In May, I ran my sixth marathon. It was my goal race, the one on my schedule where I planned to put all of my hard training to use. I started with a great base (having run a marathon in January), and completed almost every run on my training plan. The cycle included three straight months of 100+ miles. I even had a fantastic 25K event two weeks before the marathon. I was prepared mentally and physically when race day came.
The truth of the marathon is that you never know what race day will bring. In my case, on the morning of May 28 in northern Michigan, we experienced an early heat wave. Temperatures were in the 70s with high humidity at 7 a.m. and continued to rise throughout the day. Considering it had snowed two weeks prior, my body wasn’t ready for a warm race.
Regardless, I stuck with my plan as best I could. The first 13.1 miles were harder than they should have been, especially since I had run the same distance over a minute per mile faster a few weeks prior. The heat was definitely impacting my race, which crushed me after a strong training cycle.
Around mile 15, the wheels started to slowly come off. Then, at mile 19, I had a complete breakdown. The thought of seven more miles seemed downright impossible, especially since my mental game was drained. I had been ready for this race, but things were not going as planned.
Thanks to the support of my amazing running companion, along with texts from my husband, I made it through to the finish line. It wasn’t the race I wanted. It wasn’t the race I trained for. But, I persevered the heat, pushed through the negative thoughts and finished.
In all honesty, I haven’t completely recovered from this race. While my time was better than I expected (throughout the last 5-6 miles, it felt like we were barely moving), it was well over the time I had trained so hard for. To have something out of your control affect your race is almost devastating.
Yet, it is through these experiences where you learn your true strength. The pain and frustration may still be raw, but I have found that moving on is therapeutic. Starting with a few weeks of easy runs, my joy of running has returned. No longer does it bring back the tears from a tough race, instead I find myself looking forward to my goals ahead. It also helps that my upcoming goal is for a shorter distance!
Another aspect that has helped with the process of recovery is a strong support system. I am fortunate to have a group of friends who have also experienced the pain of a difficult race. They have been there to listen, to encourage and to assist with the healing. They support my upcoming goals, while reminding me that the pain may still reappear. It’s through this encouragement that I have been able to look ahead, instead of focus on the past.
Most of all, I have realized how resilient I am. The marathon I endured was draining in every way – physically, mentally and emotionally. There were moments I wanted to give up, yet I persevered. During upcoming training runs and races, I know there may be times where those thoughts occur. Instead of focusing on how tough it may feel, I can channel the strength from the 2016 Bayshore Marathon. I know that I am strong. I know that I can finish. And I know that I can do anything I set my mind to.