I have been downplaying a lot of things for a few years now. Secretly, I have been scared of success for a really long time. As much as I don't give a shit about what people think of me, I kinda do to some degree.
Most of my closest friends and family think that I care about folks and in the same breath, think I am one of the biggest assholes that ever graced this earth. Perhaps I should be flattered that I can earn such a honor but it's not as charming as people may think. Folks like me are confusing as all hell most times. Three days of the week, I love being around a group of people. Two more days roll by and I may just want one or two of my closest buddies nearby but by day six, I want nothing to do with anyone and this is when it starts to get weird. By the second week, I want to kill everything around me and can't stand being in my own skin. I learned a lot of my not so funny quirks through running.
When I think about my first and only ultra marathon, I realized that my spirit rose and fell way before my legs had a choice in the matter. I could babble on forever about how I felt that day but the same feelings wouldn't translate nearly as well unless you experienced it on your own. Sounds elitist or pretentious? That's why I downplay a lot of what comes out of my mouth. I start to sound like a long winded know it all and combine it with doing something that most people think you're bat shit crazy and maybe amazing doing, you start worry about your accomplishments. I feel nuts to admit that sometimes I'm a bit embarrassed about pushing past my own boundaries. Some might think that's absurd but it's my own personal truth.
I remember doing the Miami Marathon in January 2016. I only spent two or three days there because my concern was mostly surrounded by visiting my family in Florida, learning more about my father's side and meeting this incredible woman that I have a girl boner for10 plus years that I was meeting for the first time on MySpace. She would eloquently point out my bullshit from miles away and until this point, never met me in person. When I think about the Miami Marathon, I find a personal peace in my "failure." On race day, I made it to mile 6 and knew I was in trouble. Typically when I am struggling through runs, I go through stages of bereavement. This strong urge of denial overwhelms me to a point where I convince myself not to fail. A host of reasons shoot rapid bullets in my brain, trickling down in my feet to push through. It's usually the notion of not failing others who helped me financially cover a race. Anger settles in when I start to slow down or walk. I tend to be my own worst critic in these aspects. Regardless of how rational I can be most times, I still encounter moments of a self defeatist attitude. Once I get to state of bargaining, I start to tell myself a load of bullshit, sometimes translating into mind over matter. On this particular race, I think bargaining became the fourth step versus depression. I was filled with sadness around the ninth mile when I quickly realized that my growing sciatica pain was going to injure me. I asked myself if doing the full marathon was worth weeks of being laid up in a hospital in another state, knowing that I had to board for Atlanta the next morning to meet someone that I wanted to see for years. Even in this constant strange pursuit of perfection within self, I accepted that I needed to change my route into the half marathon lane around mile 12. On that day, I faced a huge fear of failure. Shifting from a full marathon to a half marathon isn't so bad. It's not like I DNF (did not finish) and even if I did, I actually gave it my best. Until this point, it was easy to avoid acknowledging that I can be my own worst critic.
These aren't the only lessons that I learned through running. Through this sport, I learned that my mind needs more exercising than my body. When I think about my first marathon, running while on a journey to becoming a functional alcoholic, I realized that my mind is what pushed me through such shitty training. There have been times that I have ran (and walked) through injuries. Running with a sharp pain in your ass is like laying in a bed full of nails with your child kicking you in the nuts for giggles. Sciatica gives no comfort and in turn, my metaphorical life mantra tends to come to life 50 percent of the time on the pavement: Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
I've been running since late 2013 and there are days where I am still conflicted about my wall of achievements. In my heart, I want to earn more, constantly strive to do better but worry that I'll isolate myself from so many by doing so. Every run, I still can feel my heartbeat resting on my throat. The jitters haven't left my system in three years. Ironically, I have been sick on almost every major half or full marathon to date. Perhaps this is some bizarre well wish from the universe as a form of good luck. On a continuous basis, I give myself a pep talk that doing something positive with my life shouldn't be affiliated with guilt. Running is such a great thing and if finisher medals come with it, rejoice in those moments. I just wonder at times why am I so ashamed of accomplishing so much. I know that part of it is that I am secretly scared of my own success but I wonder if it's connected to something so much deeper.
This journey of going from a person who only ran for the ice cream truck to becoming an ultramarathoner is exceptionally humbling. I learned some dark things about myself that I found easier to deny prior to becoming a runner. From sticking to this fitness kick (or whatever folks want to call my passion), I am also forced to confront my fears head on. What have you learned about yourself through your journey to becoming a runner (or through fitness)?