Even just writing that headline was tough. Over the past few days I’ve gone through so many emotions about this decision. Sadness, disappointment, relief, confusion, stubbornness, etc. I’ve realized that sometimes the tougher decisions are when we decide *not* to do something as opposed to doing something.
I wrote a lot last year about running and training for the NYC Marathon and raising money for Fred’s Team. It was an absolutely incredible experience. And for a lot of obvious reasons. But one thing I never thought I would get out of it was such an appreciation for running and what it did to clear my mind and to make me feel so good about my physical shape. As someone who has gone through and benefited from therapy, I remember learning that running was a bit like therapy for me. It was time to myself where I could just talk out problems or issues without any sort of distractions and just get some “me” time. I am still amazed sometimes at the clarity I have after a run. I will have thought something was the END OF THE WORLD and then I go on a run and my brain just clicks through everything and I feel 100x better for it.
So earlier this year when I found myself anxious and looking for a new adventure and starting to let some of the littler things in life get to me, a friend reminded me how positively training had impacted me last year. And as hindsight is 20/20, I immediately agreed, forgetting the sacrifices I had made in my life and my summer last year to train for the marathon. And before I knew it, I had signed up for the Marine Corp Marathon in DC.
It was another fall marathon. I figured I would follow the same training plan. But this time I would know what to expect. It wouldn’t take over my life. If I skipped a run here or there it would be fine. It would give me a good balance again in my life and I wouldn’t have time to sweat the small stuff in life. Seemed like a win win.
First it was my knee. I went to see the doctor and she diagnosed me with runner’s knee. I was told to take two weeks off and then slowly start running again taking pain medicine when I did. That seemed to mostly do the trick. And I figured once my legs started getting stronger again, it would be ok. So I’ve been running again about 4/week for over a month now. My long run this past Saturday was 11 miles. But the knee pain is not entirely gone. It will come and go throughout a run. Usually if I stretch it is better but it is still there.
And then yesterday my left calf, which had been sore for the past two weeks but I had been telling myself it was nothing, really felt tight. In fact it felt exactly like it did last February when I was diagnosed with tennis leg. (Gotta love all these terms!) I knew that last year my doctor told me to take 4-6 weeks off running to really let the calf muscle heal the tear. Well if I did that now, that would put me into August before I could start running again. I knew that would not give my particular body really enough time to fully train for an October 28th marathon.
And that’s when the tears came. And the realization that maybe my body was telling me something that my heart and mind had been trying to but I had been doing my best to ignore. Maybe I don’t really want to do this marathon. Maybe I think I should run this marathon as if it would prove something to me. Maybe I should run this marathon because I said I would and I hate not doing something I said I would. And maybe if I just pushed myself a little, I could get it done. And most of all, a question of if I’m just being lazy and wimping out.
I am stubborn. Always have been. Once I set my mind to something, I usually accomplish it (see: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, moving to another country, quitting my job, going to grad school, finding a new job, etc.). I also, as I get older, am starting to realize that sometimes the hardest decisions we can make are the ones where we have to realize we can’t do something the way we wanted or the way we envisioned.
When I first started applying to new jobs last year, I was convinced I was leaving Boston. I applied to jobs in Chicago, NYC, and DC. I had no desire to stay in Boston. Because why would I? I am single, don’t own property, and have nothing technically holding me to the area. So why wouldn’t I move? And then the job in Cambridge came and I realized that just because I could move didn’t mean I had to. And that was big realization to make. And a hard one to become ok with. But boy am I glad I did. Because staying in the area means I feel settled for the first time in years (in a good way), that I’m able to be physically close to my family, that I can continue to cultivate both old and new friendships, and I can continue to appreciate all this area has to offer. Oh and I kind of love my new job.
I’m sure I could get myself through this injury. I’m sure I could get through my training. I’m sure I could figure out a way to finish the marathon. But is that enough reason to do it? Alternatively, I could go for a long bike ride on a Saturday morning instead of a run. I could check out that farmer’s market I keep hearing about. I could do some more social and fun runs. I could get more yoga in my schedule again. I could stay out late on a Friday night and not worry about getting up at 7am to get my long run in before the heat sets in. I could go to the beach. I could continue to enjoy this incredible life I have made in this city. Hey, I could even run another marathon in a few years!
This has reminded me of living in London (well really what doesn’t remind me of living in London!). I loved London but I also knew that at some point I needed to come back to the US before I started resenting being so far away and being in a foreign city, etc. And I’m afraid that is what training for this marathon would do, I’m afraid I would start to feel like I was running because I had to and not because I wanted to. I do not want to end up resenting or hating running. I want to continue to appreciate it because it challenges me, is good for the mind, and is as simple as throwing on a pair of running sneakers.
I know that over the next few weeks I will really wonder if I made the right decision. I will worry that I will become lazy and complacent and not as in shape as I’d like to be. But I hope that I’ll be so busy actually enjoying my life that those worries and concerns will be drowned out by the sounds of summer.
Author’s note: If you know someone who would like my number, please let me know. The organizers make it super easy to transfer bibs.