A brutally honest marathon reflection – purging my demons

Cadbury Marathon 11 January 2015. I finished in 5:12:31.

This is a post to purge my demons. I understand if you don’t want to read it.  I need to get them off my back.  There are exactly three months to go until Marathon Number Two and I would like to go into training with a happy, free heart, ready to run and have fun.  Writing allows me to deal with things like nothing else I know, which is one of the reasons why I blog.

One of the biggest downers at Cadbury Marathon was that as I was about to turn around to head back out on lap number two, at the 23km mark several runners who were doing the half marathon at the same time made negative comments to me. As they were about to dash up the hill to the finish with less than 1km to go, I heard I’m glad that I’m not going out to run another lap. Poor you! Or words something like that. My heart flopped. I was so discouraged. Now not for a second do I think that these runners meant to be discouraging, but it was to me. All the air went out of my lungs, my legs turned to lead and my lower lip trembled. How on earth was I going to finish? It’s only 23km. I ran 37km in training and loved it…how could this be happening?

We’d had a torrid time on the farm for the week preceding the marathon. I haven’t written about it because it sounded like an excuse for not doing as well as I’d hoped.

Up until the Thursday before the marathon it was looking like Pauly would have to pull out and stay and work on the farm. All that training for nothing. We were having those conversations about what would I do if he had to stay. I wasn’t comfortable with going and I wasn’t comfortable with staying either. In the end we left and Paul’s phone did not stop ringing as he dealt with problem after problem over the phone. The farm was in the capable hands of our 2IC. Paul had administrative issues that only he could deal with. Our beloved girls (the cows) were being well cared for. Farming is an around the clock job, weekends are meaningless.

Finally on Saturday at lunch time, with less than 24 hours before the marathon we said ENOUGH. I’d been in tears. Paul was strung out. We said enough talking about it. We shelved the problem ready to pick it up again at lunch time the next day, hopefully after we’d run the marathon.

To help with stress relief Pauly went to watch a movie at the cinema (phones have to be off in the calm darkness of the cinema). I stayed at the hotel and watched Spirit of the Marathon to get into the groove. We needed down time to get our equilibrium where it should be.

But the marks of stress were there in every fibre of our beings. I’m pleased to say that everything was dealt with in the most positive of ways (it took several more weeks but all the dust settled and we came out on top). If anyone says to me again move to the country for a quiet life and become a farmer, I shall completely lose it and be taken away by the men in white coats!

Paul should’ve been able to run that marathon in 3:47:00 but the stress got to him too and he did a 4:09:00. I should’ve been able to run all the way and not let perceived negative comments get to me.

There was a lot of cortisol zooming around in our systems. When those comments were made at the 23km mark they went straight to my heart. I took them in and held onto them. My mind and body were so weary from stress that I could not bat them off. No matter how many happy mantras I said, or smiles I plastered on my face, I couldn’t find my positive groove.  I tried to act and be happy but in my heart I was defeated. Digging deep didn’t happen, I was only raking the surface and becoming more miserable as my running slowed and during the last 10kms my steps became walks instead of runs.  The issues from the farm crowded into my head and the sticky tape that holds my heart together began to peel off.  All I wanted to do was sit down and cry.

When I should’ve been holding onto all the beautiful encouragement from friends, all the cheers and hugs of support, I chose to hang onto the negative.

Marathon Number One wasn’t the experience I’d hoped for. But I did make it to the finish. My medal is a symbol of so much more than running. It reminds me that even when things are lower than low I can keep on going. I could so easily have given up.

This has been a post to purge my marathon demons. My first marathon was what it was on the day. I did my best with what I had.

I wrote another post with lots of highs about the marathon – it wasn’t all bad, but what I have written above needs to be thrown in to purge my demons and to add a layer of pure unmodified honesty that hasn’t been through my polly-anna filter.

Happy running 🙂

PS and yet again we are facing challenges of a different nature on the farm. It just never ceases to stop. Paul likes to say that with each solved issue we become battle hardened. I like to think that with each challenge faced and achieved we become more confident and more hopeful for positive outcomes for everyone.

31 thoughts on “A brutally honest marathon reflection – purging my demons

  1. Stress is hard, no matter how many techniques you have for dealing with it. I know that I get very sensitive to benign comments when I’m under stress so I sympathise! However that is in the past now. I hope the farm runs smoothly for the next 3 weeks and you are free to concentrate on and enjoy your marathon.

    • Thanks Julie 🙂 I’ve been reading Ben Greenfield’s book very slowly. I do understand his take on stress. It’s taken a while for me to admit all this to myself but by writing it all down I feel really free. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.

  2. I’ve hear a lot over the last 10months or so that the first marathon is simply that, your first. A time to beat. I’m so sad for you that you had such a hard time leading up to it, but I’m sure that you’ve learnt a lot, and I know, with every fibre of my body that you are going to smash out MM!! You are strong, determined and amazing. Your motivation and support for others is the lovliest feeling for us strugglers, and I hope you can call on some of this when you are out there, but also knowing that we are all back here cheering for you! xxx

  3. It’s good to read your honest and heartfelt post. I feel for you and hope all goes well. Thanks for sharing some of the down times of running and the impact some things have. I look up to you and appreciate your openness in writing this all down. Good luck!

