For eight consecutive days, I was sick enough not to run. While I laid around my apartment watching the Office or going through the motions at work in a sudafed daze, I couldn’t help but ruminate on the idea that my time off would seriously hamper my training. Eight days and two long runs. That’s a lot to give up.
On the 9th day, I woke up and headed out for the first group run of my local marathon training group (organized by Fleet Feet). I ignored the freezing rain that kept the roads empty, and
slid drove to the Arboretum. I arrived and found one car, the organizer, who was there to tell me that the run had been cancelled on account of the sheet ice everywhere. I went home, put on my pajamas, curled up with my disappointment and a good book. It was the 9th consecutive DOR (day of rest).
As much as I hate the expression, get’er done, I decided it was the only defense I had against my dread towards the treadmill. I’d go to the gym, tune out everyone else, get on the treadmill and get’er done. The whole treadmill experience is less like exercise and more like torture for me. I sit and watch my miles tick by .01 at a time. The entire run I am convincing myself, “Ok, just three more minutes.” Then when they come and go, I force myself to run through 3 more. This is not the head-clearing, relaxing release of outside running. This is a stressful endeavor. The minute the meter hits my goal distance, I punch that stop button with pure satisfaction.
I tried the track, with its 10 laps per mile, and found myself completely unable to keep track of which lap I was one. My last track run, I counted backwards from thirty and to entertain myself, I dedicated each lap to remembering what I did on that birthday. The first lap I imagined what I wanted next year’s birthday (my 30th) to look like. The second lap, I remembered this year’s birthday and so on. It was a great way to pass the time; I actually had a solid memory of each one back to 17. The problem is, in all the fun, I totally forgot that I had already run 1.5 miles. I ended up running much longer than I intended to and didn’t realize the miscalculation until the next day. The unfortunate thing that came out of those additional 10 laps was that on lap 8 I got a sharp pain in the outer edge of my left foot. It hasn’t gone away. I am icing it after every run, taking a lot of ibuprofen, and trying to convince myself that injury is temporary.
I guess weeks 3-5 were punctuated with fear. First of missing training due to illness. Then fear of the treadmill and all the mindnumbing boredeom it brings. Finally, of my foot pain and being unsure what it is and how to proceed. When I realized this, that I’ve been bottling up fear for three weeks, I took a closer look at it. At the root of it, I am afraid of failing: of either not running the marathon or of starting but not finishing.
So, I ask myself, what is failure other than cheating yourself of your best efforts? Sure, forces out of my control may conspire to keep me from running. Isn’t that life’s job; throwing the unexpected at you and waiting to see what you do? My job is not to evaluate those forces, pinpoint their origins, or understand why they arrived. My job is to train as well as I can and to believe that I will finish the marathon. Those are the two things I can control.
Today, I ran with the marathon training group for the first time and it was great. Good company muffles pain’s cries and accelerates time’s pace. I ran my scheduled 8 miles. When I got into my car, my foot ached and I was coughing yellow into the vicks-infused kleenexes that’ve become my sidekick.
I haven’t felt that good in weeks.
For that, I am grateful.