I am tired of Coronavirus/COVID-19. I want it to go away. I know I am not alone in this desire. Life [for everyone] has been challenging over the last few weeks. Things keep changing and there is no consistency or “normalcy” in the world. I tried to write about quarantine a few times and I haven’t been able to get the words out. I also tried to write about the marathon I ran in October a few times and I couldn’t get the words out. Maybe it’s writers block, maybe it’s a mental block, maybe I know that writing forces me to process emotions and I don’t want to feel anything, or maybe I am simply struggling to comprehend the reality of the situation(s) surrounding me. I think I am in shock.
I trained more consistently and seriously than I’ve ever trained for a marathon. In retrospect, I was a bit arrogant with this endeavor. I assumed that no matter how training went, weather it went good or bad, that I’d run a PR because my marathon PR is weak and done off of little training. I knew that I may not hit my goal but I thought I was certain to at least run a PR if I had done any kind of consistent training.
I started officially training for Marathon 2 Marathon the first week of July, though I feel like I was building a base and mentally preparing for this race for much longer. I did everything right. I asked my friend Rob to coach me, I had a plan, I did the long runs, I stopped eating a bunch of sugar, I prioritized sleep, I cross-trained, I ran at the crack of dawn, I spent hours training side by side with my friend Liz (we were both training for marathons), I ran before the sun was even awake some days, I ran in the dark, I ran in the scorching hot summer heat, I ran trails, I ran in the pouring rain, I did a 20 mile long run by starlight one night after work, I ran in frigid temperatures, I ran uphill almost every single day–huge hills, I ran at altitude, and I focused on running a great race. If PRs came solely from preparation then I would have run a PR for sure.
I did not run a PR.
Two weeks before the marathon I fell and busted my knee during my last long run, a run that suddenly became very short. It swelled and I couldn’t walk straight and I could barely bend my knee. Terrible luck and timing. I felt a lot of frustration with this, yet I did my best to remain as positive as possible. As the race approached and I was still unable to run consistently and my knee was still hurting, I started to feel quite nervous. I was also feeling a bit run down and burnt out from the training. Keeping on the positive side, I decided that maybe some rest days would work to my benefit and help me feel rested and refreshed come race day.
The morning of the marathon I woke up and didn’t feel quite right. I chalked it up to pre-race nerves. As I sat in the car waiting for the race to start I remember telling Phil that my stomach really hurt.
The marathon course was a long country road with some ups and downs very similar to the road I did long runs on heading out of town. The race started in the dark and then the sun came up like it did on the majority of the runs I had done in training. I trusted the training that I’d done all summer and early fall but the race didn’t go well. For 18 miles I suffered. I felt nauseous. I threw up at mile 15 and knew my PR dreams were long gone.
I don’t get upset stomachs when I am running. I have an iron stomach. I can eat anything and go run. I don’t know what happened that particular day. Maybe it was food poisoning or a weird 24 hour bug, but whatever it was it ruined my race and I felt terrible. I wanted so badly to stop running, and at the same time I was willing myself to keep moving forward because the feeling of failure–the feeling of quitting would result in far worse pain and sickness than I was feeling in that moment. I couldn’t bring myself to walk off the course. I just couldn’t stop running and be done with it. I know myself and I know that I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself for giving up, so I did the only thing I could think of. I started praying that God would help me. I kept asking God to help me finish the race. My expectation was that I would suddenly stop feeling nauseous and I’d be able to return to race pace. That isn’t what happened at all. Instead, I ended up running with a man and woman from Midland, Texas. Without them there is no way I would have made it to the end. We ran most of the second half of the race together chatting, and they were extremely encouraging. They were a welcome distraction and the sole reason I was able to finish. I got the help I needed and with 5k to go I was starting to feel a little bit better. I felt well enough to pick up the pace a little and push my way to the finish line. I ended up passing a lot of other runners and when I finished I had no idea that I was the third woman to finish the race.
I ran 3:50:xx and I was hobbling across the finish line with a disgusting blood blister on my foot. I had been running with an odd, compensating stride because of my swollen knee from the fall two weeks prior. I talked about the race that day and answered questions about it, only when people asked, for a few days after. I haven’t talked about this race since. The other day I was in a webex meeting with a recruit and said, “I’ve run three marathons”, before I remembered going to Texas for Marathon2Marathon and corrected myself and said, “four marathons, I’ve run four marathons because I just ran one in October”. Then I moved on.
I am thankful for the friends I made on the course when I needed help and that I finished, however this race was a disappointment. The whole thing feels like a story someone told me. I can’t believe this happened to me. The sickness, the generosity of strangers, the crushed marathon dreams, the busted knee, the bloody foot, unknowingly and unexpectedly placing third. This race was the equivalent of being trapped in my own personal version of a runner’s hell.
Now, here I sit nearly six months later. I am quarantined in my kitchen, trying to work from home, doing workouts in the driveway, fearful I’ll never be able to travel to see my family again, not seeing friends, struggling to find things at the grocery store, running alone, and recruiting cross-country athletes over webex.
I used to wish for days and weeks with unlimited time so that I could sit home and write and read and work on things that are important to me. Now, I have been stuck home for over a month in quarantine with unlimited time to do whatever my heart desires and my motivation is non-existent. This is a suffocating experience. It’s causing a lot of stress and anxiety for many people, myself included.
The unknown is completely terrifying. I like facts. I like timelines. I am not a patient person. I love to have a plan and a goal. I ENJOY consistency and schedules and I don’t have that at all right now. I’ve been sitting at home day after day alternating between productivity and frustration, time wasting activities and creativeness, staying on top of chores and ignoring them, working out too much and some days not at all, wishing to return to my day job and being thankful for the creative space I have at the moment, and missing friends and loving the solitude. There is no in between for me. It’s one extreme emotion or another, and yet at the same time I am in a calm state of shock.
Preceding this pandemic my life was finally going in the direction I’d always dreamt it would. Things were really great. I was working on career goals and being blessed with new and exciting opportunities that I had waited YEARS for. And then, within a matter of hours everything came to a halt. Right now everything is so far in the distance just floating out there slightly out of reach. Will I ever actually have it? Will this ever end? When will this end????? What will life look like when this is over? Will we actually have a cross country season in 2020? No one knows.