In 2015 I set a goal to run one race every month. I did it, although technically my “race” for March was an at home race. (These days, in the times of COVID, we’d call that a “virtual race”.) I did it again in 2016, 2017 and 2018. I had a four year streak of running a race every month. In January of 2019, I was signed up to run a race called Chill at the Mills. It was towards the end of the month and the weather forecast was for brutally cold weather, icy and snowy. I didn’t want to travel to the race let alone run it. I remember meeting with my therapist and telling her that I didn’t think I would be doing the race, and that I was really upset about my streak ending. Her response (something she asked me quite often, actually) was “What’s going to happen if it does?” I replied to her, “I’ll lose my streak!” Without skipping a beat, she said, “So start a new one. Or don’t.”
It was then that I realized how focused I had become at having streaks, and honestly I haven’t let that go. (I made an appointment with my therapist for Tuesday, I’m guessing this is one of the many topics that we will discuss.) From my racing streak that I was determined to keep even if it meant spending too much money, spending too much time away from home, or wearing out my body… to my streak of 100 miles per month… to my Snapchat streaks. There’s something about saying “My friend and I have a year long snap streak”, “I ran a race every month for four years”, “I ran 100 miles per month for 6 months” or “I have run a marathon every year since 2016”.
The ending of streaks is not the problem. It’s what I let happen to my mindset when they do. I can be an all or nothing type of person. I either just give up on everything related when a streak ends or I jump right to the next streak, right to the next plan. Yesterday I deleted my Snapchat app, ending some really long snap streaks, and the fact that I’m really disturbed by this bothers me. (Seriously, cannot wait to “see” my therapist!) On Monday I made a decision to break another streak of mine – that one about running a marathon every year. I am determined that I won’t do either thing, that I won’t start up another plan and that I won’t just stop everything altogether.
I put up a post on my Instagram this past weekend and something I mentioned was how much my plans for this year have changed. Before 2020 started… sometime in 2019… I decided that 2020 was the year I was going to try for a sub 5 hour marathon. I also wanted to run a marathon with my best friend. As time went on I realized that most likely I could not do both, and then finally I realized that I probably would not be able to do either. Recently I had been battling with whether I would run a marathon, or maybe longer, or maybe nothing at all.
I started marathon training on June 1st, because at that time nothing official had been announced about canceling the fall races I was considering doing. I gave up on the sub 5 hour marathon idea in May after running the 25k at a 12 minute pace. I decided I did not want to push myself, especially if the races would ultimately be canceled. My goal changed over and over again. At first, I had said that if the races went virtual that I would not do a marathon in 2020 because I did not want to do a virtual marathon. Then, I saw a post from someone in one of my Facebook groups that inspired me and I decided HECK YEAH I would do a virtual marathon. When it was announced that the races I wanted to do had all gone virtual, I debated on which one to choose. Then I got the crazy idea that maybe I could run a 50k… first, I thought to let the marathon just be a training run, since I wasn’t confident I could PR anyway and wasn’t sure if I wanted to. I don’t like trail running so an at home 50k sounded like a good idea. Then I realized that one of the challenges for the Detroit Marathon was a 1 mile + 5k + marathon (usually done on different days) which is 30.3 miles… I only needed to do an extra 0.7 to make it a 50k. And I would get really cool swag to honor my accomplishment! Then my friend pointed out if I did an extra mile it would be 31.3 miles (the Detroit area code is 313).. Oh boy. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. Or so I thought.
Two days after having the conversation with my friend about this 31.3 mile challenge, I ran a virtual half marathon with my best friend, and things just went downhill from there. First of all, the virtual half totally sucked. It took the wind out of my sails. I felt so defeated and so frustrated. I had spent money to have such a sucky ass run? I tried to spin it as positively as I could when I blogged about it, but every time I think about it I just get so frustrated. Hindsight is 20/20 though (eww, I kind of hate that saying now that 2020 is such a shit show), so I kept moving forward.
Almost immediately after that, my husband got sick and spent a week in the hospital. I did not run or do any workouts for a week. I started to really doubt this crazy 50k idea that I had only dreamed up a week or so before. I already was unsure about it because I changed my plans so late into the game – when I decided on doing the 50k there were only 10 weeks until race day and I hadn’t even gotten in a 20 miler yet. I put together multiple plans and came up with something to get myself there. I wasn’t looking to break records… just get the miles in. But that week turned my whole world upside down, and inspired my last post about priorities.
Per my best friend’s advice, I gave myself the last couple of weeks to follow my training plan to the best of my ability and think about what I wanted to do. She offered suggestions and alternatives, but my mind was pretty much made up – I was either doing the 31.3 miles or I wasn’t doing anything. (There’s that all or nothing I was talking about!) So last week and the week before I did my workouts. I did the mileage. I followed my plan almost perfectly. I had two weekends of really strong long runs. My brain was telling me that I could do it… but my heart was asking me if I should.
Big decisions like this are ones that I honestly don’t ask for a lot of input from people about. Don’t get me wrong – I may talk to multiple people about it and listen to what they have to say, but I usually have my mind made up before I even mention that I’m thinking about something like this. I am pretty sure my mind was made up the day I found out what was going on with my husband. I’ve thought more and more about it, and on Monday I finally said the words out loud (or more like typed them I guess in a text to one of my friends and to my husband): “I’m not going to do the 50k, or marathon, or half marathon. I’m not going to do a virtual Detroit or Grand Rapids.”
If you saw my post on Instagram this weekend, you’re probably thinking, “But you wore your 26.2 socks! You were looking for inspiration!” And you’re right, I did, and I was. In the back of my mind the whole time was whether it was the best idea for me. To paraphrase a quote from one of my favorite movies, “I was so preoccupied with whether or not I could that I didn’t stop to think if I should.” Could I run 31.3 miles 6-ish weeks from now? Probably. Should I? Nope.
I’m changing my priorities. I’m not quitting running, oh believe me, you wouldn’t like me if I did that. I’m not going from 90 to nothing. I’m also not going to jump into another streak or another plan. As of right now the next race I even have on my radar is in 2021… only if it is able to happen safely in person, and not in this new-fangled no aid station rolling start fashion. For now I am going to focus my priorities on taking care of my home, my family, myself. I have goals and relationships that I have neglected for years to focus on running and the friendships that came with it, and I want to refocus my energy on my other goals and relationships. It may not happen flawlessly, it might be a little bit messy, and I may not always be the best version of me while I do it, but this feels right. This is what I need to do.