I shared part of this story yesterday with my run coaching clients. I’m starting a weekly newsletter to share shorter off-the-cuff stories like that, for a place to share all of my writing that I don’t necessarily link to here, and to share interesting reads on all the things I write about—fitness, mental health, grief, and social media/writing/business stuff. Sign up here! (I know I have some subscribers who get my posts sent to them as they go live—let me know if you’re still interested in that; I will obviously be linking to my posts in the weekly email too.)
This is how running used to make me feel.
This is not how running has made me feel these days. I’m in the midst of recovering from serious grief and depression. I’m on several medications, I’ve gained some weight, my energy levels are lower, and I’ve just plain lost some of my running fitness.
I’ve kept running, in an attempt to hang on to that part of my identity, and I’ve had a really hard time with it. I walk more than I used to. I beat myself up about the paces and the distances I go, comparing them to where I was five years ago. Guess what? Five years ago, my life looked dramatically different, and I was able and had the energy to devote a large portion of my mental and physical energy to running in a way I don’t have the capacity for right now.
But when I run with a friend, I forget all that. I forget that my current pace is at least two minutes slower than a pace I used to be able to hold for 13.1 miles. I forget that I’m going rarely more than 4 miles (if that), rather than the 20-mile long runs I used to do on summer weekends.
I had a long conversation the other night with a fellow running coach about this comparing ourselves to younger, more fit versions of ourselves. I wanted to figure out a way, solo, to replicate that feeling of getting out of my head when I’m chatting with a friend, and so I set out yesterday with my Apple Watch set to “other,” rather than logging it as a run that would log my pace and distance. That is, I took the numbers out that stress me out, and I came back elated (endorphin-wasted, even!)
If a client had described the same situation/problem to me, I wouldn’t tell them they were fat, out of shape, etc—why was I telling myself that? I’d tell them to be gentle with themselves, and to take out the component that was stressing them out that they could control—in this case, numbers—to get their running mojo back. Time to be my own client. (How does this work? Do I pay myself? That’d be weird.)
How do YOU get your running mojo back?
Just a quick note to say that this Sunday was the one-year anniversary of losing my mom.
I survived this first year!!! The actual day went so much better than I expected. I’ll write more about that and what I’ve learned over the past year (so, so much) soon, but I need some time to process it a bit more. In the meantime, thank you so much for your support over this year—it truly means everything to me.)
I finished the National Women’s Half 8K yesterday, and I am blissfully happy.
I didn’t PR, it obviously wasn’t any kind of PDR (personal distance record), but it doesn’t matter.
After a winter spent in a deep, dark depression, anything positive is reason enough for me to celebrate.
But let’s get back to the actual race, eh? Last June, weeks before my mom died, my friend Morgan mentioned she had signed up for the National Women’s Half as her first post-partum half. OK I’LL DO IT, I told her. Morgan was my manager at my first job out of college, and she was also responsible for talking me into my first 5K in 2006, the National Press Club 5K. (She lured me in with a pancake breakfast after the race. I’m still looking for another race with a sit-down pancake breakfast like that included in the race fee…)
After running the NYC marathon in November, admittedly undertrained, I thought that if I could get through that, I could get through anything. But since the marathon, I have had a hospital stay, I have had two more psychotropic medicines added to my daily regimen, I have suffered the kind of depression that zaps all of your energy, leaving a zombie in its stead. I ended up sitting out the NYC Half because it was two days after I got out of the hospital, and I knew that wasn’t a good idea.
This is a long way of saying that I probably could have gotten through the half yesterday, but it wouldn’t have been pretty, and so I decided to not be a hero — I’ve run 30+ halfs, I have nothing to prove to myself or anyone else — and drop down to the 8K.
My first touchpoint with the race was the proxy pickup — I sent Morgan a copy of my license and the proxy form and she was able to easily pick up my bib. Check!
I’m sort of obsessed with Kimptons, so I stayed at the Hotel Palomar in Dupont. My BFF Meg had a training in Philly, so I’d accompanied her there the night before, and she accompanied me to my race. I woke up at 5:50, quickly and quietly got ready in the bathroom, and headed downstairs to take a Lyft to the start. As I pulled out my phone, another girl in a running skirt looked at me (in my running skirt) and said “I think we’re going to the same place, want to share a cab?” Thank you Marisa. Never underestimate the kindness of random strangers.
The race’s start village was in West Potomac Park, and I admired this beautiful sunrise walking to the start from the Lincoln Memorial.
