I’m about two weeks out from the Rite Aid Cleveland 8K/Half Marathon Challenge! If you asked me a few months ago, I wasn’t even certain I would make it to this point. Since November, I’ve battled injury, serious illness, family strife, personal strife, depression, and anxiety, but I am incredibly proud of where I am at this particular moment. I can honestly say life is good, though not without its challenges. I think the culmination of events at the end of February, though painful, was just what I needed to take a look at myself and determine what I needed to be content and fulfilled. I will let you know that the life I was living was not giving me that feeling. Through the help of my wonderful counselor Myra (I’m not the least bit ashamed to admit I am receiving mental health care) and support of caring family and friends, I’m looking at myself through a different lens, extending myself a little grace, and working to become a version of myself that makes me happy.
Throughout this training cycle, I’ve learned a few lessons and would like to share some of those with you.
Lesson 1: I’m pretty damn awesome. Without sounding like an egomaniac, I’ll explain what I mean. If you can’t be your own damn cheerleader, how can you expect anyone else to assume that role? I’ve spent too much of my life basing my worth on others’ opinions. In my mind, my value rose like the tide when someone praised me, told me I was pretty, said they loved me, etc., but the crash of a negative or critical comment or action crippled me. I had no real sense of self-worth. I was a shelled that housed people’s opinions. In one of our sessions, Myra asked me to list things about myself that made me proud or I liked. At that time, I couldn’t come up with but a handful. She asked me to ponder that question at home, and in a subsequent session, I was able to give a substantial list. A few of those items are I have four wonderful children, am successful at work, financially support my family all on my own, am a fairly successful distance runner, and make a pretty great batch of homemade mac and cheese. I am really starting to believe I don’t need validation from others because I see my own worth.
Lesson 2: Changing my attitude had the biggest impact on my training. In the fall, my motivation and fitness level were sky-high! I just ran a huge half marathon PR and was prepared to put in the work to potentially have a Boston qualifier in Cleveland or at least give it my best shot. Then life happened in a major way, and I shut down physically and emotionally. Running, which used to be my therapy, wasn’t even enjoyable. I dreaded every step and felt like a failure having to start from the beginning. Even worse, I was envious of friends who were excelling with their training. To say I was a miserable person was an understatement. I got back into running, but the passion wasn’t there and neither was the progress. I received great advice from a friend. “Be better than you were yesterday. Beat yesterday,” she said. I applied that statement to my runs. Being better meant running a little farther, pushing the pace a little harder, running those intervals until I feel like I couldn’t take another second, lacing up my shoes to hit the pavement when I would rather sit on the couch and watch a creepy documentary. I’m not exactly where I was pre-injury and illness, but I’m not too far off. The best part is I’m excited and motivated to put in the work and see improvements. One more thing I would like to acknowledge is my most recent breakup. It may have been one of the best things to happen to get me back on track with running and life in general. I don’t say this sarcastically or with malice, just from a place of truth and self-reflection over the past few months.
Lesson 3: Breaking out of my comfort zone has helped me grow. I will be the first to admit I am not fond of change and don’t like to do things that make me feel uncomfortable or as if I will fail, but I won’t grow if I don’t change. I have been forcing myself to do things I wouldn’t normally do for the sake of the challenge. I took the kids to and from CLE on the rapid. I never did that before because I didn’t know the routes, was not sure how to even do it, and it made me nervous as hell. I started venturing out to places on my own and making new friends. Those close to me know I’m more of an introvert, and I prefer to not interact with others, leaving a lot of people to think I’m just a bitch. This was a huge one for me! I participated in activities I haven’t before, such as the group runs in Cleveland, which also forced me to be more social. I put myself out there with the possibility of rejection because, hey, knowing how to better deal with that is part of life. I may even entertain the notion to conquer one of my greatest fears over my trip to Seattle, which is singing in public, as my brother and I are a pretty wicked Facebook Messenger duo. As trivial as these may seem to some of you, they are big steps for me.
Lesson 4: Just finishing the Rite Aid Cleveland 8K/Half Marathon Challenge will be an accomplishment. My mindset surrounding race weekend has entirely changed. It’s not like I don’t care about running a good race, but I am not going into the half with an expected finishing time nor will I kill myself to reach it. I want my comeback race to be enjoyable without the pressure of performance. I want to be able to soak in all of the excitement the city has to offer that day and immerse myself in the experience. Truthfully, I am more excited about the 8K. On the Friday before, Dad and I will be livin’ it up at the Marathon’s VIP Reception. I mean, I can’t think of a cooler date than my dad, and my ambassador friends are already excited to meet him. Then on Saturday, he and I will run/walk the race. I truly love that time with my dad because we don’t get much of a chance to do things just the two of us. Although he is not a runner, he supports what I do and encourages me, the epitome of what a great father does for his children. Want to hear the best part?! I think he may be getting into it a little more. He asked about doing more races together this season, preferably ones with beverages at the end. Win-win!!!!
As we near the homestretch of training, I encourage you to think about the lessons you’ve learned. I know the past few months have changed me for the good.