Let’s start off by saying that I am a huge runner. Not in the “huge part of my life” huge, but the “size 16, dear gussie, didn’t I see her in that Sweatin’ to the Oldies video” huge. And, I am at Peace with how I look. My body size has absolutely nothing to do with this post. That being said, I am also pretty in shape.
I know, because I just ran for 2 hours, 45 minutes straight (well, except that potty break we all took). That’s right, a real half-marathon. Well, one without timing chips, water stations, numbered bibs, or blaring music at the finish line. Just two women who wanted to know if they could.
Well, we can.
I started running again last August when my buddy S said something ridiculous like “let’s run a 5 k in October, a 10 k in November, and a half-marathon on Memorial Day.” I agreed, with the same indulgence I gave my kids when they tell me we are a shipwrecked family of dogs who are trying to get away from a band of evil kitty pirates for the afternoon. That’s sweet.
Our 5 k went well, but I was sidetracked by surgery in mid-October. When a mutual friend heard about our idea, she cheered us on, and began re-training for a half-marathon herself, despite being just a couple months postpartum. At the end of January, I figured I better get serious if we wanted to do this thing.
S is a super-motivated, organized go-getter, but in this insanely balanced and admirable way. She’s just such a better grown-up than me. I loved our early morning runs, both of us keeping that perfect pace of being able to talk, but not sing. We watched our runs go from grueling 3 milers to rewarding 10k’s and eventually up to a 9 miler that didn’t destroy the rest of the Saturday. Unfairly, I took full advantage of my 6AM therapy session, and we laughed, and talked, and learned that, no matter how good the run, the first 2 miles will always suck.
We bought fuel belts and energy wafers, and actually felt the difference after we used them. We looked into pacing and bought new shoes, and stretched far too little. One week we warmed up quickly, but S had refused to leave her coat on a bench we would be returning to in 2 more miles, because “someone could take it!” California girl, I taunted. With intentional bravado, I left my first racing shirt on the bench the following week. When we returned 30 minutes later, the shirt was gone, and hasn’t been turned in to the lost and found, either. I like to think an enormous bird of prey swooped down and is lining her nest with my Turkey Trot 5 mile victory t-shirt.
We saw herds of deer and listened to the chirping of frogs open up the spring morning. And we talked some more. When I say training was a joy, I really mean it.
So, the morning of our race, a few of S’s amazing friends came to join us on our run. I mean, seriously, amazing. A beautiful mother of 5 who was just finishing chemo, but had run the last Boston marathon. A mother of 6 who has this amazing, balanced life, and as in-shape as a 17-year old. Standing next to these two women, I felt amazed. Inspired. Inadequate.
They were loving and supportive, and taking time out of a packed day to take these steps with us. And when we started out, all I could think of was “If we keep running this fast, I won’t make it a mile!” And they were really slowing it down for us. After a few miles, we reached the “finish” for the Boston marathoner, as she had a lot to get done that day. I was so grateful to have her there. What couldn’t I do if she could do that?
And then, I realized the answer: “Um, you couldn’t run a marathon, that’s for darn sure. You cannot keep up with these women who are slowing everything down to barely get their heart rates up, and you are a poser. An egotistical poser, who has been posting these huge runs on facebook, but really, you aren’t in the same league.”
Dang, that sounds harsh, but I swear it’s true still.
We ran that whole 13.1 miles, and at the end, with the encouragement of our experienced mother of 6, and our families cheering us on, S and I finished our race. My two dearest friends in town met us at the finish line with home-made medals and Chuck Norris signs. Who could ask for more?
The BLD Fam came at 9:30AM to cheer me at the Finish Line
But, like a strange darkness, I felt incredibly deficient. I am having a hard time explaining it. Even with a 5 minute restroom stop, we came up with a pace of 12:45 per mile or so. And it was too fast. I felt a little tired, had even said I couldn’t sprint to the end, because I didn’t want that headachy/ruined feeling that accompanies it.
And writing that, just now, trying to figure it out, it has just hit me.
I didn’t want to give it my all.
Because my all is just nowehre near these incredible women who ran with us. Nowhere near my friend who PR’d her half the previous week by 10 minutes. I had been running to feel like I had achieved something. Maybe in the anonymity of a large race, where I didn’t know the stories of the women who whizzed by me, I wouldn’t have to admit that giving it my all was just not enough to be impressive.
You ran 10 miles? Impressive. You didn’t see your time? No big deal.
But seeing myself being pushed to the 99% of your physical ability (you know, just shy of puking), I really wanted to say, no thanks. 80% is all I ever really want to give to running. I have a whole rest of the day to get on with. I have things I might succeed at waiting for me. I am willing to drop this endeavor like a bad habit.
But, running with those two women, who S brought in as our inspiration, just made me see how far from awesome my 80% was.
And, as I went home and stood in the scalding hot shower, stretching my calves, I wished I hadn’t done it. I wished I could go back to just me and S, running our 8 miler a few weeks ago, not knowing how far from the extraordinary I was. We got a flat tire, and I had to take over getting the kids to their first t-ball game alone, and I was physically destroyed.
I honestly could think of nothing else, especially when Andy got angry that the kids were being so rotten, except this was the single most selfish thing I had ever done.
What the hell is this? The devil? The Holy Spirit convicting me of sin? A days-long energy drop from the runner’s high?
I just couldn’t say. But, I do know that I will run the one more half-marathon I signed up for, at a nice leisurely pace, in four weeks. And that will probably be it.
Maybe a weekly 5-miler or something.
But this just doesn’t feel right. Right now, this bad run is worse than if I had just slept through my 5AM alarm that morning.
Now what do you make of that?