somebody please explain myself to me

Why the hell did I sign myself up for this?

I ran 18 miles this morning, and I’m still trying to figure out why. I mean, I know why. I did it because “Lizzy and Anna’s marathon training schedule” (which is really just “Anna’s marathon training schedule,” now that Lizzy can’t do the race with me anymore) had the number 18 written in the little box under today’s date. But this morning, I had a case of bad attitude that would put my smart-ass 16-old-self to shame.

I had a feeling that this might not be my favorite run ever when I realized I was going to have to do all 18 miles by myself. It’s easy to find running buddies if you run fast and can change your pace to suit the current company. It’s much more challenging to find them if you are distinctly slower than average. I went through my entire list of people who can be trusted to run at a pace I can keep up with; all of them (all three and a half of them) were injured, out of town, or racing this weekend. Why didn’t “Anna’s marathon training schedule” take this into account when it heartlessly prescribed 18 miles for this weekend?

Also, my friends were doing fun things without me this morning. Things I couldn’t participate in. Because I was running. Alone.

When I set out, I switched my MP3 player from its usual running-music shuffle to a Green Day album because I felt like I needed to be screamed at for a little while. Motivation. Or whatever.

Less than a mile out, Green Day started to sound distinctly odd.  Then it started to sound distinctly like my left headphone wasn’t working properly. Then it stopped working altogether. Even my friend substitute (only used when nobody will run with me) had deserted me now! So I ran for three hours with nothing to distract me but my thoughts. Which were pretty grumpy.

Usually when I run, I think about happy stuff because it does a better job distracting me. Today, I kept ordering myself to think happy thoughts, and somehow the thought that kept sneaking back through my head, like an unwelcome guest at a dinner party, was “Is this supposed to be fun? Why did you think a marathon would be a good idea?”

I was hoping that, at some point during those three hours, I would have a change of heart. That there would be a moment when I felt happy to be out there. That I could say, “Ah yes, THIS is why I run.” Something like that would have worked a great moral into the end of this post by proving that doing challenging things always provides great rewards. And it actually does. But the best I could come up with this morning was this:

I AM RUNNING A MARATHON BECAUSE

1) I don’t like to be told what to do, even by myself. A little over a year ago, I told a friend, “I’d never be able to run a marathon.” And as soon as I said those words out loud, a contradictory little voice in my head that sounded much like my eight-year-old self said, Oh yeah? Watch me!

2) I love to stop running, but I can’t do that if I never start. Whether it’s overwhelming happiness at finishing the best race of your life or relief that hours of horrible torture are finally over, nothing beats the feeling you get when you are allowed to stop running. The longer you run, the happier you are to be finished. 

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