THE END IS JUST THE BEGINNING
Half marathon training is officially done. No race, no medal, no finish line. Just 20+ weeks of struggle and triumph.
It's not an easy decision to make this close to race day, even if it is the right decision for me at this point in my running journey. While there were numerous factors that played into my ultimate decision to not race 13.1 in just a few short weeks, there were two main factors. Not being strong enough (physically/mentally), and losing my love of running. So, without further ado, let's get into those factors, what I've taken away from these 4+ months of training, and what my running future looks like.
I had a really good 9 miler on Sunday (August 19th). Which, is pretty surprising considering just how hungover I was all day Saturday. Everything went off without a hitch. I had my gel 4.5 miles in, only had to make one more stop around the 7 mile mark to convince myself I really did have 2 miles left in me, and finished strong. By strong, I mean a 9:29 mile 8 and a 9:34 mile 9. I felt proud, excited about my performance. Sure, I had my fair share of rough points during miles 4-7, but I was able to pull myself through them and finish with my head held high.
Yesterday, I had what can only be described as a hangover from a long run+heavy leg day combo.
I woke up feeling crazy sore and also weirdly nauseous. So, even though it goes against everything I believe in/stand for when it comes to my workout routine, I went back to bed and opted to take a rest day. Which, right then and there, had me thinking that now wasn't the ideal time to be getting ready to tackle 13.1 miles. The physical/mental strength necessary to cover that distance is enormous. Heck, I had enough pelvic pain to deal with during today's 5.7 miler, I can't even imagine if today had been race day. On top of that, the closer race day has gotten, the more my anxiety has gone up.
It's not something I talk about a lot, especially when it comes to my running, but it's always been there. The what ifs. The not good enough/fast enough/skinny enough feeling. The difference is, when you have the kind of pressure that comes along with training for (and running) a race as big as your first half...all of those feelings get magnified times a thousand. You suddenly realize, that it doesn't matter how much you run, how much physical effort you put into your miles, because the mental side of running will ultimately have the final say on how you perform. And, quite frankly, I know I'm not in a place where I'm strong enough to push past the pain when things get tough or I get overwhelmed mid race by all the people.
Secondly, I don't want to let a bad race day experience ruin my relationship with running.
I can't tell you how many horror stories I've heard of people losing their shit over a poor race performance or DNFing (not finishing). I simply can't imagine a world in which I either lose the joy/happiness that running gives me (aka it becomes a chore) or a world in which I take off months and months from running. It's just not something I would ever want to be faced with as an option. And, still, I can see it becoming a real possibility if I were to have a horrific race day experience. I can see myself losing faith in my running abilities, no longer seeing myself as a "real" runner all because of one single shitty run.
I've said it before, and I'll probably say it another thousand or so times, I love running. It is who I am. It is the one activity/hobby/thing that is mine. My time to just loose myself and be free of every stress. Every worry. It makes me a better and stronger person overall. I don't feel like myself when I go days on end without running. I feel off somehow, like a part of me is missing. Right now, there is no way on earth I would want to risk losing that love/joy/high that is my relationship with running. It's too much a part of who I am.
It's hard to really put into words everything I have gotten out of these past 20 weeks of training.
I found out that I am capable of so much more than I ever though possible. I learned to finally feel comfortable with calling myself a runner, and running in a sports bra and not giving any fucks about what other people thought. I learned to stop hitting the panic button, and to run unapologetically. I learned just how good it can feel to run through the pain, even when it's not the smartest thing to do. I realized just how important it is to take time off/listen to your body when the pain becomes too much, and just how good it can feel to get in a 30 minute walk outside while injured.
I became the gel master when it came to long runs. I knew exactly where I needed to stop to take my gels. I learned to take my time, drink my entire packet, and enjoy that short break. I embraced running in any conditions this crazy Iowa weather decided to throw my way: rain, wind, lightening, thunder, heat, humidity, fog, and of course the dark. I came up with countless mantras to get me through the rough patches/struggle bus moments, and realized just how motivating it can be to wave at people during your darkest/I can't do this moments.
In short, these past several months have training have not been a waste. They have completely changed the way I look at running, and myself as a runner/person.
The only regret I have, is thinking that I had to place that bet on myself to get these results. To get this far along in my own running journey. I regret thinking I had run an actual race as opposed to just a super long distance on my own, to be seen as a serious/legit runner. I know now, that I didn't need any of that. All I needed, was to just believe in myself. To believe that with hard work, dedication, and consistency, I could run for forever. Through anything and everything that life threw my way. Because, as Maren Morris so eloquently puts it, "it's the lows that make the highs so great."
So, what's next? I've asked myself that question a lot over the past few days. I'd like to run the actual 13.1 distance on my own, but in another 2 or 2.5 months when it cools off and I know I am 100% ready physically and mentally. I don't want it to be a big huge deal either, just another Sunday long run. Taking in the sights/sounds of nature, and appreciating each mile. Each pain free step. Because, if I've learned anything at all this summer, it's to NEVER take running for granted. Ever.