Toward the end of my first year running I suffered an overuse injury. I competed in one more event, the Inaugural Beach to Brother 21 k trail event. At the time and for several months after it was the most difficult thing I had ever done. When I rounded the last bend into the finishing shoot they said I had 10 more meters to go. I told them I couldn’t do it.
I did, but it sucked.
After Beach to Brother I had about 6 months off from running, within the first 6 weeks of the time off I was fortunate enough to spend some time in a mental health ward. I guess running gave me a path to follow.
Once I had given my injury the time to heal, I began training for my next half marathon, Bay to Bay. I quickly set my sights on a sub 2 hour finish time. I created a meticulous play list to keep me on pace and get me across the finish line when KISS where singing Detroit Rock City (because if you wanted the best, you got the best.) I finished 8 minutes and 28 seconds slower then my intended time.
It was my personal best for that distance. I was disappointed.
What went wrong? Everything was just swell until the 12 km point, that’s when I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore and my mind quit on me. Every step after that was like running in concrete boots.
Less then 8 weeks later I ran the Dubbo Stampede Zebra Zoom half marathon. I ran it in 2 hr 25 min 25 secs, my slowest road half marathon time. There weren’t too many runners behind me and my husband was waiting for me at the finish. After I crossed the finished line I cried. And I waited. I waited to feel something, a sense of accomplishment, disappointment. Something.
I can feel something now, recalling that moment. I feel hurt. I would like to cry. Because where some may argue that running these events was an accomplishment regardless of times and rankings. Some have even argued that to push myself through when I wanted to quit was an even greater accomplishment. But my argument is really simple. It was not good enough. I had not tried hard enough, pushed hard enough or run faster enough. I, was not good enough.
I would never be good enough. At anything. When the goal is to achieve 100% perfection and that goal is set by yourself then it will never be achievable. Even if I came first overall it would be because every other runner broke their ankle, or they were sick, or there where only 5 people entered thus rendering my gold medal achievment null and void.
Not good enough.
I agonized over this insight. My house would never be clean enough, I would never work hard enough, my studies would never be studious enough. I would never be a good enough mother. Or a good enough friend. Or a good enough wife. I would never be strong enough, fit enough, smart enough, funny enough, compassionate enough. I was stung by the detached memory of past “achievements”. No wonder why I never felt any praise was warranted, if I hadn’t preformed well enough by my own standards why would anyone praise my achievements. And If I couldn’t even achieve my own goals how could I live up to anyone else.
I felt numb. My achievements, however mundane or everyday became completely meaningless. I kept running, I kept cooking and cleaning, being a mum, laughing; but it was like watching an actor playing the part. Just going through the motions and doing the bare minimum.
I had entered myself in a half marathon trail run at Bouddi National park. (I know right, what the fuck is wrong with me? I am mentally unstable. Remember?) One of my closest friends and running partners told me it would be tough (cheers.) I was scared. What if I ran this race and felt awful. What if I didn’t achieve my expectations? Or worse, what if I felt nothing?
In the lead up to the event I developed a pretty disgusting throat infection. I seriously considered changing my entry to the 14 km event, although I felt that would be a defeat before the fact. (Also, I couldn’t.) So I got out of bed, laced up my shoes and with the best support crew around (husband, daughter, mother in law, best friend and her husband) I readied myself for the inevitable 3 plus hours of mental agony that was ahead of me. I joked that my support crew may be waiting up to 6 hours (I was not too far off, as it turns out.) I nervously waited on the beach with the other crazy people (I can say it, you can’t) to run around the bush and beach and mountains and be beaten by every other runner there.
My friend was not wrong, it was hard. Harder than Beach to Brother. But I was going well. I felt strong. Hot but hydrated. Then someone said we were only 5 k’s in. Why someone would say such a thing in a 21.1 km run around hell I do not know but they did. For the next kilometer I argued with myself. The same old thing. This is too hard. I can’t do this. But then, by the 6 k mark a funny thing happened. I gave myself an ultimatum; “If you can’t do this, if you really can’t. Then there is no point. Get to the next aid station and tell them you’re done.” There was no point in crossing another finish line and feeling nothing. Or, “You can keep going and make the most of every step.” And as it is not within me to quit, that is what I did.
I smiled. I waved, congratulated and high-fived all the passing runners. I stopped at each of the aid stations and had a chat, ate their food, made inappropriate jokes about breaking my ankle. I danced and sang.
I ran (please note; I use this term very loosely) across the finish, shoes in hand, smile on my face at 3 hrs 56 mins 17 secs.
I have never felt better. I did it. I had come in first place!
I had let go of the insane pressure I was placing on myself.
In letting go I have had some of the best months of my life.
As my avid blog followers know (all 3 of you,
thanks mum) I am in the base training stage for 4 big runs this year and at this stage in my training all I want to achieve is the ability to maintain the mental fortitude required to allow myself a sense of accomplishment. To be able to run any distance without berating myself.
I know that I can finish, I have done it before. And I don’t need to win. Just to smile.
“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.”
– Laird Hamilton.
AUTHORS NOTE: I may have come a long way in the last few months but please hold the accolades and compliments. That’s just awkward.