Sometimes Self-Care Means Saying No to What You Want:

The pinnacle of the average distance runner’s acheivement is the Boston marathon. Boston has the longest consecutively running marathon in history (this is its 113th year). To enter, you must qualify by running a marathon at a certain speed within the previous year.

I *never* thought I’d qualify for Boston. Seriously. the best I had hoped for was to stay injury-free and not slow with age so that I could make it after I turned 45.  I’ve always been a pretty conservative runner because I value the peace and accomplishment I get from running too much to have my body give out on me and force me into retirement. I’m much rather get sick of running and choose something else (like Roller Derby!) than have my body give out while my mind still thrived on it.

Lo and behold, last May an incredible thing happened. The weather was right, the course was right, the support I received was more than I had ever had before. I raced a marathon like I had never raced it. I was like a cheetah, fast and strong and having the time of my life (a cheetah on catnip, maybe?). I ran 45 seconds per mile faster than I had previously raced in 3 marathons, suddenly acquiring not only a wicked Personal Record (or PR in runner’s lingo) but the Golden Ticket to Boston.

15 years early, at that!

I could hardly believe this gift! I had not even realized it until I was on my way home. In my head I confused the qualifying time and thought I had been 4 minutes shy of it. This is the power of disbelief!

So I have been waiting for Boston. I have trained and run since then, and here I am 5 weeks shy of flying to the east coast to run in the runner’s event.

…And I am canceling my flight.

Significantly cutting back on my training

…and waiting until next year.

This is NOT an easy decision to make. I will not candy-coat it by telling you it is anything less than absolutely (insert favorite expletive ending in -ly here).

It is not injury that has me sidelined. It is not a lack of accommodations, or schedule conflicts. It is the messages my body is telling me. The messages I know not to ignore, because I see how ignoring the signals affects other runners I have run with over the years.

While I am not injured, my body is exhibiting signs of not being ready. I’m taking too long to recover from training runs, my stamina is lessened and other life stressors have depleted extra reserves necessary for accumulating those miles properly. I sense that, if I chose to keep going and push through the fatigue for the Idea(l) in my head, I could very well end up injured. My body is telling me that 19 miles is a bit too much right now.

In hindsight, Boston would be my third marathon in 12 months. That is something I have never done before, and I may not have the solid base miles under me yet to hold that kind of load. These last two marathons came after an 18 month reprieve from marathons and I came back really strong. But that strength and power and excitement I experienced in Eugene last May is not with me.

So I have to say no. In good conscience, it is my only choice.

You are welcome to send flowers. 😉

The reason I choose to share this with you is because sometimes the right thing is the thing that does not feel good in the moment.  It’s kind of like being a good parent. Discipline is sometimes a situation in which parent and child both feel crummy, but it is important for reasons not immediately experienced.

This situation is applicable to most aspects of health and well-being.  Limiting the Starbucks drive-through may feel like deprivation, but the reward in seen later the wallet and waistline. Holding off on fast-food in general is less convenient and may result in some whining from the backseat, but the rewards in health care savings, energy, and lifelong vitality far outweigh any Supervalue meal.

More commonly, having the awareness to recognize when to stop eating, when to go to the gym anyway, when to say ‘no’ and when to take a risk allow us to live our lives with fewer regrets, greater satisfaction, and feeling of control and competence even though it can be a pain in the butt and a lot of hard work to hone that skill.

But I’d rather postpone Boston for a year than mark it as the end of my running career, or come back and humbly confess to my running group that I did not stop when I should have. (yes – there is some pride at stake, here!)

How about you?

What has internal discipline given you? Did you ever ignore the messages and what was the outcome? Have you cultivated that awareness or does it still like a mystery?

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