June marks quite a lot of big changes for me.
The end of struggles/strife, a battle I have been fighting so long that I forgot what it was like to do anything beyond survive. Every run over the last two years has felt like the slow draining away of the last of my life force. Waking up became more than just a part of the day…it became beyond inconvenient…. It became nearly impossible a few times. Even on days when I didn’t have issues getting up or out of bed, it felt like a waste to do so. I was fighting to exist in a world that didn’t want me, and spared no opportunity to remind me so. Why show up somewhere that I would have to pretend I didn’t exist, when it would be easier to just …. not exist there period? Why go somewhere to be nothing, when I could just hide away comfortably in bed and be nothing without the inconvenience of having to put on pants?
When my running began to feel like a struggle, I pushed back. I determined that more running would be the answer to this problem, rather than stopping. Because where I was in the world, at that time, with how I was feeling? I would’ve stopped running, and then I would have stopped doing everything.
I didn’t want that. I wanted my life to expand…my world to expand…I wanted fulfillment…not darkness….not less… and for the last few years, everything felt like it was shrinking down and crushing me. I could have folded under that, but I decided to push back. And part of that push, was to put myself in a position to run 12 marathons in 2016 – Ideally one per month.
I never said I was smart.
This idea, a glorified “more is better”, made sense at the time. I was desperate. I was grasping for that easy comfort and wholeness that my running had pumped into my veins throughout all the highs and lows of my running life up until that year. I was drowning, and the only thing I had left in the vast emptiness that was killing me was a deflated yellow ducky float….and I was damn-well going to make it save my life. By faith or hope or shear stubbornness, this raft was going to fucking float and I was going to survive this.
That didn’t mean that my marathons or the training for each one came easily. It hasn’t. Not until this month…not until the resolution came.
My first marathon distance, January, was a 55k on the 1st of the year. A potential great start to the year, maybe? Or just a symbolic one?
My back was injured, my hamstring was going out as well because of the back injury… I slowed down massively, took my time, and focused on just getting it done. I was ashamed of my finish time, and of even trying to do that race. At the same time, I tried to make myself feel proud about how smart I played it…easing back to avoid more injury.
February I took most of the day and had various friends run 4-6mile loops around my neighborhood with me. It was fun, and relaxed, and so low-key that I felt inspired after it was done.
March, when things finally came to a head, I ran Asheville – in the pouring rain. I loved it, but I didn’t do as well as I would have wanted. The whole run was a struggle, as I tried to make friends and stick with them so I wouldn’t be alone with my thoughts. In the end, I made a lot of good friends, and finished okay, but was still sad with it. Then I ran Florida less than a week later, 25.5 miles with Superman. That run was good…but the injury started: A top of the foot pain that had me limping for days and worrying about a stress fracture. The fact that I got injured after these two runs had me super-concerned for how April and May would go. After all, those two marathons were the same weekend, Saturday and Sunday.
April‘s Derby marathon was a soaker, and I (Happily and gratefully) ran the whole thing with my friend Jim. I did not feel too hot throughout, and my stomach rebelled through the last dozen miles.
The night after the Derby, looking toward the Flying Pig Marathon in the morning, I felt for sure, as my stomach continued to be a problem, that my May marathon was going to be a DNS (Did. Not. Start). I woke up, rolled out, had a rough morning, and ended up having the best race of the year by far. I hate to admit, but I’m ashamed of my times for both the Derby and the Pig, and yet, I felt so good running the Pig. Even with the desalination (lack of salt from too much water and too much sweating) issue in the last 6 miles, the Pig felt “comfortable”. I spent the race alone, catching up with three different friends, and then losing them because I had to pee so damn much. I was alone on the run, but content, for the first time in years.
After the April (Derby) and May (Flying Pig) marathons, I was hobbling around on a swollen Achilles tendon. Sure, I felt no pain (Seriously!) during the Pig, but afterward, while walking the 100 miles to where my husband parked his car… okay, like 3 miles, but seriously, it was faarrrrrrrr… my tendon rebelled. I could feel it “crackling” and “sliding” with every step. Yes. “ick“. Exactly.
Through all of May and most of June I was rolling and icing and using anti-inflammatory meds to try and ease the tendon down. Rolling helped. Icing didn’t do much. Friends and family marveled and awed at the grossness that was seeing and touching the swollen knot just above my ankle. It was like being a side-show at the carnival… only… not awful? Yeah. More, morbidly entertaining. Maybe I’ll have this knot forever and when I die, they’ll display my foot/lower leg at that creepy medical maladies museum… Then I’ll be famous. Yeah.
Some runs caused the tendon pain to flare up and hurt for days after. Some runs didn’t do anything to the knot. I could run 4 miles and be hobbling…run 10 and be fine… Eventually I figured out that if I ran at my pace and kept it consistent, I was fine. Slowing down and stopping a lot bothered it. Running downhill really bothered it. As does going downstairs.
I figured it was time for a new pair of shoes…my current pair having carried me through marathons and ultras and all the training for these races since October…. Putting something like 900 miles on those shoes.
About a week ago I ordered a new pair of shoes. Brooks still, but no longer the Ghost line. I think I’ve been running in Ghost for about four years now. These shoes, “Launch”, are pretty blue colored, bright, and after the first two miles (which are always awkward in new shoes) are feeling pretty good too. In fact, I ran about a total of 9 miles without any more issue beyond the rubbing/blistering typical of a new type of shoes against new spots*.
*Beginners. This is one reason why you run in new shoes a few times before racing in them or doing big distances in them*.
And then, on Thursday, I ran my June Marathon.
For June, I could have easily signed up for a couple of different trail races that I found. But the beginning of the month was still “unsteady” with regard to what was going to be happening with me, and I didn’t feel comfortable committing to a schedule for anything. In the end, I just committed to running on my own, just like I did in February.
Sure, some people think that the marathon a month challenge should only count if every run is a “real race” with swag and shirts (or not) and definitely a medal and a way to look up “official” finish times. To me, that sounds more like a financial challenge than a running one. There is no such “local” marathon every month near me. And I do not enjoy trail races, so doing a trail race is a “last resort” as far as I’m concerned. Besides. I didn’t challenge myself to pay for and travel to and spend the money on 12 marathons. I challenged myself to run twelve marathons. I keep it honest. My Garmin and MapMyRun distances are available to be reviewed by friends. And, I have been lucky enough to have friends run with me… “witnesses”, basically.
For June, my buddy, Minh, covered the full 26.3 miles with me. We went the 0.3 so he could call it an ultra. And so I could say I “tricked” him into running an ultra. The whole run was a blast. We had fun and joked and talked. It got humid, and then it got super hot, and the “cloudy with chance of rain” forecast failed us. We ran under brilliant blue skies with a raging hot, bright sun. The course was difficult, with harsh, rolling hills during the first half, and more smooth, but long, hill climbs toward the end. I’ll have that recap posted, because it was such a great experience that it deserves its own thing.
I won’t lie and say that my June micro-ultra marathon was easy. It was tough for me too. And I’m not happy with the time on it either. But my attitude during running has improved immensely. I look forward to running again! Even today, when I should be taking the day off to completely recover (yes, my tendon is still swollen, but it’s not as painful as it was before, and it didn’t get bad after the run) and I have some chores around the home I should do…. But my new Garmin watch demands that I make 12,000 steps per day now… and I want to meet that goal. And… well… running is fun again. It’s relaxing again… It’s like playing outside again… It’s my time in the sun and nature…and my body craves it again. Now that my systems can focus on more than ‘survive today’, they hunger and crave and….well… And. It. Is. Wonderful.