I was lucky enough to spend the last few days at my cousin's place in North Carolina for part of my spring break. After 2 whole days of rain and snow, I was finally welcomed with some sunshine and took my morning run outside. I planned on running to Shelley Lake park, with a dead Garmin watch I was forced to use the Strava app on my phone to record my run. Which obviously lead me to start my run with some anxiety since I rely heavily on my GPS watch for training. Needless to say I'm not the best with directions and ended up in the complete opposite way of the park, running against 20 mph winds and up hills. I was very frustrated and decided to turn around and head back. Something told me to make a random left turn and I found a completely different park but figured why not? Oh boy does God know exactly what I need. I was welcomed to one of the most beautiful trails I have ever seen. Although, this wasn't where I had planned on running, God had a different route for me to run. As I was running I couldn't help but think about how this was a metaphor for my life. I have taken so many wrong turns the last few years but somehow ended up right where I was supposed to be. From transferring colleges and thinking I was going to end up at an entirely different University, I couldn't be more thankful for ending up where I am now. God has lead me to an amazing team, some of the best friends I have ever had, and closer to my family. It's funny how we can plan our future all we want, but at the end of the day- things fall into place how they're supposed to, usually over the course of months or years. But on this particular run, I realized that within a few miles that I was supposed to end up on that beautiful trail in Raleigh, surrounded by a lake and soft clay to run on. I didn't know how much I needed that run until I was forced to let go, and let God in.
34 days are standing between me and The Boston Marathon. 34 days that can either be the best or some of the worst runs of my life. I don't have much control over how my body feels each day, but I sure as hell can work with what I got. I thought this training cycle would be my best one yet, after all I was training for the marathon of my dreams. The one I've been working towards for the last 2 years. 7 weeks out from race day I was hopeless. I was overtraining and couldn't hit paces that were usually easy for me. I nearly threw in the towel. I couldn't understand why running was breaking my heart. It's something that always made me feel like the biggest bada$, released my anxiety, and made me so happy. Instead I felt unbelievably weak, my runs caused me more anxiety, and I was having random mental breakdowns. There were plently of days I spent crying, days I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning and definitely did not want to run. So that's exactly what I did. I took a well needed break. No working out, no thinking of training, and when my heart wanted to run again I laced up. I ran some of my slowest miles. I charged up hills, and fell right back down them. I iced my shins 3x a day, stretched, rolled out my muscles, ate all of the food. Although I was nursing my body back to health I was also getting my mental mojo back as well. Never in my life has running come easy to me, I've always been the girl who had that weird obsession with running that no one quite understood. I'm not a track star, not a cross country girl, my heart has belonged to the marathon for as long as I can remember. But being on my college Cross Country and Track Team has changed me and challenged me in more ways than I can even begin to express. I stepped away from Spring Track this season because I simply could not handle both trainings but after Boston, I plan to fully devote myself to my coaches and my team. Take a few years off from the marathon and give my body a break.
By no means am I ready to give up marathons, but I am ready to give up my negative mentality that comes along with training. I questioned God often, why was He making running so hard for me? Why couldn't I be as fast as my teammates? Why couldn't He let my coaches have faith in me? When would He allow me to be "good" or "fast" again?
I remember sitting in church one Sunday during all of this doubt and crying because of a family member who is very close to me who has been sick for a while. I'm good at keeping my emotions bottled up but in that moment on my knees all I could do was pray for her, pray for her health and for any hope for her to get better. I suddenly no longer cared about my running, or my "problems", and every run since that day in church I have devoted to her. When the miles get tough I think of her and how much of her life she has devoted to God and I know that if she could tell me one thing as my God Mother, it would be to have faith and trust in God's plan for me.
Over the last 2 weeks I have been letting God lead me down the path that he feels is best for me. If that means one day running really really slow, then I run slow. If it means having an awesome run and my legs feeling great, then I run away like there's no tomorrow. I've thrown my structured training plan out the window, and run what I can in that moment. I'm getting back to the basics, letting my heart take over my legs and not stressing over the pressure of social media to run fast and run far. I used to be a "no excuses" type of girl, and now I preach "listen to your body". It's okay to sleep in until 12 and not start your 18 mile run until 2 pm, you don't have to do your long run at 6 am just because that's what "everyone else is doing". It's okay to cut your 10 miler to 6 miles or heck- even take a rest day! After all, sleep and recovery are the two easiest ways to get better so why not make them a priority!? I've gotten my head out of the XYZ training method. If you know me you know I have struggled with anxiety and various eating disorders over the last few years and letting go of my structured training plan is a form of me losing "control" and that's hard for me. It's scary to walk away from something that's all you've ever known, but let me tell you, it is so freeing. To be honest, no one really likes change, but it is crucial in order to grow. I figured I have tried everything except one last thing- rest and backing off my miles- so that's exactly what I knew I needed to do. I'm not changing my goal but I am changing my method. And whatever time I run in Boston then so be it. I'm no longer stressing over it, I'm not going to throw a tantrum and cry when my fellow runners are running the times I want when I can't. I'm not going to let my anxiety rule my progress anymore.
I have no idea what to expect when I get to Boston, I have prepared to the best of my ability. I have ran up and down every hill God has lead me to, I've been practicing my fueling and running through every weather condition. I know there is a lot of me "talking" to God between miles 18-26 asking Him to help lead me to the finish. I have no doubt that this marathon will be any different especially since it gets a reputation for being extremely difficult those last few miles. Heartbreak Hill can't break the love I have invested into this sport. When the going gets tough, I know that I can be tougher because of Him. When doubt and fear are staring me right in the face, I am strong enough to embrace the pain and use my faith to guide me through. To the last 34 days of training, I am not afraid of what you may face me with. I am ready to laugh, smile, embrace the pain and be grateful for every mile. Boston- I will see you soon.