Today, I was supposed to be back in sunny California. I was supposed to get up tomorrow at the ungodly hour of 3AM, pull on my blue spandex with matching star-adored baseball cap and take to on the Thor 10k with the running fiends and Marvel fanatics as Captain America. I couldn’t wait the heroic overtures of the marathon’s official Spotify playlist to keep me going until the finish line, where I would collect that shining Thor medal, a token of five months’ diligent training.
However, due to a myriad of circumstances, the biggest being it’s astronomically expensive to get back to California, I will not be there. And it bothers me that I won’t be there. I get a pit in my stomach every time I get an email whose subject reads “Review these Last Race Day Reminders” or the runDisney Instagram story refreshes with new glimpses into the race decor or the merch tent.
The easiest explanation is that it’s always disappointing to have to give up on a goal, especially when the finish line is so close. Before I started training, I hadn’t run a consecutive mile since I did Presidential Fitness Testing in the 10th grade. I knew if I was going to spend the cash to run a Disney race (btw, they’re not cheap), I had to put my all into it.
I created a five-month training schedule that balanced running with cross training. I started with ten-minute runs and increased that a little each week. I researched what classes would optimize my cross training. I went to spinning classes and yoga classes and drank more water like a fresh water fish and ate lots of quinoa and veggies. I wanted to be the best position possible to run the race, not just to finish it but to complete it in respectable time, knowing I gave it everything I could.
I hate to leave things unfinished. I could blame it on my third grade teacher, who ingrained in me to make everything I do better than it has to be, but as my mom has said oh-so-many times, we’re hard-wired at birth. I’ve always been a hard-headed perfectionist, who wants–nay expects–everything she does to be a success. Having to give the race up felt a little bit like accepting failure.
When I thought about it, it wasn’t failure. It wasn’t even really about the race. Yes, I was excited for it, and yes, it was disappointing to have to give up with the finish line in sight, but I realized there were bigger things at play.
The decision to sign up for the race was motivated by escapism. For the year before I signed up, when I was drowning in work and the loneliness of a new city, I found that my ClassPass classes were my only solace. Fitness got me out of my head and living in the present, even if it was only for an hour at a time. I loved the atmosphere of the race when I visited the year before, and I wanted to take my fitness journey to the next level, but mostly, it was about needing a distraction from the wasteland that was my life.
I hated my job. I hated the city. I was more likely to spend my weekend with Netflix and cookie dough than with actual people. The only people I regularly interacted with were my kickboxing instructor, my librarian and the cashier at Ralph’s. I needed to escape from how dreary and depressing my life was, and what better way to do that than using the time I would be obsessing over my lack of life to create training schedules and compare best post-run protein bars.
When I got home from California and my life was still a mess, running became the only constant I could rely on. Worried about grad school apps? About getting a job? About attending family functions where people would ask me, “What’s next?” and the only answer I had was, “Watching Stranger Things on Netflix…again”? About anything in my life that happens beyond Christmas? I would lace my sneakers and lose myself in the run. I threw everything I had into building my stamina and strength in time for race day as a way to forget that while there’s no place like home, my life was still in shambles.
But my problems didn’t go away. They were still there. The running, while healthy and fulfilling, was only a band-aid. Once the running was gone, all I had left were the demons I wasn’t quite ready to face.
Here’s the thing: you can’t hang your happiness one singular thing. Not a person or a job or a race. It might work for a while. After all, it’s easy to ignore the other things, the bigger things, when you need all your energy to focus on full, even breaths. But in order for things in your life to grow and prosper, they need your attention.
I’m trying to do just that, pay attention to the more negative aspects of my life. I’m starting a new job, furiously working on my grad school applications and taking deep breaths when the “what if’s” of my future start creeping in. I’m even looking into the possibility of competing in another race soon, because while I hate to admit it, I did come to like the way running made me feel. As they say, all things in good time.
I’m working to make it to the New Year, and in 2018, we’ll see what happens.
Until Next Time,
Casey Brown // Gal about Town