Five years ago, I signed up and trained for my first marathon. The entire process was like a dream, pushing my body to do something I never fathomed I would be able to do. As we’ve talked about previously on the blog, I did not grow up an athlete nor a runner. In fact, while I spent a great deal of time outdoors growing up, I was only on a formal sports team four times in my life and each year I dreaded the physical fitness test mile run more than a doctor’s appointment or getting shots.
The 2010 New York City Marathon was a day that will forever remain in my brain, each mile still is imprinted and I could recap the entire race course experience to anyone today, even five years later. Each mile was a miracle as I pushed through the boroughs, taking in every single mile with a huge smile on my face.
Since then, I continued to sign up for one marathon each year. I had a different goal for each marathon, but primarily my hope for each was to improve my time. Five years and five marathons later, I have improved my time from my original 5:29 marathon but I’ve spent the past four years, finishing short of the goal I had in my mind. Completing a marathon, regardless the pace, will always be an accomplishment in my book. As someone said yesterday, moving 26.2 miles on one’s own two feet is something that most people never dream of doing, much less in 5 or so hours.
Therefore, when year after year, my body falls short of the goal I’m chasing, I finish the 26.2 miles with my head hanging lower than it was when I started the journey. At 30 years old, I do not have anything left to prove to myself when it comes to the marathon. I have successfully completed 5 at this point, I know that my mind and body are capable of accomplishing the distance. But, what I have also learned along the way, and unfortunately my friends and family as well, is that my body really does not enjoy the distance.
I am thankful and blessed to have suffered no physical injuries during five marathons but I have suffered one too many emotional injuries. Each year, somewhere between mile 15 and 22 the wheels come off. In most cases, it seems to be attributed to heat, which also explains why my best experience to date was the Philadelphia Marathon where it was below freezing at the start. As someone who sweats a great deal, I can’t seem to hydrate or take in enough fuel to overcome nausea, muscle cramps, or in yesterday’s case severe quad cramping and vomiting.
What started out as being something that I loved has grown to be something that makes me think less of myself. I beat myself up internally for not achieving a goal which based on my training runs, half marathon time and speed workouts seems achievable. I question the twelve to sixteen weeks of my life, dedicated to marathon training, trying to figure out where the process went wrong. I question the forty-eight hours leading up to the marathon, wondering what I should have or shouldn’t have eaten. I drive my husband, who is the most supportive and incredible marathon cheer leader and spectator, crazy with agony as he watches my self esteem diminish along the course.
I know that there are people who run marathons for fun and would tell me that I am too hard on myself and that every marathon won’t be a personal best. I know that the goal is to enjoy the miles and focus on the fact that each one is a gift. Trust me, yesterday during the toughest miles, these were my mantras. Every ounce in my body, especially in my legs, wanted to stop at mile 18.
But, after five years, I think that marathons and I are ready for a break. While I enjoy the training process, I’ve stopped enjoying the race day, which is unfortunate but true. There are too many other things in my life which bring me great joy to continue doing something which doesn’t make me happy. As I reflect upon this training cycle the things that I enjoyed most were my speed workouts and tempo runs. There is no question that I’ve become a faster runner in the past 12 weeks. I set a new half marathon PR and have set multiple unofficial 10k and 5k PRs during training runs and speed workouts.
Yesterday, though the Berlin Marathon was everything everyone promised – beautiful, flat, filled with amazing spectators, and a bit chaotic, I never enjoyed the race itself. For almost five hours I waited to find my groove and enjoy the experience only to finish without ever reaching that point. My happiest moment was chatting with fellow runners in the starting area, motivating one runner who was about to embark on her first marathon.
While sitting at dinner, a few hours later, a reader proved that they knew my running records better than myself, quickly making me realize that yesterday was 2 minutes short of a PR. As I sat there in tears, Bo asked me why I continue to put myself through this each year. Before last night, I had never truly thought about it. Maybe it’s because as a health and wellness blogger I am surrounded by so many incredible people who take on athletic feats each day. But, what I realized is that what was once a huge accomplishment had started to turn into just a habit that came around each year, choosing what the next fall marathon would be.
So for now, while I know the marathon and I may meet again one day, I’m ready to focus on other things such as triathlons and shorter distance races. The half marathon will always be my favorite distance and I would love nothing more than to enjoy a few, especially while combined with European travel to new cities with Bo or girlfriends.
Thank you for your support these past few years during the roller coaster of marathon emotions.