Where my demons hide

On some random website several months ago, I saw a discount code for a half marathon near me that fell roughly a month after my marathon. Seeing it seemed like a sign from the universe because it would end up being roughly 1 year after I ran my first half marathon.   It felt good to think I’d still be capable of doing it a year later. Sort of like proof that I had successfully maintained the progress I had made on my health kick. It also seemed fitting to run it to see where I’m at in comparison with last year. So I signed up.

It felt sort of personal and mine and just a box I wanted to be able to check off inside my head. So when my husband was asking if I wanted him to drive me, I really meant it when I told him there was no need. And the day of the race he felt bad for not bringing the kids to watch and I meant it when I told him it was fine and that it wasn’t about anything like that.

I signed up by myself. Didn’t tell anyone besides my husband I was doing it. Drove myself there. Rode the bus to the starting line by myself. And then I ran it by myself. And even all of that felt like part of the process. Proof that I am strong and capable and that the drive comes from within me not from any outside source. Other people can feel proud of me. But even if they don’t, it still feels worthy and good and complete. And that matters.  Because the healthy changes I’ve made in my life won’t last if the drive doesn’t come from within me. And I want the changes to no longer even be changes. I want them to be so much a part of who I am that it’s no longer a change. And that the period when I wasn’t strong and capable was actually the out of the ordinary period.
This is the face of a woman that got up early and is ready to get the show on the road.
Leading up to the half marathon, my theory was that if I ran 26.2 miles a month before, 13.1 wouldn't turn my legs to jello.  So the distance seemed doable.  The only question mark in my head was how fast I’d get it done.

I’ve done 2 previous half marathons and my time for both was around 2:25. I was fine with those times and mostly just proud of myself for going couch to half marathon in 6 months.  So I acclimated to not caring that I am a relatively slow runner. My pace is typically somewhere between a 10 to 11 minute mile. If I’m only going 3 miles, I don’t need to save any gas in the tank and I can do 3 miles in 29 minutes. But if I’m going longer distances, this female right here saves some gas in the tank. 6 miles and my body seems to think 10:30 leaves enough in the tank.  Anything over 9 and my body seems to go with an 11 minute mile. I also walk when I drink water and take bathroom breaks. 2:25 seems to incorporate all of that and that was my time.

But as this half marathon approached, I realized that I didn’t want to just prove to myself that I could still do it. I realized that it had been a year since I did 2:25. And that in that year, I’ve been persistent and continued to make progress. And that’s when I knew I really wanted to beat my 2:25 time. I started calculating what I thought I could do and what I hoped I could do. I was clearly smoking crack because when I signed up for the race I even had the nerve to list my target time as 2:15.

While training for my marathon, I didn’t do any speed training. Meaning, I never once made an effort to work on getting faster. I’m not an expert on how to get faster anyway. But I have read about different speed work exercises you can do. And I consciously made the decision that it wasn’t about speed and just focused on finishing without injury.

On the other hand, at my marathon I finished the first 13 miles in roughly 2:30 so if I didn’t have to save any gas in the tank for another 13 miles, I figured I should be capable of doing it a little faster. So beating 2:25 didn’t seem like such a pipe dream.

So then it was all about seeing if I could.
That morning was cold, dark and windy as hell. It was also super crowded. The first 3 miles were hard as always. I thought about how stupid I was for going.  That I don't need to pay to run 13.1 miles and could just do that for free anytime I want.  I reminded myself that I ran a marathon a month before and had nothing left to prove. I reminded myself that I was tired and had to go to work the next day and why tire myself out before another long week.

Then Demons by Imagine Dragons came on in my headphones. And that’s when I realized that’s where my demons hide. They hide right inside my head and try to tell me I can’t do stuff.
So I sang along and kept going. Because that race right there was my kingdom come.

I ran when I didn’t feel like it. I ran when my fingers were so cold I could barely get my little fruity energy chews out of the bag. I ran when the hills were sapping my will to live. I ran when the wind was 17 miles an hour blowing into our faces for half the race. I ran after shaking off having to use a port o potty with no toilet paper.

Even having walked every water station and 1 bathroom break, I was at mile 10 in an hour and 48 minutes. I knew I was a 5K from whatever my finishing time would be and that I was on pace to beat 2:25. If I ran hard I knew I could even get 2:20. I knew my time was completely up to me and that it was just a matter of how much I wanted it. If I gave up, I could even finish slower than 2:25. If I didn’t give up, a better time was mine.

That’s where my demons hide.

My demons reminded me that I don’t care about time. My demons reminded me that of course I’ve made progress since last year and I didn’t need some stupid race time to prove that. I am a marathoner. I did that. What does a half marathon matter having climbed that mountain.

