Sunday, March 19, 2017

Disappointment is Part of the Journey

In my years of running I have found that on the road to improvement and success, disappointment is always present. Even in seasons when I have run my biggest PRs and most exceptional races, there have been races where I left feeling beaten down and discouraged. After running my 18:27 PR in the 5k during my senior year of college I had a string of 3 bad races before pulling it together at our conference meet and finishing out my season with times I was and am proud of. After running my 1:31:35 half-marathon PR, I ran a hilly course where I was certain I would beat my previous time but was actually a minute slower than before. During the fall after Elise was born I ran over 1:40 in the half-marathon for the first time outside of a couple races while sick and then a couple while pregnant, but then I came back to knock out a 1:35 half a month later. This past fall a disappointing 5k performance lit a fire under me to break 20 minutes in the 5k so I added another race to my schedule and killed it (for me) with a 6:16 average pace for the race. This season has been full of disappointment. There was a sub-par 10k at the Sweetheart Run, a downright disappointing 5k at the St. Patrick's Day 5k, and now I'm on my way to a less than stellar performance at the Aquarium Run Half-Marathon in a couple weeks. As I fight the disappointment and bitterness I feel over pouring my heart into this season and having nothing to show for it in the form of race times and PRs, I keep going over all these past disappointments in my mind. Most of them have led to something bigger down the line and none of them broke my spirit and kept me from giving it all in a later race.

This morning I stared down the now feared and long anticipated 8 mile tempo for this season that I failed at time and time again. Deep down I knew the chances that it would go well were slim but I wasn't about to give up. So I took off after a 2 mile warm up. I was running into a 25 mph wind so I wasn't too worried when I went through the first mile in 7:07. I figured 15 seconds over pace wasn't too big of a deal and I could make up some time during the 2nd half with the wind at my back. Then my second mile was 7:05 and I felt confident I could hold in the low 7's on the way out and then bust it out on the way back. But then as I started the 3rd mile my thighs were burning and I was struggling to stay under 7:20 pace. Things continued to deteriorate from there. It wasn't a lack of will power or my head getting in the way, I was pushing as hard as I could but my legs just wouldn't go. In contrast to my 6:29 last mile of my 7 mile tempo all the way back at the beginning of January I pushed to finish the last mile in 7:38. That pace should not have felt that hard but it did. It was miserable. I was trying not to cry as I finished out the last few miles due to the emotion of working so hard to hit such poor times. It was pretty demoralizing, but I told myself I was finishing out 8 miles of the tempo no matter what pace I fell to and I did it.
At least I know I can break 1:40 since I ran this with my 2 cool down miles around 9:30.

During my 2 mile cool down my mind was going over everything I've done and where I have gone wrong (for like the millionth time this training cycle). I have sacrificed a lot this season in hopes of running a half-marathon PR. I have given up time with my family on the weekends while I ran long runs, I've gotten up in the dark early morning of the winter to run in 12 degree weather, I've passed up fun races to focus on this one big season goal. All of that would be worth it if it would be leading me toward reaching my goals, but it's not worth it to run slower than I did off less mileage and less time away from family. I was discouraged and started thinking about pulling out of the half-marathon. This season has been so emotional for me with both of my races being very disappointing and I couldn't handle the thought of yet another disappointing race after all this work. But then I realized that it's only disappointing because I'm allowing it to be. A year ago this tempo workout would have been a decent one for me with a 7:24 average. A year ago 20:15 for a 5k would have been a victory. So I've decided to let go of those big dreams I have of running a PR or running sub-1:30 for now and focus on enjoying running again. I want to go out and feel successful during my race and enjoy being out there. Although the 8 mile tempo didn't give me what I hoped for, a go ahead to chase that 6:50 pace at the race, it did give me the knowledge that it's time to let go. It's time to let go of those high expectations for now and to be okay with just doing what my body is capable of at this time. That doesn't mean I won't be back after it, chasing for those times in the fall, it just means I'm going to stop beating myself up and getting upset with my body for not being where I want it to be.

As I enjoyed the beautiful sunshine during my cool down and let go of the frustration and anger, I started to think more clearly. I began to think about the people who go out every day and work just as hard as I do but will never see 7:20 pace in a race. I began to think of people who would love to be out running but physically cannot do it. I began to think of Jeremy and everything he's been through. He can't run the same times he ran before his accident but I have never once heard him complain about it. He goes to races and shows joy and happiness just for running. He doesn't fret over paces or times, he just enjoys the act of running. And get this, he's getting faster! Without cursing his body or losing his temper over his times he is slowly getting better, getting closer to the times he used to run. Instead of letting running be this big dark cloud over my day when I have a bad run (or a bad season as this one has turned out to be). I need to let running bring joy to my life and to those around me. Running has always brought me joy and lately it has not. I have let my time goals and race hopes interfere with my own happiness. I used to train for a race without specific goals in mind and be pleasantly surprised with how I ran. I miss that. That was the advantage of being pregnant and then coming back from childbirth. I just appreciated being out there. I didn't chase specific times or get frustrated with how runs went, I just enjoyed the process. Now that I'm back to normal, I don't think I'll be able to let go of time goals, but I need to not obsess over them and allow them to steal my joy. Now my goal for April 1st is to enjoy the race, to appreciate just being out there, to be thankful for what I can do. Sometimes we focus too much on what we can't do and let that ruin what we can.
How awesome are these shirts?!


  1. I hate to hear that you're in this situation, but your outlook on it is amazing - I feel like any runner could learn so much from this post and your insight! It's so true that there are always ups and downs, but there is much journey left. Have a fun race and take care of your body, and those other dreams will come on their intended timeline.

    1. Thank you! I know you have been in similar situations. It's hard right now but I know it will be worth it in the long run!

    2. I sure have, but my attitude was never as amazing as yours! One thing I've FINALLY learned, though, is that we can't bully ourselves into running faster. Running is something that can give us such high highs, while at other times it breaks our hearts.

    3. That's the perfect way to say it, we can't bully ourselves into running faster! That's what I've been trying to do for the past couple months, haha!