It happens at the end of every marathon. People who seem so strong and confident are humbled by their hubris and end up on the side of the road.
What started out as a journey with the best intentions, crumbles with everyone watching.
This past training cycle in the build up to my breakthrough race in Phoenix, I was figuratively and quite literally, on the side of the road at mile 19.
I didn’t want to post about the struggles I was having with my motivation and some of my workouts going into this, not because I didn’t want to be honest, but because I didn’t want sympathy.
I was in a place where I didn’t want to be cheered up. I just wanted to get it over with.
Everyone at some point has low days where you just don’t want to do the training. You either forgive yourself and rest or you ignore your grumpy mood and just get on with it.
More often than not, I chose the second.
But with the cold, dark days of winter dampening my spirits more and more often, I was starting to wonder why I signed up for this at all.
I wasn’t having fun.
So I cut workouts and just ran easy. I ran less than usual. I took extra breaks during the workouts I did do. I missed a lot of splits and didn’t really care. I was less strict with my diet and was 3-5 pounds heavier than what I’ve always considered to be my “race weight.”
And on my very last long run that was supposed to be 22 miles, I just stopped at 19. I was done. That would have to be good enough.
It was not all doom and gloom. I did have some bright spots, like when my mom dropped me off at top of a mountain on a snowy day and I flew down the closed road for 22 miles. Or the tough 2 x 6 miles at faster than marathon pace workout that I had to do on the treadmill which went better than I could have guessed.
So when those few confidence-building moments came, I tried to hold on to that spark for as long as I could. My goal was very reasonable; I only wanted to run 30 seconds faster than I ever had in my life.
As the race got closer, I imagined how I could rise above what was trying to bring me down. A cold winter and a less-than-ideal cycle didn’t have to stop me from achieving my big dream.
The symbol of the phoenix rising above the ashes became my visual mantra those last few weeks and during the race itself. It didn’t matter how I was feeling or what my mood was. I would rise above.
The reason I want to share this side of my ultimately happy story is because sometimes your training logs don’t tell the whole story. No one wants to bring people down with pitiful Strava posts. We want to be sunny and encouraging to each other.
But life and training is messy. Cold and clouds affect even the happiest person.
Sometimes running sucks.
The other lesson that I’m embracing is that perfection is overrated. I didn’t need to run more miles, do more workouts, or lose more weight. In fact, maybe not doing those things was a part of my success.
Ultimately, just showing up every day was what mattered most.
When we share in each other’s triumphs, in running and in life, it’s easy to think that it’s all sunny and summery.
But it probably isn’t.
We’ve all found ourselves at the side of some road at some point.
The trick is knowing that eventually, you can get back on that road and keep running.