“I’m so thankful for my injury”

Yes, it is another ‘Running is a metaphor for life’ post. 🙂 

“I’m so  thankful for my injury.”

That’s not exactly something you hear everyday, but Running Buddy definitely said it around mile 22 of our marathon together. But I didn’t flinch, because I knew exactly what she meant.

She’s been battling some IT-band issues for a good chunk of training but after the 20-miler, it was so bad, she wasn’t sure she’d even be able to run the marathon. We were pretty worried. And I’d been there too. Two years ago, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to run our first marathon because of a dropped metatarsal. I actually have a draft saved on this blog of a post I wrote updating and processing the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to run the marathon. (I got the okay to run it but turns out I probably shouldn’t have—I was still injured and got more injured in the process). I was thankful to have finished that one, and after each setback since then, coming back to running is all that much sweeter.

In my 2.5 years of running so far, I was sidelined with that injury, then with undiagnosed anemia, and then with mono, in addition to some busy seasons of school when running got sidelined, each time, coming back to running felt more and more like a gift. So when Running Buddy said, “I’m so thankful for my injury” in the midst of the best run we’d ever had (I think collectively for us both and individually for sure for me), on the most beautiful Fall day, with our family and friends and one million other fans cheering us on, I knew exactly what she meant.

The setbacks make the successes all that much sweeter.

I may have wept tears of pain and frustration during my first marathon but I smiled for 26.2 miles in my second.

I may been diagnosed with mono the day after winning the lottery to sign up for the Chicago marathon, but I rocked training as soon as I was fully recovered six weeks later.

I may have been frustrated by being in shape yet out-of-breath, but with iron supplements in hand, I came back stronger than ever.

I may have had seasons where my 5 hours of sleep was more important than running, but guarding those 8 hours of nightly sleep this time around felt right.

I may have struggled in the 20-miler with cramps, dehydration and nausea, but 26.2 went uncharacteristically smooth.

I may have crossed the finish line alone two years ago, but I crossed it with Running Buddy this time around.

I may have not written my goal for this marathon too boldly because of fear of not succeeding—I wrote, “Finish strong, preferably under 5:00”—but I crushed my goal—finishing strong at 4:45.

I may have not felt like a strong, real runner for 2+ years because of all the various setbacks, and because my dear Running Buddy often was able to run with a tad more oomph than me, but on marathon day this year, I knew I was a real runner.

I may not have blogged about running after my first marathon because I had so many unresolved feelings I didn’t know how to express, but today, I can blog about the journey, the setbacks and the successes.

In running and in life, we of course learn the most from our setbacks and failures. But in running and in life, those fleeting moments of success are great motivation to keep going because the journey includes ups AND downs, not just downs. And they feel pretty damn great. (Or maybe those are some lingering endorphins). 😉

Peace,
Melissa

FF DID

And just to clarify, because sometimes I can’t resist qualifications, none of this is meant to toot my own horn. It’s all to say that basically I’m grateful for a good running day, made all that more poignant by Running Buddy’s sort-of injury. It could very easily have gone the other way, as it often has. A good or bad running day is rather arbitrary at times. I’m just saying “thank you” for the gift of a good race, just as I try to say thank you for the not-so-good runs that teach me a lot too. 
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Life’s Better When We’re Connected

Another “running is a metaphor for life” post 🙂 

Life’s better when we’re connected.

Darn Corporate America tugging at my heart in their advertising. They got me. “Life’s better when we’re connected” was the theme of this year’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon. And it couldn’t me more true.

This is going to sound ridiculous but I have to say it because it’s true: the marathon passed quickly for me this year because we spent almost every few miles looking for fans. At 20 points along the way, we saw someone or a group of people that Running Buddy or I knew! We were at Mile 17 when I was like, “How are we already here? I’m not getting ahead of myself or anything, but…. This is going by so fast!” Two years ago, I was all like, “Baahhh… if we don’t see our fans like we’re supposed to at mile 16, I don’t think I’m going to make it.” (Needless to say, Running Buddy was getting worried about me at that point two years ago).

But what I notice about both of my experiences is how important our spectators were to me. Seriously, they kept me going! With our names plastered on our shirts, even strangers were cheering for us, the whole way!! And then we saw our families at SEVEN spots along the way. They win at “Competitive Spectating” for sure. And despite a bunch of friends not being able to make it who were originally planning to (I was getting worried the week of), a bunch of other friends came out of the woodwork and told me where they were going to be along the route. Amazing!

