Hitting the "wall" and breaking through - The story of a runner
Thursday, November 21, 2013
For those of you who don't know, I started running in July. When I started I could barely run a mile, but I stuck with it and ran 3 times a week religiously, until I made it to 10 miles on October 12th which was my record. That gave me the confidence to sign up for a half marathon on Thanksgiving Day, which was a big move for me, since I have never ran an official race of any kind. Shortly after signing up for my half, I started getting scared that I would not be able to make it to 13.1 miles. Everyone told me that if I could run 10, I could run 13.1, but I was doubtful. So I decided to try and run my own "unofficial" half marathon before my official one.
So on October 20th I ran 13.1 miles, a huge, huge, huge milestone in my life. I ran it in 2 hrs 38 min with an average pace of 12:05. Having no training whatsoever, and in running shoes that were in a sad state, I ended up hurting my ankle on my run, and had to take 26 long days off of running before my ankle was strong enough for me to start back up.
Friday was my first time back running after those 26 days. I ran 3.1 miles, which was my goal, because I did not want to push myself too hard, in case my ankle was not completely healed. The run went fine and I vowed to double my mileage on my next run, which was on Monday. Well, let me tell you, on that run I thought I was going to die. Not because of ankle pain. Thankfully there was none. However I felt like I was running in mud. It was like my body had completely forgotten how to run. I wanted to quit at mile 4, I thought I would die at mile 5, and honestly it was a miracle that I made it to mile 6.2. When I got done, I was devastated to see that it took me 1 hr 24 minutes to complete my 10K, so my average pace per mile was 13:34. I have NEVER in my life, not even on my first long run, had a pace that bad. I tried not to focus on my time though. I tried to focus instead on the fact that I had doubled my mileage in 3 days after a 26 day break from running and that was not too shabby. I vowed to do 8 miles on Wed. which brings me to last night.
My mom usually keeps my son while I run, but she had to be somewhere at 6:30 and I can't get to the gym until almost 5 so I knew that there was no way I could run 8 miles. I figured I would just run another 10K, and postpone my 8 mile run to Friday. Well, I get my run on and sure enough, by the time I got to about 3.5 miles I could feel my body starting to give out. I was hitting the wall, and I was hitting it big time. I told myself that I would stop at 4 miles. I knew that I would have felt like a failure but I also knew I just did not have much left. When 4 miles came around I told myself I would push myself to 4.5 miles. I have this thing where I only allow myself to look at my Garmin to see how many miles I have run after every 2 songs on my Ipod. I always tell myself "just 2 more songs" and that help gets me through. Well after the second song since the last time I looked at my Garmin, I was at 4.57 miles. i told myself that I could make it to 5 but i knew that there was no way I could make it to 6.2 miles. Sure enough 5 miles came around and I was done. My body had nothing left to give. I had hit the wall. I had hit it hard. I felt like a failure. I felt like I was taking backward steps in my running. I had pretty much decided then and there that I was not going to run my half marathon on Thursday. I pretty much decided that I had lost my ability to run, and that it was time to face the music.
On my last lap, the one that would get me to 5 miles, this young girl motioned at me, and I took my headphones off to see what she was saying. She said "You are doing great!" and she gave me a thumbs up sign and looked at me with awe. She was young and fit and she was looking at ME, this 41 year old, overweight, panting like a thirsty dog, woman with amazement. There are not enough words to describe how pivotal this moment was for me. I am being honest, I really was on my last lap, and for me to quit at mile 5 (something I do not think i have ever done, quit before I reached my goal), would have shaken my confidence so bad I might not have ever run again.
I was so moved by this moment, this girl who was complimenting me, that I kept on running. Her words were like a wrecking ball, smashing "the wall" that I had hit, breaking through. When I finished the entire 6.2 miles, I remember thinking that even though I completed my run, there was no way I would be able to complete my half marathon in enough time to get my medal. They close the course after 3 hours, and with over a 13:34 min per mile pace, I would cross the finish line with only 5 minutes to spare. That does not give me very much wiggle room. So there I was, in a mixed state of emotion, feeling proud that I had completed my run, grateful that I had broken through the wall, but unconfident about my upcoming marathon. I still feel like I had lost something during my 3 weeks off of running that I was not going to be able to get back.
Then I looked at my Garmin watch. I had completed the 10K in 1 hr 13 min which is an average pace of 11:50. I had shaved almost 2 full minutes off of my average pace from the 10K I ran 2 days prior. I almost started crying. I guess I haven't lost my running mojo after all. I left the gym feeling excited about my upcoming half marathon, and I can't stop thinking of how awesome that medal is going to look around my neck.
Friday I will run 8 miles, and Sunday I will run 10, and then no more long runs for me until race day on Thursday. Wish me luck and keep me in your prayers. Completing this half marathon means everything to me. I am a recently separated newlywed. My husband broke my heart and he almost broke my spirit, and I have been trying so hard to prevail. Everyone tells me how much better off I am without him and I know they are right, but there is something about having tangible evidence of bettering yourself when you are no longer with the one you thought was "the one." It is hard to explain but this medal represents everything I know I am capable of, and all the things that he was holding me back from. It was like he held me down in so many ways. I was drowning when I was with him and I did not even realize it. Running has become my life raft. My sanctuary. My sanity. I would never have even made it past 8 miles if I was still with him. I probably would not still be running at all.
Running is how I have kept from falling into a depression at the demise of my brand new marriage (we separated only 1 month after we got married on July 13th of this year), but in the process, I have discovered just how strong I really am. At first it was like coming back to life. Then it became an awakening. Now it is a rebirth. I am Shelby 2.0. The new and improved version of myself. This is what being away from my abusive husband has done for me. This is how running has helped me. This is how running has saved me.
Next Thursday I am running for so much more than a medal and bragging rights of being an official half marathoner. I am running because it is time I look at myself the same way that the girl in the gym did. With pride. With awe. With respect. I should look at myself like that already, since I have lost 83 lbs in the last 3 years, quit smoking for 2 years, earned my Bachelor's degree in May, graduating with honors, even though I was a single mother the entire time I was killing myself in school. However I really feel that completing this half marathon will be the key element in finally realizing how strong I am, and how much potential I really have. This will be such a huge win for me. The more I run, the less I think about Greg. The more I run, the easier it is to let go of him and the more I start to love myself.
Running might come easy for a lot of you. I don't really know. I am too new of a runner with not enough running friends to really know how hard or easy it is for you to do. For me though, it is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Before EVERY SINGLE RUN that I do, I am scared that I won't be able to do it. That is how hard it is for me. The fear that I will not be able to complete my goal is so palpable you can cut it with a knife. I don't think I have ever completed a run and had the though "that was easy" or even "that was not as hard as I thought it was going to be". it is ALWAYS hard for me. I am ALWAYS having to push myself beyond my limits to complete my run. I guess that is why I am so euphoric when my runs are complete. Because of how hard they are for me to do.
My name is Shelby. I am a runner. I am an unofficial half marathoner. This Thanksgiving I will become an official half marathoner. This is my story. Well part of it anyway. This is why running means so much to me.