Waiting My Turn (AKA That time it was going to be my turn until it wasn’t)

“So I’m sitting here and waiting my turn, oh well, maybe next time I will learn.”

-The Connells

It seems that the universe is trying to teach me that I am not in control. A lesson that somehow in almost 40 years I have not managed to learn. You see, I have not run a marathon since 2006, and the last marathon I completed was a bit of a disaster seeing as how I did it on an IT band injury and hobbled through most of it (not recommended). So I have been looking for a redemptive marathon ever since then. But three pregnancies and several injuries have left me nine years later and still no marathon medal. However, this fall was going to be my turn.

I registered for and was accepted in to the St. George marathon, which is on October 3, 2015. I was nursing a hip injury, but training was going relatively well and I was getting enough (read: the bare minimum) mileage in to eek out a marathon. A week and a half ago I ran sixteen and a half miles feeling strong and like I could have kept going. I was thrilled to be within ten miles of the marathon distance and ready to sign up for an 18.6 mile race around a local lake that I had wanted to run for several years.

But the following Tuesday, I noticed a pain in my upper abdomen. I was still able to go for a seven mile run, but I didn’t feel like eating most of the day. By evening, I was doubled over in pain and I didn’t sleep all night. There was some pain in the lower right quadrant, but not too much. I went to the doctor on Wednesday, and it turned out to be my appendix. I had an emergency appendectomy Wednesday evening and am now prohibited from running from anywhere from 2-4 weeks, depending upon who I ask. I cancelled my plans for St. George and am looking at other marathons later this winter.

The rational part of me tells myself that this happened for a reason. Maybe my body was not going to be strong enough to run a marathon in October due to my nagging hip issue. Perhaps the extra rest will give my hip time to heal 100% and I will come back even stronger. But the emotional part of me still feels grief and anger. I was getting so close! And my hip was feeling better! It was supposed to be my turn this fall!

I have to keep reminding myself that I am not in control. That things happen for a reason, even if I do not understand it at the time. That one day (and probably one day very soon) I will look back and laugh about that time my marathon training got derailed by an appendectomy. And one day soon I’ll be crossing that finish line. Right now my job is to let my body heal. That’s an important job and I need to do it right and do it thoroughly. And hopefully one day soon I will finally learn that I am not in control and the universe can stop sending me all of these helpful reminders.

Letting Go of the Numbers

My fixation with numbers has been leading me to some dark places recently. It started when last week I stepped on the scale and saw the number was higher than I tend to like it. At first I tried to blow it off as water weight or inflammation, but when I weighed myself again a couple of days later and my weight was still on the higher end of my weight range I continued to berate myself mentally with horrible self-deprecating thoughts.

My downward spiral continued when I went for my long-run last weekend. I set out to run 12 miles, which I did not think would be too difficult, considering I am training for a marathon. I started off okay, but as I climbed up into the hills I started to get tired and hot, my right hip and left knee started to ache, and I started taking some walk breaks. Half way through my run I ran out of water. As I climbed further up into the trail, it became overgrown and I started to worry about snakes. Some other runners warned me about poison ivy, so I found myself stopping frequently to examine the plants. Although I tried to look for poison ivy, the trail was so overgrown in places I couldn’t even tell what was growing in there. Eventually I gave up and turned around. Mentally I was alternating between appreciating the beauty around me and beating myself up. I felt old and slow and like my body was falling apart. I was frustrated that I wasn’t running faster and that things hurt. I kept looking at my watch and feeling like a failure. At the 10 mile mark, I burst into tears. It was taking me just as long to cover 12 miles as it had taken my coach (who is an elite runner) to run her marathon a few weeks earlier! I told myself that I had no business calling myself a runner or being on a running team and that I should give up immediately. With a combination of sweat and tears streaming down my face, I continued to run, but I also continued to say these horrible things to myself. Things I would never in a million years say to a friend or a running partner.

After that run I came home, refueled, took an ice bath, and tried to chalk the whole thing up to just a bad running day. But I’ve been in a little bit of a funk ever since. And I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my unnecessary focus on numbers: both the number on the scale and the number on the stop watch. What do they really mean? The number on the scale can be a measure of health (and I put can in italics because there are lots of other ways to measure health), but it does not define me. My body is so much more than that. And my worth and my value as a person has nothing at all to do with that number. So why would I let it impact my mood at all? Same with the number on the stop watch. Sure it is nice to run fast. It is gratifying to see just how much I can push my body sometimes. I love those endorphins, and I have race goals and love setting PRs just as much as the next guy. But why do I beat myself up if I don’t hit a time goal in a workout? Or if a race doesn’t go my way? This doesn’t define me. The stopwatch can’t tell me who I am. Isn’t it more important just to be out there and running, appreciating nature and the fact that my body can in fact move one foot in front of the other? Why rationally I understand this and in my heart I want to feel it, somewhere there is an emotional disconnect that too often forces me back to the numbers. Perhaps it is that I do not have sufficient self confidence coming from within, so I look to the external, definitive factors (ie, the number) for valuation.

But by letting the numbers define me I am robbing myself of the joy of the journey. For it is not really the number or the moment of the PR that I am striving for. I want to enjoy the process of getting there too. Scott Jurek stated it perfectly when he said, “The longer and farther I ran, the more I realized that what I was often chasing was a state of mind — a place where worries that seemed monumental melted away, where the beauty and timelessness of the universe, of the present moment, came into sharp focus.” This is essentially what I am chasing. The ability to run and to be in the present moment. Without worry or concern about numbers or about being something other than what I am. It is my hope that running can help me let go and find that peaceful and present state of mind.