So, spoiler alert if you didn’t pick it up from the title of this post, but I didn’t run the half marathon this past Saturday. And you know what? I’m actually feeling pretty good about my decision not to.
I first started running almost four years ago. I wrote a post about How I Started Running, and it remains one of my favorites to this day. I know it sounds super cliché, but I honestly never in a million years would have imagined myself being able to run, much less enjoying it. When I first started, I was impressed with myself with each extra minute I could keep going. The constant sense of accomplishment I felt with each new obstacle was fulfilling in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Running became a huge passion and an outlet, and it made me really happy.
I vividly remember running my first 5k, moving onto my first 10k, and then my first double digit race – The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. After that, I tackled my first half marathon, and the feeling of crossing that finish line was beyond anything I’d ever felt before. Once I had one under my belt, I wanted to do them stronger and faster, and ended up running 4 more, and knocking 11 minutes and 10 seconds off the time of my first over those two years. During that time, I also decided it would be a good idea to try to train for a full marathon, but after working up to running 16 miles, I decided it wasn’t a good time for me and to drop out of the marathon.
Lately, I’ve been feeling in a very similar place to when I quit training for the marathon and my heart just hasn’t been in it. This past weekend would have been my sixth, and there were many times during the training cycle that I tried really hard to psych myself up. Sometimes when you’re in a rut you just have to give yourself a good pep talk and you can snap out of it. But not this time.
I stayed up with being active, but the long runs were something I was literally DREADING. I know long runs are often a runners least favorite part of training, but I was in a place where thinking about having to do the run would cause me so much anxiety and dread that it just put a dark cloud over my days. So I often skipped them, which caused more negative feelings associated with running and the guilt that often followed.
As this race was approaching, I had a really uneasy feeling about the whole thing. I did a lot of thinking and then realized I just didn’t WANT to run a half right now. And then I had to ask myself, well why am I running it then? I had been trying to make myself do something that I wasn’t dedicated to, and it was causing me to resent running in general.
Sometimes it’s really easy to get caught up in something you think you should do, and I think that running so many races has caused me to constantly be looking for the next big thing. Not that that is bad at all, but I feel like this constant searching has caused me to feel like running races is more of an obligation than a choice. It’s like I can’t be happy to just keep doing what I’m doing, and have to always been looking for, and working towards, something bigger.
I do love the feeling of crossing the finish line, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing such a big task that I’ve dedicated myself to. But what I don’t love is not being able to identify WHY I’m doing it and feeling like I’m being forced into it. Because if I don’t want to, and it’s making me dread a sport that I’d grown to love (in smaller doses), then really, what’s the reason?
I do strongly believe that being active is a nonnegotiable part of healthy living for me, but I don’t believe running half marathons all the time has to be. There are many, many other ways to stay and be active and to continue to dedicate myself to a healthy life. I’m not saying I won’t be running races anymore – in fact, I have the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler coming up on April 7, which will be my fourth time in a row running it. But what I am saying is that I think I’m going to take a break from distance running after that for a bit, until I find myself back in a place where I am doing it because I want to, and not because I feel like I have to.