things I learn about myself on these runs. They’ve given me the opportunity to change the things I don’t like my answers to.
Like running, you don’t just flip the switch and run 18. You have to put in the work, the effort and commitment if you’re going to get there. It’s always a process and you always have to keep working. You can’t ever stop trying.
Cats Are The Best Pets Ever…..Seriously
I made what I thought was the best choice. It may not have been. I certainly should have at least given myself breaks and stretched my muscles during the 8 miles of hills. I could have ran 4 miles and rescheduled the 18 for the next weekend. I had the time to do it. But I didn’t. This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. The consequences are a pretty ugly muscle strain. But providing I give myself rest and let my cat lay on me I’ll be fine in a week or two. So, I’m paying the piper.
Focus on the Positive
Aside from that physical discomfort I still ran 18 miles. I saw 10-15 deer. I ran into a good friend on the path, and before that I only saw a few human’s the first few hours I was out. I was hydrated, I was fueling appropriately, and my pace was pretty solid for the first ten. Even with my struggle, my run was nearly 20 minutes faster than my 17 miler last summer.
And I learned an important things about myself. I still keep going even when things get tough. I don’t give up, I don’t beat myself up and now I’ll even seek out other people when at one point I would have chosen solitude. But, there are still things I need to work on. I need to trust myself more in these scenarios. If I did I would have called it early on, but sometimes I suffer from Imposter syndrome. I need to remember that even though it’s good that I push through things when they get tough I don’t have to carry the pain forever. At some point you have to stop and let things heal.
This is why I do it.