After I finished the marathon last fall, it took me almost a day and a half to appreciate my accomplishment. The first and strongest emotion I felt after I finished? Disappointment.
I was disappointed in myself.
After finishing my first marathon.
Not the usual reaction people have, but I couldn't get that lingering disappointment out of my mind. For weeks afterward, when people congratulated me, I always felt a bit bashful, not quite sure why they thought what I had done was a big deal. I didn't feel like I lived up to my expectations for myself, and didn't feel like I had done a good enough job.
Because I had taken walk breaks (although I always reminded myself that they were really fast walk breaks, and my walking was, at most points, faster than my actual running.) And because I had hit a wall. Around mile 16 or 17...or 18.... it got really unpleasant. And I just assumed that meant I hadn't trained hard enough, that I hadn't done enough to prepare myself. And maybe it was, to a degree. I had been beating myself up for hitting the ubiquitous wall. In my first marathon. After about five months of training. I didn't realize how ridiculous I was being until after the NYC Half in March. For the half, I stepped up my training, and absolutely would not let myself take any walk breaks. And yet, around mile 10, things got pretty difficult and I felt like I was falling apart mentally for the last few miles.
Again, for a couple of weeks afterward, I had this nagging little inner voice that kept going over what it could have been that had gone wrong, when I thought that I had done so much of my training right. How had I managed to hit the wall yet again?
And then it dawned on me. It's supposed to feel like that.
The wall is not the barrier to what you want. The wall is what you want - to find it, to push yourself up against it, and to overcome it. I had come from a place of such self doubt last spring, and I thought that all of a sudden, now that I had finished, and accomplished my goals, that doubt would dissipate. But it doesn't work that way, and that's the beauty of the marathon. That wall is always going to be there, and odds are pretty good that physically, you'll hit it more often than not. But knowing how to expect it, understand it, and embrace it, it seems, is the real challenge. It's not really something you can train for, or even prepare for - you just have to experience it, let it happen, and use those experiences to build your own corporeal weapon of destruction.
I imagine it's the closest possible experience to being a Transformer.
And as I realized this, it dawned on me how much more I could really push myself. Yes, I had taken on some decent challenges last year. Yeah, I did a pretty good job. But that nagging feeling of disappointment made me realize that I had so much more. Not just in races, but in my training - every day - that I had been okay with mediocrity in whatever capacities in which I defined it.
I'm not sure how I feel about that. It's disquieting, realizing just how much I let excuses dictate the choices I make. And it's remarkably uncomfortable sitting in a constant state of choice - conscious knowledge of the easier route suddenly makes it less appealing, but fear and uncertainty hold me back from the challenge.
And it's not a choice you make that's one and done. Those choices present themselves every day, all the time. And the only way to break through that wall is to hit it, over and over, and know exactly how strong you must be to get through it.
|I'd hit that.|