I’ve been beating myself up for months now about the marathon I have coming up this weekend. I’m not ready, I haven’t trained enough, I’m going to be miserable, it’s going to be hot, a bird is going to poop on me, the Gatorade will actually be Powerade, and I’ll get a PW.
Maybe all of those things are true. Maybe they’re all going to happen. Although, I swear to God, if a bird gets close enough to poop on me, I’m going to have much bigger problems to deal with, like me completely losing my mind. I’ve been actively dreading this race since sometime in August when I ran 16 miles and it sucked in the most epic fashion, as runs in August generally seem to do. The mindset has impacted my training, my stress level, and my mood, and it’s no one’s fault but mine. While I don’t usually mind the fact that I’m an eternal pessimist, that shit has got to stop for at least the next week.
Why, why, WHY would I run 26.2 miles if I’m convinced it’s going to be miserable and I’m going to hate every second and not have fun? Why am I convincing myself that I am only capable of running the half and have no business running the full? Is it because I’m afraid of writing another race report with a time I’m ashamed of? Maybe. Is it because I’m afraid of hurting my back? At least a little bit. But the point is, if I’m going to do it (which I am), why be miserable about it? If I am dreading it that much, I should just not do it.
So the way I see it, I have two options: run the marathon and be positive about it no matter what or don’t run it.
I read a recap of last year’s Chicago Marathon today that gave me exactly the perspective I needed. In the post, Liz says:
“As I’ve pointed out a million times this was my fourth full marathon, and my best…because of my attitude. I was so positive during the whole race. I was my number one fan. I wanted myself to succeed more than anything, and I encouraged, and cheered my way through it. I don’t know if this is simply because I’ve got older or wiser, but not a single negative thought about myself went through my head during this marathon. I was really, really just proud of myself. Proud I was out there. Proud I was running a freaking marathon. Proud I had worked myself up from barely being able to run 5km in April. I didn’t think about my weight, or how “slow” I was. Or that people may be looking up my time and thinking “is she even moving?” (that was always my thought on previous marathons), but rather I was just happy with who I was. And I think it was this difference that made this race so enjoyable.”
When I read that, it resonated so much with me. I’m not proud of myself anymore. I’m disappointed, frustrated, and annoyed with what it has felt like to come back to running. I’m embarrassed by my times and my weight. I feel like I will never be back to where I used to be. As much as I do genuinely love being active, I enter into each and every workout with the same singular focus: to lose weight. I might have other goals too, like getting faster or cycling farther or increasing my hip strength, but at the end of the day, the thing that motivates me the most to get out of bed in the morning and go to the gym is to be smaller. My motivations are completely flawed, and it makes it very difficult to ever feel satisfied with a workout, because in case you haven’t noticed – you don’t lose weight instantly. As a result, I’m constantly beating myself up and never happy with my results. For races, I can only be happy when I am capable of running faster but choose not to, not when I do my best and am still “slow.”
I tell you all of this not to tell you that I’ve suddenly had an epiphany and I no longer want to be thinner, or to make you feel sorry for me or anything like that. That’s embarrassing, so please don’t. Rather, I realized that while reading Liz’s blog, I found myself thinking “Wow, she went from a 5k in April to a marathon in October? Amazing!” “Wow, she looks so athletic!” and “Wow, she took 6 months off before she started training and still finished in 5:26? Awesome!” What I wasn’t thinking was: “She can’t run a full marathon without walking? Must not have trained enough.” or “What a slow time…was she even moving?” or “She looks fat in her race pictures.”
But those are the things that I think about myself. Those are the things I think you and everyone I know are thinking about me. Maybe it’s true and maybe it’s not, but either way, no one else has to run this marathon but me, and no one else is going to have a positive or negative experience because of it but me.
So, for the next few days, these are the things I’m going to say to myself over and over and over:
“You couldn’t run at all until mid-June and now you’re running a marathon!”
“Three doctors told you that you could never run at all, let alone run a marathon again, and you’re doing it!”
“You did the best training you could, so run the best marathon you can and be proud of it no matter what.”
“You’ve taken great care of yourself and stayed healthy through your whole training cycle!”
“They give out really sweet prizes sometimes to the people who come in last, so it’s ok if you do.” (Kidding. But they do sometimes do this.)
I have lost sight of what is important in running, marathons, and life (if I ever had sight of it to begin with). I am going to try as hard as I possibly can to be positive and have a great race experience no matter what. And I’m not going to be ashamed when I post my finishing time here, because there is no such thing as a bad finish. I’m blessed to be able to run in the first place, and so fortunate that my body has held up through any kind of training at all, even incomplete marathon training. So, on Sunday, I’ll put one foot in front of the other, at the best pace I can manage – whatever that may be – for 26.2 miles. I’ll finish marathon #45. And I’ll have a smile on my face when I do.