Global Pandemic. Record Unemployment. Civil Unrest.
Not what I was thinking when I said the 20s would roar.
It’s been a year—no, wait, a decade—and we’re only seven months into the 2020s.
Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a blog about fun and running and traveling around the world? Well, when the marathons cancel and borders close and the run club stops meeting and you get furloughed from two jobs, running takes a back seat to life. Life, as we knew it, had changed.
I wasn’t in a good place when this all started. My mental health took a huge hit last August, and I’ve been slowly trying to get back to functional. Things that you may take for granted, like the steps you take to make it to work in the morning, are very stressful to my OCD mind. There are just so many steps, and if I don’t do them right, the anxiety surges, just like an electrical power surge. Do I have a clean outfit? Do I have a clean coffee mug in the dishwasher? Did I remember to brush my teeth? Did I brush my teeth before I put my shoes on? Did I make sure to only touch the door handle with my pinky finger? Did I wash my hands after touching (water kettle, sink handle, laptop keyboard, dryer handle, fridge, or anything else in my house)? All while trying to get out of the house at a time that gets me to my job on time. I’m exhausted before I even put my key in the car.
Running, especially running with a group, has all of that, too. How am I supposed to put my hair in a ponytail without contaminating everything? Where do I put my purse while I’m running? What about my car key? And shoes. I’m afraid of shoes right now.
I can run or work, but I can’t do both. And I have to pay the bills.
It’s so frustrating, after such a victory in New York, to have slid down to a place where I’m going to have to start over from scratch. Unlike a physical injury, where your body is begging you to stop and heal, you feel like such a failure because you can’t get yourself out there. The negative thoughts creep in (because your brain is already hurting) about how I’m going to get to do these last three marathons, especially Boston. I’ve gone from “I can totally qualify for Boston” to “I’ll never run Boston” in the span of six months.
Then I think about why I run and what I love about running. For me, it’s the meditation, the ability to let my brain get exhausted by the physical effort, to be outdoors and see new trails. It’s the companionship of friends as well as the quiet solace of an empty trail, hearing only the wind and the birds. Then I think about all the athletes who not only have seen their competitions and races and Olympics get postponed and cancelled, but also stuck at home, unable to do the training that they love so much, that would alleviate the grief of losing their Worlds or Olympics or Boston Marathon.
Running cannot be a chore. It has to be my solace, not my obligation.
Quests are never easy. Even Hollywood fills epic quests with monsters and quicksand and Eyes of Sauron and Darth Vaders. I knew five years ago when I started my quest that there would be epic challenges (though not a global pandemic that would completely shut down the US for months), and the point of the exercise was how I grow from the challenges laid before me. So I will face my struggles, heal my mind, and find a new path to traverse. Some day, I will cross that sixth marathon finish line and kiss the ground.
I want to get back to this woman
We are all challenged now with so many things right now. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Treat each other with love and kindness. Open your hearts and minds. Let’s walk together.