Early this past summer I accomplished what was probably one of the greatest achievements of my personal life — I ran my first half marathon.
Correction, I ran, walked, crawled, and cried my way through my first half marathon.
Granted I chose for my first marathon to be one of the hardest courses in the world — a course that began on the Great Wall of China and worked its way out into the surrounding hills and villages. So when I made it clutching my husband’s hand and sobbing across that finish line into the arms of my cheering friends– it was a moment I will remember forever.
However, since then I have been dealing with my own personal hell of an aftermath.
Apparently running took more of a toll on my body than I realized, despite all the training I had rigorously learned and practiced.
You see, running for me wasn’t always a hobby and it was a hobby that did not come easy.
Growing up, I never did sports or athletics of any kind, and any time I ever tried running I quickly grew to dislike it as I struggled to breathe and would begin to panic.
However, when I moved to Japan I found some friends who loved running, and slowly but surely they inspired me to try to learn how myself.
I learned so much through my first season of running in the Fall of 2012. After trying for seven weeks and getting to the point where I could run two miles slowly without stopping, I quickly learned that only running without any other kind of exercise was not enough. My body was weak, and I pulled a muscle which discouraged me and sent me back to the shadows for several months.
The following spring, in later February, I watched a really good friend run her first marathon. The fact that she could run 26 miles in the wind and the cold took my breath away, and suddenly come hell or high-water, gosh darn it I could at least learn how to safely run a few miles.
So I found a running coach.
A friend that if I saw right now I know (and she know’s) I would bust out sobbing, because this woman not only was my teacher, but she became a dear friend who taught me more about myself, my capabilities, and my endurance than I had ever known before.
She taught me how wearing the right kind of shoes made a huge difference in my running. She taught me how cross training exercises like swimming and yoga taught me discipline, how to control my breathing, and to increase my lung capacity. She taught me to do sprints that made me feel powerful and would push my pace to new levels.
She taught me that every runner has a day where they sit down on the side of the road crying and want to give up.
I had lots of those days.
But then I would get up again and keep trying. For some reason I kept trying and trying and trying.
On many occasions because I knew Coach would call and kick my butt if I didn’t. 😉
I reached my first 5 K race by summer, and by the end of the year I had run 3 more. I started building a comfortable base, and was running 3 miles 3-4 times a week.
Then over New Years me and my running friends convinced our spouses to go big or go home. (The fact that we all were out celebrating New Year’s might have had something to do with everyone agreeing so readily…) But sign up we did, and 5 couples signed up for the experience of a lifetime to go run a half-marathon on the Great Wall of China.
So I had a little less than six months to train.
And train I did.
I kept running 3 times a week, but I began to do intervals, speed workouts, and hill runs. I also began adding long runs on the weekends. On the non running days I increased yoga and swimming and strength training for my legs.
I ran five miles. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine.
My ten mile long run was the best run of my life. I felt like I was on wings.
My 11 and 12 mile runs were difficult but filled with determination that I would make it.
And make it I did.
All the way to China and back.
So to finish my story from the Townhall earlier this week, where we discussed two links talking about confession and running…
Some of you may remember this quote from Idelette McVicker over at She Loves Magazine that I mentioned touched me deeply:
I want women in my world who walk long and strong. I want to journey with women who have hearts set on a Hope and a future that is more beautiful than we can imagine, but feet that walk slowly.
There are seasons in which to run and there are women who need to run. I’m just not one of them.
As I mentioned this quote stopped me, because for me it had so much more meaning than just the spiritual wisdom Idelette was offering — it was everything all mixed into one — faith, life, and hard reality.
Around a month or so after running the half marathon I started having pain in my lower back. It was sporadic and hard to place. So I figured I just needed to give my body a nice break from running and it would eventually go away.
Weeks went by. It would go away and then come back. I started stretching. I began running slowly and doing just short, easy distances. I couldn’t not run and I had run through far worse pain before, when I thought about my muscle aches on that marathon — this just seemed trivial.
Well a couple of months went by and I was in the throes of moving back stateside suddenly, when I found out I got the internship that I am now in the last week of completing.
I decided if the pain kept returning I would go to a doctor about it once I got settled again. So in September I went and met with my doctor. I explained to her the various symptoms and recurring bouts of pain. She encouraged me to start watching it and noting more specifically when it occurred, for how long, etc.
Well not to bore anyone with the details, that appointment turned into a round of appointments that ended with me getting x-rays and an MRI.
