I discovered that underneath all of my independence, is someone who is dependent on others to validate their work. And underneath all that reliance on others to validate them, is someone who finally knows how to celebrate themselves. Yesterday was a trying day. It was a last minute decision to join a race, rather than cheer and support. I had trained some, mostly inconsistently. But I had trained. I was getting there. Rebounding from illness, times two, and a round of depression that still seems thick on my skin, I was getting there. So when I signed up for yesterday’s race a mere 5 days prior, I was nervous and doubtful. I had no idea how I would perform, let alone finish. I had multiple layers of fear, both rational and irrational. What I didn’t have was my direct support team. I was doing this solo. Don’t get me wrong, I had some of my direct support, but they had their own things to get through.
As race morning was upon us, one member had spent the last 24 hours fretting and pacing, stressed and worrisome over the length and potential performance in the race. I spent much of my morning in silent support. Another member was battling her own demons with an injury that forced her withdrawal from her original race, to a lesser distance: my race. I spent much of my time trying not to be insulted and trying not to speak.
One thing I know to be true; I am the sensitive one. If I have an opinion, that is deemed excessive or too passionate, the natural response is “uh oh, she’s upset again, lets walk on eggshells around her” When in actuality, I’m just expressing an opinion or telling you how you make me feel. So I have a large basket of emotions at 6AM of race day. I’m doing my best to support the other two, as I still don’t believe I belong here, and therefore my fears and concerns about the race or my performance are not valid. I didn’t train as long or as hard as they did. I didn’t sacrifice the time I don’t have like they did. My battle is nowhere near the earned level theirs is. So I kept quiet. I said minimal about my injury. I said nothing about my fears. I tried my best not to retaliate, or even worse, pathetically beg for attention and validation on this cold run morning.
We arrive at our race, and the first runner takes off. We cheer, take pictures, we yell and clap for her and all the other runners. Then a nervous silence descended on the park. We had 3 hours before our race was scheduled to start. I set up to cheer anyone who came through the first checkpoint on. The injured went to sit in warmth. She was angry. She was frustrated. All of her hard work, training, sacrifice, and tears came down to destruction in her eyes. She was not going to run the race she signed up for, and all because part of her body had betrayed her. It wouldn’t function. It gave up. It gave in, and it would barely let her walk. I watched silently as she struggled to process her disappointment. That process, by the way, looks like rageful anger tinged with sarcastic humor. We are very similar creatures, using passive humor to somehow mollify the pain of failure. It wasn’t working. In fact, while not working, it was creating anger and resentment in me. It was pushing my limits of patience and understanding. I was near tears at one point, and considering lashing out in passive angry humor (ok maybe no humor). Here she was, shrouded in her own frustration and mutiny from her limbs, completely unaware of neither the words she was saying or the attitude displayed toward my race.
I accepted much of it. I accepted that my run wasn’t a real run. I accepted that the race I was doing wasn’t for real runners. Why? Because I lacked confidence in me. I lacked belief that I deserved to be here. I didn’t understand that although my race wasn’t the cream of the crop goal of every runner, it was still going to be an unbelievable accomplishment for me. I didn’t accept that I deserved to be here. I deserved to own and earn this accomplishment. I was spending my prep time battling for someone else’s sanity, and I deserved to have someone invest in mine. I was terrified. I didn’t think I could run as far as I had signed up to run! I didn’t think I could do it alone! I didn’t think I would make it. I feared I would be laughed at, walking this trail, by other runners that I’ve always believed were a supportive community.
And then, something changed.
I’d had enough.
I made an internal decision, which had an outward impact. I decided I deserved to be here. I decided my race was important. I decided my race was amazing. I decided I was valued. I decided to be my own champion. I decided I was important.
From that moment on, I was done worrying about others. I was done being an unresponsive emotional punching bag, intended or not. My race mattered.
The start lineup came. We lined up. We made the decision to run our own races. So often runners will unconsciously make the decision that they cannot leave each other behind. They will keep pace with a slower runner out of guilt, even though they may have trained harder than the runner they are pacing. I know from experience. I am the slow runner! I’ve had team members run their crappiest races because they have this internal desire to motivate and lift the entire team. I’ve had my mom make up songs in the middle of the race, just to keep me motivated and going. And she’s a regular marathoner! So we decided to run separate races. We decided based on our own needs, it would be best to do our races and do them for ourselves and on our own.
Best decision made. Injured took off like a bat out of hell. Her strategy was to run, and run fast before her limbs realized what she was doing, and hopefully once her limbs caught on she would be crashing through the finish line many miles later. I had committed to a 14 minute mile pace in advance. Based on the distant and my training, I believed this was a pace I could finish at.
The run was amazing. It was hard. It was trying. I had to stop 3 separate times to stretch out my own injury I was battling. But I never walked. Half the time I didn’t even pick my head up to look around. The scenery was amazing, but I didn’t know it. I was both my own cheerleader and captain. At one point I was babbling to myself through the trail. I called myself my own last name and my sister’s last name to chastise into running faster.
In the end, I sprinted my last 0.3 miles. I sprinted past our cheering team and Injured yelling and cheering me on. I sprinted over the finish line and claimed my medal at an average pace of 12.36 minutes per mile. I did this. I did this for me. I accomplished something unbelievable, and I did it alone. No one else on my team really knew or acknowledged what it took for me to accomplish this, and it didn’t matter. I am amazing, and I know what I went through to smash this goal.
So in the end, your take away is this: Sometimes you spend your entire life reliant on others to validate your existence, to empathize with your struggle. And in the end, there is only you. In the end, you might be the only one who notices you. And that, needs to be enough. In the end, you are enough.
“The good you do today, may be forgotten tomorrow. Do it anyway…..In the end it is between you and God, it was never between you and them anyway.” –Mother Theresa