I met up with Morgan right around 6:30. She was still doing the half, which started at 7; the 8K started at 7:30. But I needed my bib from her! And a hug. Morgan was going for sub-2 and KILLED it with a 1:56! I’m so proud of her. I hopped into her corral with her so we could chat a little longer and then attempted to sneak back and out of the corrals before my start. It was a bit chilly, so I looked for a patch of sunshine to stand in.
The 8K was supposed to start at 7:30, but it ended up starting at 7:40 because they needed a bit more time to make sure the course was clear from the half-marathon runners for us. I totally understand that, but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t cold waiting!
OK, this view didn’t suck.
I’d forgotten my Apple Watch charger at our first hotel of the weekend, so I was running with just the Nike+ app going on my phone in my sports bra pocket. I truly went into this race with no time goals; I just wanted to honor my commitment to Morgan and run on a sunny day!
But then my phone announced an 8:56 mile after the first mile. OH! Well then. Hmm, maybe I could do under 45:00 for just under a 9:00 mile? At this point in the race, we were running down down Ohio Drive with the wind at our backs. I felt like I was flying! I heard other women talking about this and knew I wouldn’t feel like this for the entire race…so decided to embrace it while I could to bank a little time for the inevitable running into the wind.
Running in East Potomac Park to Hains Point reminded me SO much of Marine Corps with Ericka. We ran it the day before Hurricane Sandy, and we ran into winds and watched the waves pick up in the Potomac, lapping the shore. As we saw the Coast Guard in the water on that day, we tried to outrun the storm…
But back to yesterday! I easily ticked off 8:56 and 8:42 for the first two miles and felt great! Oh, maybe I still have it, I thought… and then we turned right back into the headwind. Oh. Uh huh. Maybe not. It SUCKED.
My brain quickly went into all kinds of negative thoughts: you can’t do this, you’re slow, you’re out of shape, etc etc. BUT I’m reading Deena Kastor’s book about running and changing her thinking — and I chose to change my thinking at this point. “You’re running strong!” “You’ve got this!” I told myself. I pictured myself rounding the corner to the finish line and smiling with pride at the end. I thought about how I fought through the rain in the marathon and reminded myself that I could, in fact, do hard things.
None of this changed the physical conditions of the race, of course, but it made it a little easier mentally to get through those two strugglefest miles. Don’t get me wrong — they were much slower, 9:15 and 9:41, and there were walk breaks involved, but I wasn’t beating myself up.
After hitting mile 4 and coming around the Jefferson Memorial, something else kicked in. There was a short stretch of the race that ran parallel to 395, and it reminded me of running the Army Ten-Miler so many years ago, and how strong I’d become since then. Even if I didn’t feel that way yesterday, even if I was weaker and slower than my peak speed and strength, I was still stronger than I was when I left D.C. 10 years ago (it’s 10 years tomorrow, which is CRAZY to me.)
I knew the end was near, and I knew I had something left in the tank.
More importantly, I wanted to kick it in.
I had fucks left to give. One of the most difficult things about depression is not giving a fuck about anything you used to care about. I heard it phrased really well on this podcast: “you’re one want away [from the things you care about.] You want to want to do something, but you just can’t.”
But yesterday? Yesterday I had fucks to give, and they involved putting in a strong kick at the end of the race and finishing knowing I did the best with what I had that day.
And so I ran that last mile in 8:35, and it was amazing. I felt like I was flying, I felt like I was myself again, and also I saw a hot guy near the end in a Barbour jacket, Michigan hat and with a puppy in his lap. From far away, I couldn’t tell at all if it was a man or a woman, and I was convinced my BFF had stolen a puppy for me. Instead I met my future husband, and he doesn’t know it. Or, um, he was probably waiting for his wife/girlfriend. Whatever.
Sweaty and happy.
I’m not sure I will ever stop missing either having my mom at races or calling her afterwards, but I’m so glad Meg was there for a big hug afterwards. And, in case she wasn’t already the most amazing friend ever, she brought me hot coffee and my sweatshirt to warm up. I also learned that S’well bottles are for more than just water; she brought me my coffee in the bottle and it stayed warm from 8am until 3pm, which is incredibly impressive.
Since we went from NYC > Philly > DC this weekend, we have taken to saying we were on tour. You can buy tickets to the 2018 Plots and Schemes tour at this link that doesn’t exist.
There was a BRAID BAR after! I scoffed at it at first and told Meg we could go, we didn’t need to wait in line for me to get a braid…and she reminded me how much I love a good braid.
OK yes, this was worth it!
And here’s my results. I like these charts 🙂
tl;dr? Yesterday wasn’t particularly speedy, but it felt SO good to feel like myself, and to have fucks left to give again.
Last thing you did that really made you feel like yourself again? If you don’t remember… go find something!