Let me be the first to say, given I know family read my blog too for those of you that don’t already know, there is nothing life threatening or life impairing going on.
However, I did find out that my body and running are not meant to be.
I have a small tear in one of the disks in my lower back and early onset arthritis. The damage is minimal enough for right now that the doctor informed me it was nothing to be alarmed about or that she or any other doctor would see as enough damage for moving forward with any surgery or procedures. So her main recommendations were to A) realize that running or any high-impact exercises would not be good for me as they would only worsen the damage and to B) focus on a healthy amount of exercise and rest that prioritizes low impact exercise like biking, swimming, yoga, etc. — exercises that will help to strength my back where it is weak.
So while I am very grateful I am not sick, nor hurt worse — I have to admit I have been struggling with the outcome.
Running became such a deeply personal experience for me I have felt lost without it. I feel like I got dropped in a fog. Honestly one of my greatest tendencies in the midst of any personal struggle, is to get so busy I don’t even have to think about what is bothering me. Whether its been me seeking it out or just grateful for the distraction, my time here this semester has certainly been very full with the days somewhat blending together. All of us have those struggles and emotions we find ways to muddle through and deal with.
It’s not like there weren’t other things for me to worry over, whether it was school or being separated from my husband or the ongoing Faith journey, or you name it…
Besides, I have loved all the time with family and friends I have gotten by being here. Also although challenging in many ways I have enjoyed and appreciated most of the various work experiences I have gained through this fall. So again there was plenty to be distracted with.
But as it all draws to a close and after countless days and nights of shoving this issue in particular far, far away so I didn’t have to feel or think about it too much — there is another part of me that feels very, very tired.
Our next base is going to be a year in a very remote location, and I’m beginning to wonder if the timing is going to be just as purposeful for me as it is intended to be for my husband with the training he will be doing. For me my only real focus/job will be finishing my last year of graduate school.
I miss running so much it aches. I sense it every time I see someone running or hear a friend talk about their next run or race.
The people in my life who know me and love me have been there and are there to keep reminding me of what new exercises I can focus on, how I can be grateful its not something worse, and everything else I need to hear. I am grateful for that and for them as I have definitely needed them.
I need their positivity, their encouragement, and their perspective. Whether its the friend that reminds me of how much fun shopping for a new kind of work out clothes or athletic gear will be, or the other that reminds me if I learn how to bike well that we can do a relay triathlon where she will do the running part for me and another friend the swimming part — each friend and loved one with their wisdom, care, love, and prayers have been the shoulders I needed. But even with those loved ones, it can be so easy to just swallow the thoughts, the fears, or the bad days where nothing seems to help make the grey look anything other than dreary and murky and crawl away to hide it one more time.
This is why confession is good for the soul… I think — because if we just take a moment to whisper the truth — be it bad, sad, hard, or ugly– once spoken out loud we are given the chance to do the next right thing. (Thank you Glennon.)
Bad, sad, hard, or ugly in our lives often look very different for each one of us and vary in intensity — but comparison here always fails to acknowledge the truth that hard is still hard when it’s all you feel. (Or whatever emotion it is that is overwhelmingly all one can see and feel).
My confession? — this is hard and I’m struggling to accept it.
But I am working on it.
I have been doing yoga. I have been doing a little biking and I am planning to look at doing that more once we get settled as I miss being outside so much. I am also planning to keep meeting with the doctor to make sure I am doing everything I should be.
So I share that, not to garner pity or anything — just to share a little part of my life.
Life doesn’t ask us when it’s going to add a new burden to the plate — it just drops it.
We stumble, we learn to grip and readjust and we keep moving.
I will do that too and will be happy to share in the future the new lessons I learn in that process — but first I had to be honest and share about that day we all have — the one where I am sitting on the side of the road crying.
It’s not just what was or even what I know I will find down the road — its the swell of the moment, its the fear screaming failure, its the pride feeling kicked, its the heart aching with an unexpected loss, its the reality that giving up here is not an option, its knowing that in many ways this won’t and shouldn’t matter in terms of what really matters…
It’s learning to speak up, to swallow yet again, to blink, to stand up, to shake it off, and to keep walking knowing this is a curve but not the end of the road.
To all my loved ones out there on the road — we had the best of times and each of you made this season of my life mean so much more.
I will still be here just learning how to walk slowly for now.
But don’t you slow down, because I will grab a pair of wheels if I have to and leave you in the dust!