Most of my Facebook memories are utterly forgettable, but today’s was actually special.
It was 2 years ago today that I ran my first marathon.
What a special day that was. The weather was perfect. Lakefront is an impeccably organized and put-together marathon that also fosters a great sense of community, as it is put on by our local running group. I made new running friends while training who I got to share that experience with – some also running first marathons, some BQing. My mom and brother came up from Iowa to surprise me at the finish line. Kevin biked along the course to cheer me on at multiple points. I ran a great race – not perfect, but pretty well-executed for a first marathoner. I didn’t hit the sub-4:00 I was secretly dreaming about, but I came pretty darn close and was 100% proud of myself anyway (still am). And I actually enjoyed the training and never felt overwhelmed or stressed out by it.
It really was a dream first marathon day, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I can’t wait to run Lakefront again one day.
But this memory was also bittersweet.
I can’t tell you how sad it made me today to bask in that happy memory and then fast forward to to present day…when my recent posts have been about feeling unmotivated to train, not wanting to run, and being so mentally burnt out from 2 years of pushing myself that I’m already looking forward to a break after this training cycle.
In the infamous words of the Talking Heads:
“You may ask yourself, well: how did I get here???”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of the improvement I’ve made in the last two years and everything I’ve accomplished, including two more marathons. I’ll also never forget the pride and happiness that came 8 months later at Grandma’s Marathon after I trained my butt off, ran a flawlessly executed race and took 15 minutes off that Lakefront time (and also shared the experience with new running friends!).
But that’s the thing. I have no regrets and wouldn’t trade those days for anything, but I can’t help but wonder if maybe it was all just too much too soon. Not that I ran the two more marathons, but that I poured so much of myself into training for each of them. In hindsight it seems like the euphoria of running “firsts”, new accomplishments and easy improvements as a beginner runner just overwhelmed me and I got a little carried away.
I really miss the pure joy and innocence and wonder of those Lakefront days. When it was enough just to run a marathon and be proud of my training, without having to get a PR or qualify for something. After this training cycle ends in a few weeks, there are going to be some big changes around here. The batteries that got me through the last couple years of greedily and relentlessly chasing “faster” are wearing down and I can feel that it’s time for a big running reset.
I’m hesitant to make a bunch of declarations for the future, because I am the queen of laying out all these grand plans on my blog and then not being able to follow through with them. But then I think, well, I’ve already mentioned it on here anyway, so what the hell?
I’m not going to be training for any race until June 2017 – 8 months from now. I’m going to spend that time trying to detox all the pressure and expectations I’ve put on myself over the last few years and get the passion and love back into my running. I don’t know if there’s any magic bullet solution to do that, but I’m going to try anything.
Including giving it up completely.
Now pull those jaws back up and put those eyes back in the sockets – I’m not quitting running forever. But after a lot of thought, I’ve decided that after my final 10K race in November, I am going to take several weeks completely off from running – possibly even the rest of the year (6 weeks). I’ve tried everything, and I really think I need a clean break for a while. I want the chance to actually miss and crave running again. I want to lose my speed and fitness. I want to have to start back at square one. I want to relish in the possibility of running personal worsts in a spring half marathon.
Well…that’s a tad dramatic. For someone who has been running for a few years, 6 weeks off isn’t going to result in that much lost fitness. But my hope is that it’s enough time for all of this competitive nonsense to work it’s way out of my system so that I can come back to running feeling truly fresh and have somewhat of a clean slate. I feel like forcing myself to revert back to slower paces and a minuscule aerobic base and “starting over” will eliminate the pressure I always feel to maintain a certain fitness level.
And then, hopefully, I can start running again because I really truly want to. Not to get “fast”. Not to train for a race. Not even for health and fitness. Just simply because I want to enjoy a quiet morning outside and have something to get my energy up before a long day at work.
And then, hopefully, when I start training for a marathon again in June, I will actually truly enjoy the process again. Without the pressure of trying to PR and build an insane aerobic base, perhaps I won’t run myself into the ground with training and expectations and I can actually just have fun with it again. Maybe I really can get back to a place where it is good enough just to be able to run a marathon, not a X:XX marathon.
That, right now, is what I want more than anything in my running. I know it can never be like my magical first marathon at Lakefront again, but maybe it can be special and fun again. I’m tired of feeling like I’m not good enough if I don’t get faster. I’m tired of the training culture and running being a means to an end. It’s time for me to DNF this neverending race to nowhere.
I still have several weeks before my last 10K race, and rather than let this revelation kill my motivation even more, I’m hoping it will actually help breathe new life into my training. Perhaps I can relax my expectations now that there is no real reason for me to get fast or improve anything this training cycle, and in turn, enjoy my runs and workouts a little more knowing that there isn’t so much riding on them and it’s a blessing that I can do this at all. I also hope I’ll have a good race this weekend and that will make me feel better about running.
A new chapter awaits, and while I can never cross that 2014 Lakefront finish line for the first time again, I hope the next one I cross can be magical in its own way.