About a year ago today I was in a van full of almost-strangers on my way up to New Hampshire. We were about to run across the entire state for a relay race known as Reach the Beach. S had asked me to fill in a spot on his long-standing team a few months prior, and being curious and wanting to spend time with him, I had said yes. Now, in the moment, I felt very shy and very nervous. I was petrified of letting the team down, even though everyone had said about 760 times that it wasn’t about speed. I didn’t care, it was for me.
See, I had been training for a marathon that summer and things hadn’t been going well. I was being extremely hard on myself and quite frankly, a Debbie downer. I expected to see results without putting the work in (mainly the speed work) and I was experiencing a long bout of insecurity. So of course I expected Reach the Beach to be a humiliating experience.
What it turned out to be was exactly the opposite. I feel like a lot of runners have that one race where they completely blow themselves out of the water, and go above and beyond their own expectations. Usually it’s a typical road race, but for me, it was this one. My first leg was just after sunset, maybe 7:30ish or so at night. It was just shy of 5 miles, and it was in rural New Hampshire (is there any other part?). There weren’t many other runners around, but I was determined to pass as many as I can (a game S likes to call ‘Road Kill.) I’m not sure how many I actually ended up passing, but I do know it was the fastest I had run, maybe ever. I average 7:46 for those 4.77 miles, a pace that was completely new to me at the time. I was ecstatic by the end of it and so was S. Neither of us had expected me to do that well. While my following legs got a little bit slower, I was tremendously proud of my performance. I had realized my potential and was getting high off of the possibilities.
After that weekend I approached running in an entirely different way. I committed to a speed workout every single week, and listened to my body better than I ever had before. What it resulted in was a year full of PRs, and significant ones too. I shaved over 20 minutes off of my marathon time, and almost 15 minutes off of my half marathon time. Most importantly, I was kinder to myself, by a lot. I stopped comparing myself to others, and started to actually be proud of myself and what I was capable of. It was a much-needed change.
This morning, a year later, I sent S off while I’m side-lined with this injury. But instead of being sad and bitter I’m just trying to cherish the memory and appreciate how far I’ve come in a single year.