Thoughts On: Half Marathon Madness and Sadness

So, I ran a half marathon. It might be the hardest, best thing I’ve ever done.

Words are never going to capture this, and I’m hesitant to even TRY, but here. HERE. Have some nouns and verbs while I try and scrape my life off of the bottom of my running shoes.

Training: every step I took, I was gunning towards the future finish line, towards a better version of myself—and getting closer to who I was in the process. A long run offers a look at your human core more than any other activity I know. You see who you are, and imagine who you might be when it’s all over. I poured myself into those twelve weeks. I was up and dedicated. I ran in the morning before the sun came up, in the blinding heat and the rain. I was nervous, but I was ready.

Race day: hot for October. Myself and about 12,000 other runners ran through the heat, through the doubt. Some people came in costume, so I can officially say I’ve been running with Batman and I passed the Flash. I had one mantra, over and over: I bet on myself. I bet on myself. I bet on myself.

I chugged over the sticky pavement of the gel station, and pushed past the intense rib cramp when I guzzled too much water in the last mile. I went a little crazy during the last kilometre—a talking to myself, shuffling in agony kinda crazy… But all the pain went away for the big finish.

I heard my family call my name from the sidelines, and I took out my headphones and I finished the race the way I had finished all my training runs—speeding straight for home.

All the pain of the furthest, no-walk, no-break distance I had gone in my life burned away, I felt… happy. It’s the kind of happiness you remember for the rest of your forever, so mingled with raw intensity and shock and exhaustion.  That happiness was three months of hard work paid off. That happiness was me, alive! Me, accomplished!

Every step that propelled me forward over the last 100 metres signalled the end of one dream, the final pulse of one goal; with each step after, I felt the steady beat of a new beginning, the fresh heartbeat of a future challenge. I grinned, cried, gasping so much a volunteer asked me if I was alright. A female runner to my left doubled over and vomited.

Now it’s over. To be HONEST, those two post-race recovery weeks were a little wobbly and frustrating. In the wake of this huge accomplishment, I’m trying to figure out the next goal. Do I want to be faster? Run further? Keep it up? Post-race blues are trying to set in. At least with winter looming I know I can keep myself warm with all I’ve done, and begin the search for the path forward, whether it’s a race or just a quick 3K around the neighbourhood…

That, and I’ve always got a wicked race medal to remind me I’m a lot tougher than I feel.

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Saving the Last Kilometre

Two weeks from now, I’ll (hopefully) have finished my first ever half marathon. This morning, I set out for the last ambitious long training run before the big event. Since it’s Thanksgiving weekend, I was in the place I started running: my hometown. I mapped my route through farm country and wrote all the turns on my arm to avoid needing GPS to remember the route, or how far I had to go on each long stretch.

It was a challenging run. Training in the big city means having breaks at red lights everywhere. Out in the country, there were no red lights to rest my legs, and more big hills than I’ve ever taken on.

I was in some pain coming up on the 11th kilometre. I was pushing harder than I’ve pushed myself, and was already thinking about being home, even with another 8km ahead. That’s when the universe spoke: I ran by a church and the sign outside caught my attention.
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“Life isn’t a race—find joy in the journey!”

I’m not religious, but I think of myself as somewhat spiritual. I can find subtext in everything, but this went above and beyond subliminal messages and into the category of “weird cosmic signal” and “breathtaking coincidence.” So I breathed deeper. I started up running again, and tried to enjoy the feeling of my lungs being full and the sight of changing leaves… even as the hills kept coming.  I still got to enjoy that my legs were WORKING and I was out there!

At the end I nudged myself just a little further along to a full 20km. That means there’s only one kilometre left, and I’m keeping it for race day. Some people run the race distance BEFORE the race to make sure they can finish. I get it, and always, always, to each their own. Still, I’m listening to my instincts and the universe, and holding onto it, running on a little cosmic fate.

You might say I’m saving that last 1000 metres for a special occasion.

