There I was sitting in a bus with a bunch of other runners heading back to the starting line of the Chicago Marathon. We all had that aura around us of disappointment. At some point during the race, we had to bow out for reasons only we knew.
The ride back to where we stood excited several hours before as we waited to start a monumental run through the Windy City was now seen through a different light.
Not only did I have to stop for medical attention at mile 16, but I had to make the decision to stop running my first marathon. I surrendered to the medics once they couldn’t massage the knots from my legs so I could continue. It wasn’t like I had a couple miles left to go. I still had TEN miles to run, hobble and crawl through. Running with this pain was not an option, but I had to think about my role as caregiver to my children who waited for me at home.
Before this race, I was strictly a half marathon runner or less. I liked the shorter distances and never thought I’d be one to sign up for 26.2. It seemed daunting and the experience changed my view on running for a long time.
Not finishing the Chicago Marathon made me take a hard, serious look at running. Was this sport truly for me?
Running Broke Me (Physically and Mentally)
The diagnosis from my chiropractor after I got home from Chicago: plantar fasciitis. It took over my feet and after several different treatment plans from two separate doctors, I finally felt back to normal.
My current chiropractor said it would be fine to start running again once I began my maintenance treatment, but I couldn’t do it. The pain from running had taken a toll on my psyche and the mental aspect beat out the physical.
I vowed never to run again even after being an avid runner for four years. The marathon broke me.
That’s saying a lot because I began running for the mental clarity, exercise and to get a break from my children. I wasn’t in it for the rigid training schedule, the races or the competitive nature of the sport. But that part eventually took over.
My mindset told me that if I could run a 5k, I could do a 10k. And if I could do that then a half marathon would be no problem and so on and so forth. I kept challenging myself, which was great, but I didn’t know where the edge was.
Clearly, the marathon was the edge and I fell over hard into the deep, dark chasm below.
Exploring New Avenues
Running was no longer in my wheel house, but I still wanted vigorous exercising (or so I thought). I tried CrossFit. We did not fit. Maybe it was time to slow down.
I jumped back on the yoga train and 18 months later, I have a consistent daily habit. Yoga strengthened and stretched muscles I didn’t know I even had. I love the holistic aspect of yoga and how it works both your inside and outside. Although, I was a dedicated yogi, something was still missing.
Last summer, we got a puppy and our walks created a strong bond between our new family member and myself. Being out with her creates some of my best ideas and I love the time in nature.
My daily yoga practice and walks with the dog forced me to slow down. I succumbed to the fact that my days of sweaty cardio were behind me. Even with this new lifestyle, I was not comfortable with my body even as I learned to treat her more kindly.
Running was hard on my body but it made me feel good and accomplished even after a short run. Adrenaline pumped through my veins and I definitely got the elusive runner’s high. Energy sustained me throughout the day to tackle my to-do list and stay present for my kids.
A Different Approach
The question still loomed over my head. Should I go back to the sport that sidelined me for several years? What would it feel like to run again? Would my feet hate me? Would I have enough stamina to do this again?
Most importantly, if I started again: How would this time be different?
Every time I tried to start, I had a schedule but couldn’t stick to it. I would download the Couch to 5K app to my phone and follow the program. This was the app that jump started my love of running after the birth of my fourth child. It kept me on track and I had the structure I craved when my children were little.
This time around, it was too rigid and I knew I would stop before I even got started. The race training mentality flooded back and took me out of the game. What I wanted was for running to be something fun and not a chore.
Ready To Love Again
On a whim, I got up early, threw my running clothes on and grabbed the dog. The only goal was to be gone for 30 minutes. What I did within that time frame was up to me. I decided to warm up with a walk and then a fast tempo song came on and I was off.
The running came natural to me and since I was currently active, I wasn’t starting from scratch. On that first day, I did longer intervals to reach my 30 minute goal and it resulted in a calmer me.
Running is no longer about a specific distance, schedule or desired speed. It’s a way for the dog and I to get out in the morning, stretch our legs and get in a little cardio before the start of our day.
Would I like to be able to run a solid 30 minutes again, sure, but it doesn’t have to be today, next week or even next month? For now, I am happy with going back to basics: mental clarity, exercise and a whole lot of me time.