When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade I was given a school assignment in which we had to choose three words to describe ourselves. Apparently I found this task a bit difficult, because I remember asking my dad for help. And after asking him for a word, he simply replied, “You are relentless. You never give up.” I thought for a second and asked “Is that a good thing?” He looked up at me and said “Yes. It is a very good thing.” This simple conversation came to mind when I was running the Capital City River Run Half Marathon last weekend. I’ve always been a runner, but I didn’t get into long distance running until a few years ago. After my first race, I was hooked. And I started to plan my fall season around the training plan for whichever races I wanted to run that year.
But this year, my training cycle wasn’t quite as invigorating and exciting. To be honest, it was a bit brutal. I’ve been battling the same stomach issues I started having before our wedding, which has made training less than enjoyable. Instead of feeling strong and confident each week as I added an extra mile onto my Saturday long run, I was left feeling weak and run down. Dealing with stomach pain and nausea while you are running 9,10, 11 miles is no easy task. Running has always been something I loved. Something that I considered to be part of me. But suddenly my health issues were sucking the fun out of running, because at the end of each long run I just felt sick and weak. However, just as my dad told me years ago, I never gave up. I completed those training runs week after week, no matter how sick I felt. And when race day came, rather than telling myself to just relax and enjoy the race, I decided I wanted to achieve a PR. (#typicalColleen) Looking back, I realize this was stupid. I ran the first 10 miles hard. And for the most part I enjoyed it. The scenery on the Lansing river trail was beautiful, and I loved the chance to run on MSU’s campus. But at about mile 10 1/2, my mind and my body kind of gave up. I hit that dreaded “wall” that runners always talk about, and it was far from fun. But instead of pushing through, I gave myself a break. I walked, I jogged and I stopped caring about how fast I ran. I gave up the idea of a PR and just focused on finishing the race in one piece. Those last 3 miles were rough, but I crossed that finish line, practically crying tears of joy. And the funniest thing about it? I achieved that PR that I gave up on at mile 10. Running has taught me a lot of things over the years. It has taught me to love my body. Not for the way it looks, but for what it can do. It has taught me to appreciate the stillness and beauty of the world during all of my 5am runs. And during this race, it taught me that it’s ok to give myself a break. Because sometimes, when you stop being so hard on yourself, you can achieve great things.