I ran my first half-marathon last September. I wasn’t particularly fast, but my goal had been to finish in around two hours, and I crossed the line at 2:02, ahead of the middle-aged guy I’d been mentally racing for the last mile and a half. I was happy. So happy. Runner’s high is real, people.
After the race, my running schedule was random and aimless—without a specific goal, I struggled to push myself, especially as the weeks wore on and the midterms and papers started piling up. After Christmas, I decided I needed something to train for again, so I found a half-marathon in June and hit the road. When the new semester started, I did all right at first, squeezing in evening runs and even getting back into strength training at the gym. My new roommate was a dedicated swimmer, so that probably helped motivate me to stay active as well.
But it got harder. The winter was harsh, with frigid temperatures and storm after storm. I skipped some long runs because the path along the Esplanade was often coated with ice and I couldn’t stand the thought of running around the indoor track at FitRec for two hours. Once, I went out for a run without checking the wind chill first. Four miles in, I couldn’t feel my hands, and the wind was merciless. I finally made it home and sat shivering in the shower for almost half an hour. But I didn’t quit.
Well, I didn’t quit yet. Things were becoming much more difficult at this point. I had a full schedule and some draining family issues to juggle. The days were short and cold and dark, and I was tired and discouraged. I kept trying, but I started falling further and further behind in my training plan. As much as I hate to admit it, it was a relief when I realized that, if I decided to pursue the summer camp jobs I was looking into, a June race wouldn’t be possible.
This isn’t a very good inspirational story, is it? People with more challenges than I have had performed much more impressive feats than the one I gave up on. I did keep running after I stopped training, but I’m still pretty disappointed and out of shape.
But the Boston Athletic Association half-marathon is in October, and fellow Culture Shocker Ceci Weddell and I are running—we pinky promised, so there’s no backing out now. I started training last week. It has been slow and painful. I feel no stronger than I did a year ago, which is frustrating, and the hills around my house in Pennsylvania are killer after running along the Charles for months.
But even at my most discouraged, I realize that feeling only as strong as I was one year ago is better than feeling like I did when I started running two years ago after months of being sick and weak. On my first time out, I managed to jog exactly one mile and I thought it might kill me. So even though I may have taken some steps back recently, I’ve still taken a lot of steps forward.
Sometimes I’m really bad at remembering that. Preparing for a race is almost harder the second time around because I have expectations now. And I’m not meeting them. Training last year was actually less grueling than I had expected, but it still wasn’t as easy as my selective memory would like to suggest—it’s easy to remember the high of having successfully completed a 13.1 mile race while forgetting exactly how much work went into preparing for it. So I’m getting there, but I’m still trying to accept that this is where I am right now.
I’m no Meb, and I never will be. But I am miles (literally) ahead of where I started, and for now that’s enough to keep me running.