On the Run: Week 4

The return to running after a disappointing, and incredibly hot, half marathon experience turns out to be harder than expected.

  • Days until Anthem Richmond Marathon: 57
  • Miles run: 150.52
  • Doubt and determination: 1 + 1

Self: “Just one more day. I’m still too tired.”

Other Self: “You’re not tired, you’re scared. Scared you’ll hate it. Well, you’d better get out there and see.”

Self: “Ugh. We are the worst.”

This was the scene at 4:00 AM, three days after I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon.

As I described last week, the half marathon was, shall we say, “heck”? It was hot, it was humid, it was spiritless, it was dry as a bone.

I finished and thought “I can’t wait to run again,” sort of the same way you might think “I can’t wait to rinse this poop out of my mouth from that poop sandwich I accidentally ate, and surely any sandwich I were to consume after this would taste like heaven.”

So, the day after the half marathon, I thought I might go for a short run. You know, just to stretch out my muscles. But, morning came and went, and I didn’t go for that run–telling myself that I had done a hard thing just the day before, and I should treat myself kindly by resting.

Then the next morning came, and I remembered hearing from a friend about the day after the day after soreness, so I decided, again, to get out there for a bit. For real, this time. “Just two or three miles” I told myself sleepily, “right after I hit the snooze button for the third time.” Needless to say, that run didn’t happen, because I finally turned the alarm off altogether. I rationalized that I was still recovering, physically and emotionally, from the trauma of having my half marathon dreams pretty well dashed.

But day three arrived and, again, I found myself making excuses. Yes, the excuses were perfectly reasonable, but they weren’t the truth.

The truth was, I was scared. Scared that running was ruined for me by the short-term suffering I’d endured. Scared I’d broken my brain with dehydration and stress. Scared to get back on the horse that had bucked me off, violently, because only a fool would do such a thing.

Other Self was right, though, I had to get out there and see. I charged up the iPod, which was still loaded with the podcasts I’d saved for the race, sucked down a gel for a quick hit of sugar and caffeine, laced up my sneakers, and hit the road.

One mile in, I teared up. My legs were made of cement, and I couldn’t find my groove. My breathing was labored. I was hating life. Two miles in, and I began mentally composing an email to my editor here at RVANews to explain why I wouldn’t be continuing this project. Three miles in, though, something happened. Every breath stopped feeling like work, and every step no longer seemed like torture. I wouldn’t say it was great, but it wasn’t terrible. So I kept going. Mile four, mile five, mile six. My pace picked up and that familiar smile came across my face and heart. I squeezed out nine miles before taking quick shower and heading off to work. On my way in, I texted several friends, elated, “I DON’T HATE IT!” I capslocked some very sleepy people who were confused about what I didn’t hate, because I hadn’t told any of them how scared I was.

It’s been a week and a half since that first post-race run, and I’ve had a few stellar and a couple average runs in that time. I’ve also over slept quite a few times, waking up too late to make it out at all. In other words, everything is back to normal.

I’m also giving myself a break and gaining a little bit of perspective on what I went through. Of course it makes sense that I was down after I prepared for something for six months and then ran into a wall of disappointment. And of course I was tired after that. And of course I was scared after that. Yes, I’m an extremely determined person, but that’s not a magic spell. There’s room for doubt in determination, and as long as determination wins out over doubt, I’m okay with them sharing space, sometimes.

I’m back on the road for another week of figuring this stuff out. I haven’t had a longer run than ten miles since the race, and it’s time to get back to it. 26.2 isn’t going to just wrap itself up in a pretty bow and present itself to me, I’m going to have to reach for it. Goodbye, Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon, I’m moving on. As for you, my friends, I’ll see you on the road.

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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