Thoughts On: When the Dream Doesn’t Feel Like the Dream

August 2015, I tore a half marathon training plan from the monthly issue of Runner’s World and stuck it on my bulletin board—just in case. I didn’t see the training plan every single day, but on the ones I noticed it pinned there, another mental note would be scrawled and added to the pile with the others.

At some point, those ‘notes to self’ became IOU’s—which I’m now cashing in. I started training for that half marathon goal last week, using that very same plan. This is the embodiment of my 2017 resolution to take my dreams seriously, and an ambition I’ve held for a few years… But at the moment, I don’t feel energized or excited to be on this road.

Blame it on the hot, humid weather, or food, or sleep, but after some reflection this week, I broke it down to a simple truth: making your dreams come true doesn’t always feel like the dream. When picturing the race in October, I think about finally crossing that finish line—not the hours of running that will come before it, or the weeks of training I’m about to put into finally getting there.

And while many of us embrace that the journey is just as important (if not more so) than the destination, because it’s where the bulk of the transformation and learning happens, there’s an idea that every step towards our lofty ambitions will be made with skipping feet and a singing heart. Maybe there’s even a fear that waning enthusiasm means we aren’t on the right road, or chasing the right dream. This probably (definitely) isn’t true. Working towards your dreams is still work—even if it’s doing something you love. There are going to be days when your feet drag, and your song is silence. That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with not being 100% enthused 100% of the time.

The trick is to recognize that you owe it to yourself to push through to the joy of it all again. You need to understand that this flattened feeling is only a temporary state, and to not take your attention and your intention off of the end goal—the dream. It’s that, or getting ready to write yourself a lot more IOUs…

Thoughts on how to reinvent the road:
• Connect with other people who have the same ambitions
• Give yourself rest days (dreaming downtime)
• Explore detours—find different routes, or other options to the destination (the goal)! There’s more than one way to make it happen.

71 Days

A wee note prior to beginning today’s post: I was walking home from work this week and I saw the first other fat runner I have ever seen in Montreal—ever. She had a water belt, and her athletic clothes showed off all of her lumps and bumps, just like me. She was red in the face, but she was TROOPING, just like me.  I was excited, and inspired. And lady, if you ever for some reason end up reading this, I salute you. Thank you for inspiring me with your own journey, whether it was your 50th run or your first. Keep going. 

Fuck yeah. 

So it’s 71 days, or 10 weeks and 1 day, or 2 months and 12 days—I hate to be that guy, but people, Christmas is most definitely coming. Fresh off of a weekend absolutely stuffed with stuffing (both the noun and the verb), now is the time to up my game for the holiday season. That wonderful time when the air constantly smells like cinnamon, ugly sweaters are in fashion, and ohhhhyes, my binge eating likes to try and go for a record before the new year. Somehow, I’m gonna beat it—my latest is by setting goals. (What a concept, I know!)

Is it taboo to talk about Christmastime before Halloween? Doesn’t matter. I’m doing it anyway, I’m a total Christmas junkie.

It all started this past weekend. Something about being in the town where I grew up set a fire under my ass. It left me with big time aspirations. I left home for Montreal with a mental list of goals in my head, one of them being to lose 10lbs before December 24th, 2016. It’s a little ambitious, given my current track record—but realistically achievable, and it’s a small baby step towards my overall goals. Basically it’s all the things I need.

I keep trying to formulate some kind of work out plan but currently it’s looking like walking to work and home 4-5 days a week, and maybe some strength training or yoga, but who knows. I’m trying to claim that my only plan is “consistency” but we’ll see how well that gets me if it starts getting very cold early this year. Last year I don’t think it snowed until January, and I layered up so much I looked like Randy in his snowsuit in A Christmas Story.

In any case, my gift to myself for Christmas this year is going to be the fact that I am putting in the effort. Realizing that I’m not exempt from healthy choices just because I try to get my 10,000 steps every day. I want to give myself an effort to be proud of. Maybe, I’ll manage to give myself a progress picture as a stocking stuffer. Who knows?