The other day, I received a random text from my ex-husband. We have an amicable relationship but we don’t speak very often and, since we have now been officially divorced for four and a half years and separated for more than six years, we don’t really have much to say. As a result, I don’t think about him that much anymore, which didn’t really occur to me until I received that text, for some reason.
See, there was a time in my life when he occupied every single brain wave and thought. The trauma of our marriage and divorce weighed on me and it seemed I couldn’t get through a conversation without bringing him up in some way. I dealt with terrible flashbacks and panic attacks for years after we split up (let’s just say he’s a good person now but he wasn’t always) and I wondered how long I would be a prisoner of something that had already ended. Then, I got that text and I realized, all of a sudden, that all of those things almost feel like they happened to someone else. It’s like I know that they happened to me, but they aren’t me. At least, not anymore. They feel distant and removed, almost like childhood memories.
Although I recognize that that’s kind of a weird and dark lead-in to this post, that text message and subsequent realization then made me think about running. I started to reflect on why I’ve felt so different while training for the Prague Marathon than I have felt in recent years. Why have I been more positive and successful this time? Why has it felt easier? Granted, I’m not that far along in training, but it feels different this time.
I think the answer is because my running past is starting to feel like it happened to someone else. And that’s a good thing.
As you know if you’ve been reading here for any length of time, I’ve run 50 marathons. I ran 22 marathons over the span of 365 days, and ran in 16 states in one year. I used to regularly run 50 or 60 miles a week, and running felt easy. It felt fun. It was my life and, quite often, the best part of my day. When I finally had to have back surgery to deal with my chronic back problems, the comeback was slow and painful. I couldn’t run as much as I used to, and training was more challenging. I agonized over the idea of quitting marathons, wondering who I would be if I didn’t run them anymore and what I would write about. I wondered how I would define myself and who would care about what I had to say if I wasn’t talking about marathons. I struggled with the loss of my identity.
Eventually marathons became miserable, and ultimately, I made the decision not to run them anymore and to stick with half marathons. I didn’t run a single marathon in 2016 for the first time since 2010, when I ran my first marathon. I did do plenty of half marathons, though, which were much easier on my body and allowed me to totally remove the pressure I put on myself about running. Even though I didn’t exactly hit any of them out of the park like I had hoped, I spent a year just running for fun and getting back to making the sport fun again.
Since I’ve started training for the Prague Marathon, I’ve noticed a huge shift in the way I’m thinking about running. First of all, I’m approaching it with excitement. I haven’t run a marathon in what feels like forever – it will be 18 months between my 50th marathon and Prague, assuming I make it to the finish line – so there’s been a restoration of that sense of wonder that comes with training for your first marathon. You start each week excited to see what you can do and looking forward to your next run! Each milestone is celebrated and every long run feels like an accomplishment. Nothing is taken for granted.
Second, I’m not nervous. There’s something a little unique about this situation, which is that I do actually know my body is capable of running a marathon. I mean, I’ve run 50 of them, right? I voluntarily made the choice to stop because I was dealing with a lot of pain. If I experience that again this training cycle, I can make that choice again. I have nothing to prove to myself here. Knowing that I have done it before and can do it again if I work hard and am having fun makes it less stressful. Knowing that I don’t have to if I don’t want to is a calming feeling.
Third, I have really very little recollection of how my body used to feel back in 2012-2013 when I was running so many races. That is hugely helpful because, just like my divorce, it now feels so long ago that it feels like it happened to someone else. I’m not spending all my time comparing my training now to my training then. Sure, I can look at my times and read back through old blog posts if I want, but that doesn’t serve me. That person is not who I am today. Being able to let go of my running past is helping me to move forward with my running future. At the same time, knowing those abilities are buried deep inside me somewhere is super helpful.
I don’t know where this training cycle will take me. While I certainly hope it takes me across the finish line in Prague, I’m ok if it doesn’t. I’m finally learning to be content with the runner (and person) that I am today – regardless of where the road ahead may lead or how fast I travel it.
LEAVE A COMMENT: Have you ever found yourself stuck on a past part of your life? How did you move forward?