Reflecting back on the past few months and the closing of my recent training cycle is bittersweet for me right now. The 18 weeks that I have spent training this year have been the most incredibly challenging, wonderful, and eye opening weeks I have yet to experience in my life. Through this lovely blog I have met (using that term loosely here, more like emailed/texted/confided in) wonderfully gracious and kind people that have worked their way into my heart and added light into my life and inspiration to my spirit. I have found myself more grateful then ever to be living the life that I am and reveling in the experiences that I've been blessed with. For the first time in my life, I am content with who I am and the path I've taken.
Running hasn't always come naturally for me. I took up the sport at a young age with sorry attempts to transform myself into an athlete. I wanted to be fast, to fly like a gazelle through fields with the sun kissing my skin and my hair dancing in the wind. I wanted to feel like there was nothing that could keep up or stop me, but my legs never possessed the naturally ability for speed. For years I let my lack of speed be my comparison to other runners, always envying what they had and never truly appreciating the gifts which I myself had. Every race that I would line up at from high school until I was 26, which was last year mind you, I never felt comfortable and confident in my racing abilities. Every race I would find myself breaking down inside, questioning why I thought that I belonged there. I looked like a runner on the outside, but the inside was a mess. Confidence in my training and my legs was never able to shine through because I wouldn't let it. Spending time telling myself why I shouldn't be at that line and pointing out all of the runners that were going to beat me became my prerace ritual.
Last fall I'd gotten a much needed wake up call. After 16 physically grueling weeks of training for my 3:15 Chicago marathon goal that left me in the best shape that I had ever been in, I flushed all of my efforts down the toilet on race morning. Instead of enjoying the experience that I was about to have, at the starting area I had an emotional breakdown. Tears, anxiety, fear, doubt, defeat; all of which came before the gun ever went off. My goals suddenly became unrealistic, and I a fool. When I should have been telling myself how awesome I was and mentally replaying all off the successful workouts I had leading up to that point, my mind went the other direction focusing on all the things that made me inferior to other runners. I crossed the finish in 3:38 and really had given up any hope for nearing my goal at the 10 mile mark. The weather was hot, I was holding back tears the entire race, I drank too much Gatorade, and I just wanted it all to be over. This was the worst race experience I had ever had, yet I value it so much.
When running a marathon becomes a team effort, you know you're in trouble.
This is not cute.
After that race it took me a few weeks to pull myself together, and I begun to pour my running thoughts into my blog. Here is where I was able to appreciate my gift and reflect upon the work that I was doing. Having the worst race of my life was probably the best gift I have ever had because it taught me to appreciate what it means to be able to run and move in such an amazing way. This blog has somehow saved my mentality and given me confidence to press on when the road gets tough. Having confidence in myself wasn't always my strong suit, and it wasn't until college that I was able to realize it is okay to be slightly awkward and march to a different drum...but I never understood that in my running until recently. The reason why all of my finishing times were always lingering in the same area was because I didn't believe and I was imparting too many limits on myself before I would even try.
Last Saturdays 10 miler made my heart sing. I stood at that crowded starting line feeling at peace with myself not worried about the other runners and knew that my body was willing and able if I would let it. There is where I took down that brick wall I had up for so many years so that I could see what was on the other side, and what I found was beauty in myself. I don't know why it has taken me 15 years to say that I AM GOING TO CONQUER THE WORLD WITH MY RUNNING, and I don't care. All that matters is I'm here now, and I am going to do great things.