That’s where my demons hide.

I started playing my stupid alphabet game naming categories of things letter by letter. My favorite category was "Words to describe my health kick." Things like tough, persistent, goal oriented. Then my brain tried to suggest I name words I used to describe myself before my health kick. And I realized calling myself negative names was sapping my pride and the power I felt to see me through this race. So I stopped at the letter F and went back to dedicated, motivated and strong. 

That's where my demons hide.

And then there was only a mile left.   My husband called my cell phone and I answered called out loud and pretty out of breath, “Last mile! Can't talk! Have to run!” Then I hung up and kept going.

And I thought again about how stupid it is to care about time.  Finishing is winning.  I'd told myself that repeatedly about my  marathon.   And it's only a mile.  Even if I walked it at a 15 minute mile I'd probably still bring it in just under 2:25.

That’s where my demons hide.

And then it was the final ½ mile. Barricades started on either side to block us off from spectators. And I started running faster knowing this was it. If I wanted it I needed to do it and do it then. I was passing people. People that had let their demons get to them and were walking. They were in front of me before so I knew they could run and run well for over 2 hours. But they had let their demons tell them walking it in would be okay. And I wanted to shout to them that they could do it and don’t give up. But I was a panting mess. Because I was running. Running so much faster than I had been. And I pulled up that stupid mantra I made up for myself to use during my marathon. And I told myself, I am a marathoner. And I choked up realizing that this time when I said it while running, I really was. And then I felt proud and told myself the mantra I'll be able to using for the rest of my life when something is difficult, "If I can run a marathon, I can totally do this."

And there was a guy in a blue “Who do you run for?” sleeveless shirt and he was encouraging some random girl he didn’t know that had just stopped running as we was passing her. He was calling back to her, “Don’t stop now. You can do it. This is the part where you see what you’re made of.” And  it was beautiful and I wanted him to just keep talking me through to the finish line. But he wasn’t going fast enough so I had to pass him. Because I was running. Still so much faster than I had been.

And then I thought I was at the finish line.  Because there was scaffolding for photographers going across the top of the course and apparently I'm an idiot who think scaffolding means finish line.  So I sprinted my heart out to get there. And then I saw the 13 miles marker and knew it wasn’t the finish and I’d just sprinted my heart out and had .2 miles left to go. And I felt like an idiot. A panting idiot no less.  Frantically trying to catch my breath because I only had .2 miles to pull myself together.  I had to decide quickly what I was going to do. Sprint again or give up.

And then I saw the finish line. The real one this time.  And the sides of the chute were crammed with cheering people. And I wanted so badly to finish well and beat that time. And I said to hell with it and started sprinting my heart out again.

And I started to wonder what would happen if I couldn’t get enough oxygen. And then I wondered if I’d fall out on the floor. And I wondered if I couldn't make it and had to slow down again.

That’s where my demons hide.

But I was supposed to be running as hard as I could. And if I had time to overthink my oxygen intake and potentially falling out, I clearly wasn’t running fast enough. So I ran even faster. The entire last .1 mile I was chanting to myself repeatedly, “Run. Run. Run. Run. Run.” And in that moment as I decided to give it everything I had, that was my kingdom come.
My legs were taking the biggest strides I could and my arms were pumping as hard as they could and I was leaning and stretching forward with every step. And I ran it in as fast as I am capable of. And then it was done. 2:20. My kingdom come.

I didn’t need a time to tell me I’m not the same girl I was a year ago. I’ve lost more weight since then. I wear a smaller pants size. I’ve set intimidating goals for myself and accomplished them. I’ve fallen off the wagon with cruddy eating and gotten back on the wagon again. And I’ve continued to make it my goal to do the best I can day in and day out.

I didn’t need a special finish time to tell me how far I’ve come in the last year. I know.   But it still felt really good.  Wow.

This is my kingdom come.

A year from now I hope it’s not my kingdom come anymore. Because I hope I continue to progress. Because 2:20 is totally beatable. Plenty of people regularly smoke that time. But it’s about progress not perfection. And that’s what I’ve made.

Who knows? Maybe next year I’ll even do some speed work to get ready.  Just thinking that puts a smile on my face. Because it means I know there will be a next time. And because it means there’s something new I haven’t tried.  

This is my kingdom come.


Cara Zimmer said...

I think this is my favorite post EVER! I might even print it out and read it while running (or wanting to quit running) on the treadmill. And, I will never listen to that song the same way....:)

The Running Nurse said...

This is by far my favorite blog post of yours! I will print this and reread it as I am preparing for my half marathon and marathon later this year. Thank you! You rock!

Shan said...

Just amazing!

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