Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Solstice Blues: To run or not to run a marathon

Risser's Beach last weekend
Usually the longest day of the year is a happy one for me. I savour the many hours of sunshine and look forward to hot summer days ahead. But this year I languished in a deep funk I couldn't find seem to shake. The weather didn't help - it was raining cats and dogs on Sunday - but I think maybe the problem was deeper than that.

I've always been pretty sanguine about getting older. After all, there are definite perqs that come with being 50+ and - as the old joke goes - it's better than the alternative. But dealing with so much death in the past year has brought home just how finite and unpredictable life is and, as a result, I can't help feeling that every decision is that much more important.

Husband and I are currently grappling with some big ticket issues: Where do we want to settle for the latter part our lives? How much money will we need to sustain our lifestyle? How much longer will I have to say employed full-time to make those dreams a reality? Aside from saving money, what else should we do to make our retirement what we hope it will be? Just writing the questions down makes my head hurt.

My angst even extends to my running. Early in the spring, I drew up an ambitious training plan determined to train properly, modify my diet and (with luck) run a personal best in Barrington next month. Now, with the race five weeks away, I'm forced to admit that I failed in that quest. Though I've run regularly, I haven't done the hill and speed work I planned to do and, at 120 lbs, I'm still carrying the extra 4 or 5 pounds I needed to lose. Added to which, a visit to my massage therapist this evening made it clear my body's not happy that I forced it to complete two long runs for which it wasn't prepared. The upshot is there's no way I'll be ready to achieve a PB in five weeks' time.

So what?  Rationally, I know it doesn't matter to anyone but me if I run a slow marathon, run a half instead, or don't run at all. Unfortunately, my inner perfectionist is frustrated as hell by my lack of discipline so isn't making the decision to walk away an easy one. As she reminds me (viciously and repeatedly), I'm not getting any younger and, when menopause strikes, I'll find it even harder to train than I do now. Given that, if I ever want to achieve my goal of running sub-4:30, I'd best get off my butt and apply myself!

But, why do I want to run under 4:30?  It's hard to put into words. I guess because, based on the races I've done over the past couple of years, I think it's do-able and I hate giving up on something I feel sure I can do. Heck, based on my performance at Cabot Trail Relay, I should be able to run something closer to 4:20 - in theory, at least. In reality, I know running a full marathon is a lot harder than running two halves so I'd settle for 4:30.

Okay, then. Now what? My realistic options are to run the Barrington full marathon anyway and be satisfied with something like 5 hours, run a half marathon instead and hope I can run a fairly fast race (anything close to 2 hours would do), or skip the event altogether and run Bean There, Ran That Marathon in Yarmouth in August or the Maritime Race Weekend in September instead.

At some point over the weekend, I came up with the idea of running 4 half marathons between now and the middle of November, which might have satisfied my inner perfectionist, but would have put a major crimp in our summer plans. In all good conscience, I can't ask Husband to commit so much time to driving me back and forth to races when he's already got so much on his plate.

Perhaps, the best idea is to rework my plan as if I'm running Yarmouth in August and see if, by backing off a bit now and rebuilding more slowly, I can get to the point where I feel ready to run the full. Yarmouth's a more challenging course, with 6 or 7 kilometres of ascents in the second half, but at least I'd have another month to prepare. If I still didn't feel ready, I could switch to the half and/or register for Maritime Race Weekend instead. It would certainly be more sensible than pushing my body to do something it's not ready to do.

Sigh. This should be an easy decision, so why am I making it so hard? Clearly, despite all my efforts to make peace with my "perfectly imperfect" life during the past few years, I still struggle to accept "what is" and act accordingly. Goodness knows, there's nothing new about that. I've clung to far sillier notions much longer than I should have, hoping - despite obvious evidence to the contrary - that people or situations were different than they appeared to be.

Fortunately, in my personal and professional life, I'm finally getting a grip on that. Perhaps, it's time I did the same in relation to my running.  In that spirit, let me finish off with a few helpful quotations about accepting what is:
My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations. - Michael J. Fox 
Acceptance of one’s life has nothing to do with resignation; it does not mean running away from the struggle. On the contrary it means accepting it as it comes… To accept is to say yes to life in its entirety. - Paul Tournier 
Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, So what. That’s one of my favorite things to say. So what. - Andy Warhol 
Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery. - J.K. Rowling 
For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 
Happy running and writing, friends!


  1. I'm still dreaming of running a marathon period. Anything under 5 hours would be reason to be excited. I find it's not so much the effort during the event, it's the recovery. It's taking much longer. Much.
    Those where, how much $, how much longer. Plus, don't forget, how long do you need money for? If you knew that number the other calculations would be much easier.

    1. You're right about recovery time, Keith. If I want to have the energy for other things in my life, I need to take account of that too.

  2. “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done. ” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow