“Life is for participating, not for spectating.” – Kathrine Switzer
This is a different blog post from what I intended to write. Over the past few months, I trained for my third annual half-marathon and faced some challenges. My intention was to write an inspiring post about how I overcame the challenges and completed the race. Unfortunately, I did not succeed in even getting to the start line. We had a late-spring snowfall yesterday in the Chicago suburbs. The roads were icy last night, and the temperature was predicted to be 32 degrees Fahrenheit at the start of the race. I decided not to risk falling on icy patches or slick roads. Years ago, when I was 45, I sprained an ankle. It took many months to recover, and I still don’t have good balance. The risk of falling isn’t worth it to me.
This would be disheartening if I hadn’t learned from the experience. Mostly I trained alone, which gave me plenty of time to reflect on lessons learned from my running—and how they apply to life. Here is what I learned:
- My long runs were six, seven, eight, and nine miles. Then I got injured (very tight IT bands, which go from the hip to below the knees.) I couldn’t run at all for 20 days. I tried soaking in Epsom salts, foam rolling, stretching, but still it was painful even to walk. Lesson for life: Know when to stop or take a break.
- During that time, I decided that a pedicure was a necessity because my feet hurt, so I got one. Also, after recovering from the injury, I decided to do my next long run with a friend, Gladys. That would be the most pleasant way to get in eight miles—and Gladys pushed me to do nine instead. Lesson for Life: Do what you can to succeed.
- Over the Christmas holidays and beyond, I indulged in sweets and was inactive, partly due to a rough winter in the Chicago area. Maybe I wouldn’t have been as injured if I’d kept in better shape year-round, instead of going from couch-potato to training for a half marathon. Lesson for Life: Take care of your health consistently.
- I was fine when I ran alone or with Gladys. But I might have pushed too hard when trying to keep up with a faster-paced group without Gladys. Lesson for Life: Go your own pace.
- On the other hand, we can’t improve if we don’t run faster or farther sometimes. I could have tried to keep up with the faster runners for a shorter distance. Or I could run with someone who is only a little faster than me. Lesson for Life: Push hard sometimes!
- When running on my own, I listened to music and enjoyed the scenery. That made my running much more enjoyable. Lesson for Life: Enjoy the journey.
- Some of my runs were difficult, but I learned that dwelling on the difficulty or my inadequacies didn’t accomplish anything. On the other hand, I know my situation better than anyone. So listen to myself—as long as I am talking to myself in a positive, constructive way. Lesson for Life: Persevere when it gets tough. Coach yourself in a positive way.
- A couple of weeks ago, I ran a 5K race. I had just recovered from my injury, and I found the run challenging. I thought I was running very slowly. But I came in third place out of the 17 women in my age group. Lesson for Life: You’re doing better than you think.
- Recently, I heard young people talking about how they’d overdone their workouts. One of them wasn’t able to get out of bed after a strenuous two-hour workout. So it is not my age that makes running difficult. Lesson for Life: Age is not a factor.
- Yesterday when I was making my decision, I talked to my friend Cindy, who is a meteorologist, about my concerns. She said, “I’m thinking you should follow your gut. Temps will be at or below freezing for the half-marathon.” Isn’t that great advice for life: Follow your gut. Still, I wondered if I was making the right decision. I was at a dinner event last night, and a friend had his arm in a sling due to rotator cuff surgery. He will not have full use of his shoulder for a year, and he got this injury from falling on ice. Lesson for Life: Trust your gut.
- The training was worthwhile, even though I didn’t do the race. I was in better shape than before I started the training, and wasn’t that the whole point? Lesson for Life: Keep chasing your dreams.
- I thought about doing the 13.1 miles on my own after the race (when the roads weren’t slippery.) But the truth is I wasn’t in great shape for today’s race. The excitement of running a race and running with Gladys would have carried me through the 13.1 miles. But I’d intended to run faster than in past years and I wasn’t on track for that. Granted, I was injured, but I didn’t lose weight or develop more fitness to help my running. Lesson for Life: Honor your commitments to yourself.
- I was disappointed, but to put it in perspective, we go through a lot worse experiences than this in life. We just need to keep on putting one foot in front of the other. Lesson for Life: Learn from your disappointments and try again.
- I went out and did half the distance (6.6 miles) today in the afternoon after the ice melted. It felt inadequate compared to a half-marathon, and it was bittersweet to listen to the theme song from Chariots of Fire, which had inspired me during my training. But I suspect it is possible that someone was watching me and wishing they could run 6.6 miles. I will give myself a day of recovery and do another 6.6 mile run in a couple of days. Lessons for Life: Challenge yourself, but know your limits. Find a way to succeed that works for you.
Will I try again, next year? Yes. I will start training sooner so I’m more fit when the race comes, rather than being “sort of” ready. If the roads are icy, I still won’t run the race. But if that happens, I hope I will be able to run the full 13.1 miles on my own without a lot of discomfort.
So remember, when you have a disappointment, keep the faith. Pick yourself back up, learn from it, and move on.
Have you tried to do something and been disappointed with yourself? What did you learn from that experience?