Around this time a year ago, I was beginning my Boston Marathon training. I was coming off an injury (as you may remember), getting back into shape, and hitting paces I had never hit before. I was head-over-heels-obsessed with running and the progress I was making. Back then, I didn’t understand (much less relate to) any article I saw about de-prioritizing running or running slumps.
Why would anyone willingly take a break from running? It was incomprehensible.
Then the Boston Marathon happened.
About ten or so days before the race, I was checking the weather every 7 minutes, as we psychotic runners tend to do. The forecast looked amazing—for spectators, that is. Highs in the 80s (i.e. an unfamiliar Hell for all of us who had been training in the midst of a New England winter). In a desperate, desperate attempt to be optimistic/delusional, I tried not to think about it too much. After all, weather forecasts are wrong all the time, and even if it was right, it didn’t matter. I had trained my butt off, a little heat was not going to stop me from PRing.
My confidence/delusion began to really waver about a week before the race. A teammate I had been training with said to me, “I feel bad for all of us, but I feel the worst for you. You’re in the best shape of your life and it’s going to be a tough one.” Guys, I still think about this comment. He didn’t say it to be malicious (he is hands-down one of the nicest humans I’ve ever met), he was just stating the truth. I just didn’t realize exactly how true it was at the time.
When I stepped up to the starting line on race day, it was 81 degrees. I was already sweating in my singlet and shorts and I hadn’t even started running. But when the gun went off, I was still holding on to my tiny bit of a confidence/delusion. Even if I didn’t run a 3:20, the chances of a PR were still high.
Photo of me at mile 10. My shirt looks deceivingly dry. The friends I hugged at this point in the race can confirm that I was in fact, drenched.
The beginning of the race went well. I succeeded in going out slow and I was beginning to run my goal pace. (Keep in mind this goal pace was determined with a 50-60 degree day in mind.) I held on until about mile 15. Then I began to slowly but surely fall apart.
I ended up crossing the finish line in 3:45, more than 20 minutes off my goal time and 13 minutes past my personal best and qualifying time. But in the moment, I didn’t feel anything else besides relief that it was over.
Over the following days, I learned that most of us on the Team had had a rough race. Nearly everyone ran much slower than they had expected. In 80 degree weather, it couldn’t be helped. But my God, my heart ached. It wasn’t until several weeks after the race I broke down and yelled (sorry S) and shed some real tears over it.
What came to follow was my break up with running. It wasn’t a conscious decision at first. In the beginning, I justified it as “recovery.” Then the move to Denver happened and “life just got busy.” Then “altitude” and “the heat.” But really, I just fell out of love. During that time running brought me more stress and sadness than relief and happiness. I was still very angry about how it failed me back in April and how I had failed myself.
We were broken up for about six months. While we still saw each other sometimes, I just wasn’t ready to put my heart into it again and I was scared about the time we spent apart.
It wasn’t until the day after the election when my feelings started to creep back in. I think I was just looking for anything familiar and at least somewhat reliable. And despite our falling out, running was that thing for me. It forgave me for our time apart (my legs and lungs are still getting over it) and welcomed me back with open roads. Because the thing is, running really is like any real relationship: destined for rough patches. But if you’re lucky and persistent as all Hell, you’ll come out the other side even stronger than before.