Road to the Hamilton Marathon: Maturity is a gift

I’m training for my fifth marathon, and I’ve never had so much fun or felt so good about the work I’m doing.

That is the greatest gift of experience. My workouts are better because I can handle the physical strain thanks to 16 years of running and because I know how to handle the stress and strain mentally.

In years past, I’ve worried about whether or not I could finish a workout and on occasion, cut things short because I worried myself right into a weakened physical state.

There’s also the stress and strain from my job. I’m a newspaper reporter. To give you an idea, Forbes listed the job as the worst one in America. We finally beat out (if you want to call it that) lumberjack, our longtime nemesis, for the undesirable title. Stress and anxiety, which I have had in abundance, makes everything more difficult. It constricts my chest and gives me the sensation that I can’t breathe. It makes sleeping difficult. And it makes me feel physically weak. All I want to do is hide in my bed or sit on my couch and watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and Gilmore girls. Oy with the poodles already.

Thanks to several years of introspection, reflection, learning and work, I’m slowly loosening the grip anxiety has on me. With that, my running is improving. I’m smarter about my goals; I don’t have to get everything now.

One past mistake I’d made was trying to go straight for a 3:30 marathon. My PR is 3:53. This year at the Hamilton Marathon, my goal is 3:45. It’s a much more reasonable goal and much less scary. The workouts, with a goal mile pace of 8:30, are more attainable. At 27, I have many years of improvement ahead of me. Finally, I don’t feel like I have to get there immediately. Progress takes time.

And yet.

With the joy of clicking off miles, hitting my workouts and successfully battling the heat, there are seeds of doubt in my mind.

“This won’t continue,” says that rotten voice in the back of my mind. “Something will come up again. Your iron levels will drop. You’re going to become too fatigued and not do your workouts. Your hamstring could start acting up again.”

That voice. That voice is always there whenever I hit my stride.

Thanks to Brene Brown, I understand the voice is shame. It’s some weird part of all of us that tells us we are not good enough.

Shame will never completely go away, but we can learn to outwit it and shut it down before it becomes overwhelming. I’ve learned to tell that voice to back off and shut the hell up. The only true failure in life is not trying. This is where maturity (and Brene Brown’s incredible work) comes in.

I will own the good days and the bad, and I will not fear what might happen and what is to come. In running, in relationships and in work, I have overcome difficulties and failures, and at times, they have beaten me. But every time, I have risen and returned stronger and wiser than before.

When I step on that line Nov. 1, I’ll know I gave training everything I had, and I’ll be prepared to give everything on the marathon course.

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4 thoughts on “Road to the Hamilton Marathon: Maturity is a gift

  1. We sound like we are in much the same place! I too am training for Road2Hope. my third marathon and hopefully my redemption run after everything falling apart in the 2014 Ottawa Marathon. I have a much slower goal time (I’ll be thrilled with a 4:29) but more than anything I want to appreciate the race and the journey that I take to get there. I have done my best to eliminate that voice you talk about and instead listen to the voice that tells me it is amazing how strong my body is and it can rise to any challenge with hard work and perseverence. I have actually caught myself smiling when running up hills, reminding myself that with each step I am accomplishing things I never thought I could.
    Best of luck with you training and race day!

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  2. You too! It’s amazing how much better we can do as runners when we can turn around the negative mental chatter.

    At the 2014 Grandma’s Marathon, I was physically done at mile 16, so the final 10 miles were like a death march in which I drank beer. I actually think the beer helped.
    But I think falling apart like that was good in the overall scheme of running; I learned a ton, and my next marathon four months later was a PR and one of my best races ever.

    Be sure to let me know how things go!

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    1. At The Ottawa Marathon I started to feel dizzy and nauseous at 8k – 5 miles!!! I couldn’t believe it. Crossing one of the bridges from Quebec into Ontario I actually had to hold on to the railing. I was terrified someone would pull me off the course. Still not sure what happened though it was the first hot weekend that year with high humidity. The last half of the race I did way more walking than running. It was soooo discouraging seeing several pace bunnies pass me by. But like you, some positives came out of it, including running a half marathon 4 weeks later and taking almost 6 minutes off my PB.
      Right now I am feeling really positive and the Hamilton course looks fantastic! It is good to feel excited about a marathon again, rather than dreading it. Here’s to a great race for both of us! I’ll be posting updates on my blog too.

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      1. Yikes! Heat and humidity are my enemies. I melt. Very dramatically. I’m very hopeful we won’t have to worry about heat in November.

        It’s great that you were able to get a use the fitness and get a big half marathon PR!

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