I did not run the Chicago Marathon.
I signed up to run the Chicago Marathon. I trained for it. I dreamed about it. It was the day after my 44th birthday. I had built it up to be a kick ass initiation into my 44th year on this planet. My husband and kids would be cheering me on in my second race ever. It was my first official marathon, but second marathon distance in the short period of 14 months of running…EVER. To top it off, my teacher and mentor, whom I adore, was running also. Ahead of me for sure, but a cool shared experience to celebrate a year of hard work together.
But when race day came, I was on the sidelines cheering on the other runners.
My knee had been acting up during training, then became an injury during the 20 mile “dress rehearsal” a month before the marathon. There was some debate about whether this would be able to heal enough to run the marathon. I met with a doc, a physical therapist, and my teacher/chiropractor. I made the decision to sit it out.
I couldn’t write about it because I was in the middle of a “shame storm”. (As Brene Brown would say in her book “Daring Greatly”) First, I was beating myself up for the beginner’s mistakes I had made. Such as, switching to new shoes so close to the race. Changing my running strategy in the 20 mile run. Not STOPPING when the pain began (pretty much mile 1 that day). My grit was overruling my common sense. These things cost me the race.
Second, I was struggling with my decision to sit out the race. There was that little mean voice inside us all that likes to kick us when we are down. It was saying, “What a wimp! You are just afraid. You could do it if you were tough enough. You are too much of a loser to overcome your fears and live bravely. You defeated yourself because you knew you couldn’t do it in the first place. Everybody sees you are really a fake.” I know that is so mean right? It is hard to believe we will say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to anyone else.
I viewed it as a big fat failure.
Then time went by. (Big healer of lots of things) I began to do physical therapy and my knee began to heal.
I got to see Brene Brown speak on shame and vulnerability. She talked about the tight rope we walk between basing our self-image on what other people think v/s not caring what anyone thinks. She talked about creating a very small list of the people in your life whose opinion matters. These are people who don’t just love you in spite of your weakness and vulnerabilities, but because of them. I began thinking about my small list of people. I realized that NONE of them saw this as the failure I thought it was. I started to listen to what they had to say instead of that mean voice I was using on myself. I realized that I was holding this one race up as the measuring stick for success in running. I wasn’t giving myself any credit for all that I HAD accomplished over the past year. Running has totally changed my life…FOR THE BETTER. Even the humbling experience of disappointment and missing out was character development in its own way.
Some more time went by. I was able to run again. This time I balanced it more with core training and swimming. I started to see my body become stronger even though I was not doing the same volume of mileage. I even began to get a little faster.
Then I began reading “Running with the Mind of Meditation” by Sakyong Mipham. He talks about the idea in meditation that “with aggression, you may accomplish some things, but with gentleness, you can accomplish all things. The word gentleness …is associated with wisdom and power because it is considered the antidote to aggression. Gentleness is like water-it will eventually reach its goal. Aggression is like fire-it is quick and then it is gone.” He then goes on to say, “Applying gentleness to running keeps our mind from becoming totally critical or getting into other extreme states. Gentleness allows us to keep our eye on the prize without getting infatuated and without losing heart.”
So that is what finally moved me to sit down and write about this marathon that wasn’t. I was definitely very aggressive with myself. I can see the value and benefit of a gentler approach. I agree wholeheartedly with his take on gentleness with yourself in running. Actually I think it applies to most things in my life.
The gentler I am with my kids, the gentler they are with themselves and each other.
The gentler I am with my husband, the gentler and kinder he is back to me.
The gentle approach of Cranial Sacral Therapy that I am learning appeals to me. The idea being that sometimes the harder you push; the harder the push back. Being gentle can be just the thing that slips past our resistance to change, healing, progress and invites us to move forward.
I didn’t run the Chicago Marathon 2012. But I am ok with that now. Ok enough to finally write about it. There will be another chance if I want it. What I have learned will help me be a more experienced and wiser runner. I am still moving forward and becoming stronger and kinder. Kinder to myself and those around me.