I am bursting with gratitude for all those who cheered us on on marathon day, for all those who supported me with encouraging words before and after the race, and for all who donated to our Taller de Jose running team.  I’m one lucky marathon runner.

Life sure is better when we’re connected… as runners, as spectators, as friends and family, as strangers, as a human family. Who would have thought that would be one of the life/running lessons of 26.2 miles?? But my tired legs can testify, they didn’t run it alone. They ran supported by you. Just as I live my life thanks to the beautiful known and unknown people with whom I am connected.

Thank you.

Some of our fans (Sans PaPa Mayer taking the picture)
Some of our fans (Sans PaPa Mayer taking the picture)

 

 

A Friend Catches You When You Fall… and other running/life lessons

I have always maintained that I run not just to run because running is a metaphor for life. Running continues to teach me about life, about my journey of faith and love and struggle and pain and joy.  Recently, as my marathon training peaked, I was again given the gift of two life-lessons.  It reminded me again of why I run , why I’m putting my body through the hardship of 18, 19, 20 mile runs in preparation for the big day of 26.2 one week from today on October 12th!

1. A Friend Catches You When You Fall

On September 21st, Running Buddy and I ran a “supported” practice race down the Lakeshore path with the Chicago Area Running Association (CARA). It was a beautiful day and the run was going pretty well for both of us, though I was still getting over a cold and Running Buddy was having IT band issues. Then, around mile 18, my body wasn’t having it anymore. In retrospect, I was probably dehydrated, because when we crossed the finish line, I started heaving and Running Buddy literally caught my arm and held me up. Within minutes I was fine (thanks to water and recovery drinks!!). But already during those few unpleasant minutes, I was (inwardly) delighting in the running-life lesson being lived out. Running Buddy literally caught me when I was falling, just as her alter ego, Ace, does metaphorically in non-running real life. Just as my beautiful and supportive friends and support network do for me constantly. What a gift to have friends who catch you when you fall!

2. Conditions will Never Be Perfect

I’ve been hoping desperately for good conditions during this marathon training season and especially for the marathon! I’m sick of having qualifications for my training and my races. For example, whenever I talk about my first marathon it always includes something like, “Well, I hurt my foot two weeks before and almost didn’t run and then I ran anyway and got stress fractures in both my feet.” Or I tell the story of how I got mono the day after I won the lottery for this marathon (kinda kills the momentum) and couldn’t run the Illinois Half I’d been training for at that time too (kind of a downer). In addition to those bigger bummers, I just feel like my running in general is plagued with “well, I was kind of sick for that run so…” or “I didn’t get enough sleep this week” or… you get the picture. While I’ll of these things are true, I think it’s left me in the unrealistic pursuit for a smooth, no setbacks training season and race.

So on 20-miler day, when I was still getting over a cold and using sentences again like, “And I had a cold for this run, so hopefully on the actual marathon…” to (rightly) justify why it may not have been as good a run as I hoped (like my 19-miler was!),  I realized that I’m always looking for those perfect conditions, conditions that will probably never actually exist. The imperfect, rainy day journey is what matters. It’s the messy here and now. In running and in life.

We rarely get quite enough sleep, have quite enough time for our projects in work or school, or see our friends as much as we’d like because it’s hard to find the perfect window of freedom. Maybe we should stop holding out for the stars to align when we will then be at our best, but make the most of our imperfect and messy lives, which is still full of stars, even if they don’t quite align into Orion’s Belt. Maybe the lesson..and even the unexpected joy, is in the imperfect, “not ideal conditions” journey?

3. Drink Enough Water

Ok, so not all running lessons correlate exactly into running lessons. Sometimes, you learn a lesson while running or racing that is just helpful to learn for future runs.  Somewhere along the way in the 20-miler, I stopped hydrating enough….hence the unfortunate end of the race mentioned above. I learned what I need to be especially attentive to on race day!

Thanks to all who have supported me in fundraising for Team Taller de Jose! In addition to water, it is my supporters, whether in person with cheering, through online donations and encouragement, or in spirit and prayer, who will keep me going next week!  If you haven’t had a chance to donate yet, you can still do so here: https://connect.clickandpledge.com/Organization/tallerdejose/campaign/2014marathon/fundraiser/MelissaCarnall/