In the months leading up to a race I focus my time and energy on training, nutrition and sleep. I devour Runner’s World Magazine the moment it arrives in the mail and I foam roll until the cows come home. After long runs I look super sexy in my tall, hot pink compression socks and Birkenstock sandals – unapologetically breaking every rule of fashion I’ve ever learned. But preparation for the Michelob Ultra Chicago Spring 13.1 race was anything but routine. In the months leading up to it I faced what seemed like one hardship after the next – many of which focused around familial problems that didn’t immediately involve me but impacted me emotionally all the same.
And when I thought things couldn’t get worse, the scariest obstacles involving health complications arose. In April our recently adopted pup, Rocky, became incredibly sick and nearly died on his way to the veterinary hospital – despite only showing symptoms of illness just hours earlier. We’re so thankful he pulled through, but it was an emotional roller coaster to be sure, and it was just after Millie Pup underwent scheduled, routine surgery that same week.
Then, just a week later, my dad suffered end stage heart failure and was in the cardiac ICU for close to two weeks – the words ‘heart transplant’ were used liberally, which was heartbreakingly scary. I spent that time with my family in Florida, and thankfully my dad’s treatment via pacemaker is going well and he’s back home recovering. Without the support of Hubs, family & friends and my fellow yoga teachers (who so selflessly covered all of my scheduled yoga classes), I don’t know how I would’ve made it through.
During this time I tried to practice yoga and run whenever possible to maintain emotional and mental health – and the physical benefits don’t hurt either. Whether it was a quick 3 miler to outrun the tears that seemed to always be at bay or a 7 mile run under the hot, humid Florida sky – it didn’t matter. Anytime I laced up my shoes I knew I could just focus on my breath, listen to my footfalls and for a few blessed moments forget about all of the heaviness of the past few weeks and just feel the lightness of my limbs moving through space.
Hubs and I signed up to run this race together, and in hindsight I think it was a blessing. Some might think that a training schedule on top of everything else that was going on might feel overwhelming, but it was the running that helped keep me strong, focused and looking forward. While not every scheduled run was completed, it provided a routine in which to find comfort. Falling into my running shoes was akin to the warm embrace of an old friend.
Before we knew it race day was nearly upon us, and Hubs and I needed to decide if we were going to run the race at all. Most training manuals would tell you, “Heck no!” – not with our lack of training and emotional baggage – but it didn’t take long for us to realize that we had to run. What better way to move forward personally then physically moving our bodies. Those 13.1 miles symbolized our ability to regain control and find our equilibrium once again. And most importantly, we’d do it together as we’d been doing everything all along. Lifting one another up when times are tough (or when the miles are long) and celebrating together when the fog lifts and the sun shines through (AKA finally seeing the finish line).
Going into race day we decided it didn’t matter how quickly we covered the course; we had already won. By making it to the starting line, we’d put all of our proverbial baggage in the rearview mirror and felt lighter than we had in months. The 13.1 miles instead were a celebration, and reaching the finish line was just the cherry on top. While the physical race had its challenges – they were nothing compared to what we’d already overcome. In yoga we like to say that you can do anything for 5 rounds of breath. Well, I’ve decided that in running, you can do anything for two + hours…it’s all relative :)
So who wants to see how much fun we had on race day? I’m not sure if Hubs would classify the last 5 miles as fun per-say…but I think a good time was had by all :D