All decisions are emotional. Once you embrace that notion and take your emotions into account, you can make really good decisions. The minute you try to be objective about a decision by trying to set aside your feelings, you are destined to make a bad choice.
This is why I encourage my new clients to read a book called Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday. Feelings are reactions and they can be complicated; unwinding and identifying feelings can be like untangling and separating strands of spaghetti. The ego is separate but often much louder; it’s that voice in your head that screams over your emotions, commanding you to do one thing. The ego is driven by fear, and once it takes over you are destined to make a bad choice.
This is where I found myself 5 weeks ago when I was 9 weeks out from the NYC Marathon, wondering if I could still run it, wondering if I should run it. I was stressed out trying to get my runs in, to get up early to run even though Violet was teething and no longer slept through the night, I was tired, I wasn’t getting faster or feeling stronger. Rather than appreciating what my body was finally able to do, I was worried about what it couldn’t do YET.
One Saturday morning it hit me: “You don’t HAVE to do this.” I relaxed almost immediately. This pregnancy hadn’t been like the others, Why in the world would I expect to rebound like I had after the others? I spent a year in bed! Running a marathon is RIDICULOUS!
In my coaching I frequently tell my clients, “First we train to cover the distance, THEN we hone for speed.” I mean this from the bottom of my heart. We don’t need speedwork or pacework in every marathon cycle; we can do SO MUCH with strength and sleep and nutrition; speedwork won’t do much for you until you’ve maximized those elements anyway.
That Saturday I realized there was no way my body would be ready to cover 26.2 miles in 9 weeks. So I started leaning into that idea and relaxed. I announced it in my Monthly Heart Rate Program Facebook group and that felt good, then I told my husband and that felt good. The more I said it the better I felt until I was certain this was the right decision.
This decision wasn’t easy to make. I have all the same feelings about quitting that everyone else does, even though I DNF (do not finish) and DNS (do not start) way more frequently than your average mother runner; out of 5 marathons I’ve registered for in 2016 and 2017, I completed exactly one, DNS’d 2, and DNF’d 2. Each of those choices was the right one, but none were easy.
Listening to your body is THE most advanced thing a runner can do, since it never yells at you as loudly as your ego will. Sometimes you need to embrace the suck, other times you need to mind the big red flags. As a post-partum marathoner eager to get back to normal runner #momlife I have to check myself at every turn to be sure I’m making good choices, and in this case quitting is the right one.
Violet is 8 months old now, and she is the last baby this body will produce. For now, pressing my face into her sweet baby belly is way more appealing than grinding out mileage. Which is why this feels more like winning than quitting.
BTW: I’m still going to NYC. My husband bought VIP finish line tickets, and we are going to enjoy watching a part of the race I’ve never experienced before, with warm drinks and nice toilets. Quitting might be the smartest thing I’ve done yet!