I think freedom is often taken for granted. We forget what it means and even how it feels. I’ve been living in a prison since 2009. It didn’t feel like a prison. I thought I was happily pursuing my dreams, but I was running away from true happiness. It was only the beginning, in the years that would follow I would define myself by one thing and it would consume me.
Sometimes the things we love the most, cause us the most pain. That is what happened to me with running and training for marathons. In 2009 I was training for the 2010 Austin marathon. Amy Anderson was my coach and I had my sights set on a Boston qualification. I had put everything I had into my training. I took it very serious. I thought about my goals all the time and I knew in my heart I could accomplish them. Two weeks before the race, I was injured. I cried and I had a strong feeling that all my hard work would be for nothing. I’m not one to give up, let go or quit. I approached race day as a battle that I would fight till the very end and that is exactly what I did. The result, I raced and missed my Boston time by 32 seconds. It was a bitter pill to swallow. The hours, days, weeks and months to follow were difficult. Those 32 seconds haunted me and I became more determined to come back and make my dreams come true.
2011 was my year. I set my sights on the New Orleans Rock and Roll marathon on March 4th, 2012. I was healthy. I was ready to make changes and I was ready to make it happen! Chris McClung was my coach and he was supporting me 110%. Boston was going to happen! Nothing was going to stop me! I trained even harder, made wiser decisions and I was a better athlete. My half marathon time was faster than previous years. So, here I am. It’s 3 days before my race and most of my fitness is gone. I’ve been injured since December and I just took 10 days off from running and exercise because I was in so much pain that walking was difficult. Six of those days were spent in bed resting. Again I find myself crying and wondering where did I go wrong. There is no possibility of racing and my dreams are not coming true. It’s an all too familiar nightmare.
This time things are different. Instead of crying forever over this and feeling defeated. I feel liberated and I’ve never been happier. During those 10 days away from running I felt a lot of sadness and anger. Life didn’t seem fair and I started to ask myself a lot of questions. I thought about Boston and what it meant. I questioned if running was something I would continue to do. Of all the things that I questioned, one opened a new door for me. It was life changing. If running is the only thing that defines me, who am I if I can’t run? Wow! It was heart breaking for me to even think about it. I had taken so much pride in running that over the years it had consumed me. People knew I was a runner and that I trained for marathons. I had grown to love it so much that it became who I was. Running was my prison. I was unhappy and I didn’t even know it. In my eyes, running was the only thing that defined me. My dreams of qualifying for Boston were dreams to fulfill some kind of insecurity I had. What was I trying to prove and who would care?
Things changed for me. Three very important people in my life helped me. My husband said he never wanted me to give up running. He said chasing an arbitrary time goal that is set up by how popular running is; does nothing but frustrate runners. He reminded me that I’m more than a runner. I’m a mother of three and I’m doing a good job of raising our children. My sweet friend Kim Y. wrote down a long list of things that define me. Running was not on the list. Seeing that list lifted a burden I had been carrying around for way too long. I was defined by many things, not just one. What did Boston mean to me? I actually didn’t have an answer. My friend Laura N. helped me to see that I enjoy other things in life. People often say that my running inspires them. Laura revealed that other things I do may have even a bigger impact that running does and those gifts are for a greater good.
In 3 days I’m going to step up the to starting line in New Orleans. My marathon fitness is gone but I’m not scared and I have no expectations. I don’t even know if I can finish that marathon. What I do know is that I am a runner but I’m also so much more than that. Qualifying for Boston is no longer a dream I’m chasing after. Running the Boston marathon will not prove I’m a good runner. I KNOW that I’m a good runner. I’m happy knowing that I have nothing to prove to anyone. I feel liberated! I feel free to enjoy running with no expectations. This marathon season ends with smile, a happy heart and a passion for running.