I knew I was going into this race with the odds against me. I was coming off an injury, had spent very little time training (let alone training on hills), the forecast was projecting the hottest day of the year, and it was already well known this wasn’t going to be an easy course. It was obvious that this wasn’t going to be an all star performance. I repeated it in my head over and over, even as I stood at the start line. But I’m human after all and that means that as much as I knew what the odds were – there was still a tiny part of me that wanted more.
It wasn’t so much that I wanted to have some record breaking run. A PR of even a few seconds would have been so incredible to me. But more important than anything else I wanted to prove that I could beat my most constant barrier- my mind. I knew that despite everything else that day that was the one aspect of my race that I could improve on. That I could show myself and others that I had defeated it. As I stood at the start line, my heart racing as the countdown began, I repeated over and over to myself my internal goal. Don’t stop. Don’t let your brain take over your feet. You are stronger than you think.
And I felt strong, for a few miles anyway. The early miles were relatively easy, it was hot but managable, and I was just so happy to finally be out there running with my buddy. When I started to feel tired and noticed that we were barely at Mile 5 I got worried. But I told my brain “Stop thinking that way. You’re fine. 5 miles is nothing”. And then the hills started. The sun got even higher. It was brutally hot.The three sport beans I ate felt like I had swallowed a spoonful of peanut butter. I knew things weren’t going well.
And then, just like in my first half marathon, things got hazy. When my hip couldn’t handle the uphills I finally gave in to walking them. My legs felt heavy, my fingers felt prickly, every part of my body hurt. I tried to listen to the jokes and the advice but it hurt to even process what was being said to me. As much as I tried to remind myself how hard I had worked to get myself to this place, I just wanted to be anywhere but on that course. Instead of repeating my positive mantras my thoughts started to turn to “Maybe you’re just really not cut out for distance running”.
Somewhere around Mile 10 I declared that I was done, I wanted out. The plan was to leave me with our support crew the next time we saw them on the side of the road. I huffed along in silence, trying to decide what would make me cry more- continuing on to the finish or hanging my head at my first DNF.
By some weird twist of fate they ended up being further along the course than they were supposed to, so we barely had a mile left by the time I spotted the sign. and I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I cut out a mile to the finish. As painful as it was, I pushed on.
Eventually we started to hear cheering, music, all the signs that mean the end is near. I heard my name announced as I crossed the finish line and instead of that feeling pride at what I had just finished I felt shame. As I hobbled down the finish chute to claim my medal I knew in my heart I didn’t deserve it. I had done nothing medal worthy that day. I had wanted to prove that my legs could out run my mind and again, I was proved wrong. It was the most disappointed in myself I have ever felt after a race.
I came home after the race and declared that I was done running. Why was I putting myself through so much pain? By the next night I thought maybe I would go back to running just 5Ks. The next day, I was searching the interwebs for my next challenge. I am determined to beat my mental game, even if it kills me (and Sunday was a pretty close call). I know that it will happen… at some point. The only way I’m going to get better is if I keep on trying. so I’ll get back out there. And I’ll hang up my medal and my bib with all my others. At some point hopefully I will realize that I earned it.