I began 2020 training for a big PR in the 2020 Boston Marathon. The training was going well until I went to Florida at the end of February, where I ended up getting sick and having to skip a few training days. I returned home to WI, resumed training and then in a matter of a few days, the Boston Marathon was postponed, things began shutting down and my kids came home from school on March 13 never to go back for that school year.
Goals needed to be changed. I was no longer training for a 2:50 marathon, I was going to work on my 5k and shoot for 50 mile training weeks. I think I lasted 10 days in this plan before I had to give up. Having to simultaneously work and homeschool two kids and manage all of our emotions left very little in the tank to give to running. For years I have read books and listened to podcasts that emphasized "Stress is stress - your body doesn't recognize the difference between work stress, running stress, etc." but I don't think I ever really experienced what this meant. Thank you, COVID-19 for driving that lesson home.
I did keep running - mainly easy runs to escape my house and family. I tried to pick up training plans now and then but my heart and body just were not into it. I saw people on social media totally crushing it and wondered what was wrong with me that I couldn't make my body run paces faster than 7:30/mi without hyperventilating.
Stress is stress.
I had to stop listening to running podcasts, reading running magazines, stop the Instagram scroll which to that point was mainly running-related accounts.
Then I thought I was better so I bought a group training plan and was going to again work on my 5k/10k. For a few weeks, I was cruising along. It didn't last. I was taking walk breaks during my virtual 5ks. Again, what the eff was wrong with me that I can't run a 5k without stopping?! I didn't finish out the training plan. My 5k did not improve.
I went back to the "run when and what I feel like" plan. And it worked for me. As more and more distance accrued between the runner that I was at the start of 2020 and now, I started running less and returning to some other hobbies that I neglected in the effort to be a more dedicated runner. There was no training plan to schedule my life around. It was actually quite freeing.
As 2020 came to a close, I accidentally started doing some sports counseling oriented sessions. You may be wondering, "How do you accidentally start having sports counseling sessions?"
This is a story of the dangers of social media, ha ha ha.
Someone I follow indicated she needed volunteers to finish out her sports counseling degree. I DMed her that I would volunteer and thought I would need to do a survey or something like that.
I got 12 sessions of counseling!
I met with M weekly for 12 weeks, wrapping up on New Year's Eve and it was the thing that started to turn running around for me. With M's help, I began to notice how over recent years, I had turned running into this activity where the only thing that mattered was running faster and faster. I was laser-focused on pace and PRs, and at some point running became more anxiety-inducing than anxiety-releasing. I was classic "all about the outcome." I became afraid to push myself because I didn't want to fail. I recall telling her all about how when I ran, I was constantly looking at my watch to make sure I was running fast enough, how my stomach is a bundle of nerves for about 3/4 of the run and if the run was going well (as in I was hitting pace goals for most of it), then I could finally relax and enjoy the last few miles. She responded, "That sounds miserable."
Like I said...WOAH.
Yeah. It was kind of miserable! I can't tell you how freeing it was to admit that to myself.
Going through my recent history of running marathons was also helpful. I went back to the marathon after an 8-year hiatus just to see if I could qualify for Boston.
Well, if I could run a 3:25, why not try a 3:15?
Well, why not try a sub-3?
Well, why not try an OTQ?
You see what is going on here. Just keep moving that hurdle higher and higher. At some point, I was bound to crack. Somewhere in the land of running a sub-3 for the first time and setting the dream goal of an OTQ, I lost the joy of running. It was only fun if I could run fast and post PR times.
I am going to turn 40 years old in 2021. At some point, I will stop running faster and faster year after year. 2020 may have been a SHIT year but I am grateful that I had the ability to pause and (with help) recognize some warning signs that my running may be venturing to a place where misery > joy.
I ended 2020 with 2083.94 miles under my belt. That is not an inconsequential amount but it does represent a pause in what was a positive trendline of my annual mileage since 2015.
I don't know what 2021 will bring with running and I'm not currently focused on any goals outside of not looking at my watch when I run. I am also having fun moving my body in a variety of ways in addition to running. I've gone hiking, snowshoeing, downhill skiing, ice skating, and have done daily yoga in the last several weeks. It is becoming clearer that I want to be able to move my body, be active and ENJOY it, which honestly is easy to say when there are no races to register for anyway! I haven't abandoned big goals either. I'm in a weird middle place with it all and over time, I think things will become clearer.
Thanks for reading :)