  4. Oh my goodness, I think I may have said something like that to you!
    I was struggling terribly and had thought of you several times during my run, thinking how awesome you were because you were running twice the distance when I couldn’t wait for the end of my half marathon.
    I am so sorry if I said something tactless to you, I know I spoke to you and thought I gave encouraging words but maybe they weren’t. I did and do think you are amazing and am in awe of all runners who can complete months of training to start, run and finish a marathon xx

    • Lovely Sam, you were nothing but encouraging to me. I vividly remember you telling me how awesome I was and encouraging me to keep on going. You encouraged me, Debbie put her arm around me and told me I was looking happy and strong and Meela high fived me and told me to keep on going. Pauly and Louise encouraged me and I even got a text from Janette. I remember all the positive things like they are a video I can rewind and watch over and over. Yet I held onto the perceived negative, it was just such a difficult time. But I got there. I made it to the finish and that’s got a lot to do with the encouragement I got along the way. I felt I needed to write a more honest account of how it was for my marathon number one. Hopefully number two will be a lot more positive and I’ll have the right head space for it all. Thanks for always being so supportive xxx

      • I can remember thinking “I don’t know how she can run this twice, that’s just amazingly huge and awesome” and wasn’t sure if that is what I said!
        For all your superwoman strength and courage and your optimistic and positive approach to life, you sometimes doubt yourself and let those negative thoughts creep in, in this post you’ve shown them door and they are not invited again!
        I have heard many people say the first marathon is very tough mentally, you will take everything you have learnt into the next one which will be more much enjoyable xx

      • Thank you Sam xxx we trained with laps. Our 37km was three hilly laps. We were supposed to be so mentally ready for them but it just didn’t happen. Love how you say I’ve shown them the door. That is a such a good visual. I’ve shown them the door and in fact I’m going to plaster over that door and get rid of it so they can’t come back in. Thanks for your never ending encouragement xxx

  5. Your honesty is beautiful and so encouraging and empowering for anyone contemplating a marathon. Everyone else makes it sound so… Easy. And it cannot be easy or every one would do it. You ran a marathon! Wow! I hope you have a better experience at Melbourne. You CAN do it.

    • Thanks so much. I thought long and hard about that post but needed to write it to purge away those bad feelings. And I do think we need to hear how tough it can be. It’s definitely a mental exercise as well as a physical one. Thanks so much for your confidence. I’m believing that I can.

  6. I can’t imagine being under all that stress, and then trying your hardest during the run and hearing those comments. I think I would have reacted the same way. It’s not an easy thing, to run a marathon – and yet you’re doing it! Take heart.

  7. Annie I think it is good to purge all of those nasties out of the system. Stress can be incredibly exhausting. It is understandable that the marathon was not what either of you had hoped. However , and maybe you don’t want to hear this, is from my standpoint as a slower runner, in spite of everything you faced you did the run and you finished. To me that’s incredibly inspiring. Lots of people would have said well x and y has happened and I feel like z so I give up. You two didn’t. Really in the end you together overcame great obstacles, finished a distance that I understand only 1% of the world’s population ever has and likely learned a great deal.
    So sorry to hear though you are having more challenges on the farm. Having grown up on a farm in Canada I can appreciate life is no walk in the park. Sending hugs and love.

    • Thanks Sue, I appreciate your encouragement and your perspective. Slow it ok, it was the feeling of defeat that made it difficult. If I can do a similar time and be happy and run all the way (even with the laps) I’ll be so happy and feel like at last I’ve made peace with the marathon. The Farm stuff is going to be ok, the stars just need to get a little straighter in line and then it’ll be sweet! Nothing ventured nothing gained. And I often think of your ‘I will try’ – that has opened up so much for me in so many areas of life when before I tended to say ‘no’ straight away.

      • I want to hug you through the screen. Well you have taught me a lot too. Positive mantras are now just a common part of my self talk when things get tough. I hope the farm stars align quickly and that you are feeling good about the running. That is the key isn’t it no matter what the pace. xo

  8. Pingback: Feeling inspired and supported as a runner | Deb's world

  9. Thank you for sharing your demons. Running really isn’t all happy. All the training only to have stress about the farm to put the damper on your energy and mood… this is just the stuff life throws at us and what impresses me is that you are accepting it, honest about it, addressing it. That is how you will conquer it! All you have achieved and conquered, this too you will conquer! As for the farm issues being an “excuse”- yes, it is a valid reason why you did not do as well as you’d hoped. Your enthusiasm and love of running is certainly an inspiration to us all, but you are a real person too and I welcome hearing your troubles as much as your joys 🙂

    • Thank you so much Cynthia, I thought long and hard about writing this post and now I am humbled by the support. Your words mean a lot. Thanks for being so lovely and supportive! xxx

  10. Every race is different. Each has its own highs, lows, challenges, and victories. You never know what race day will deliver.

    It’s a good idea to purge any issues, worries, disappointments you may have from previous races.
    Just remember, you trained for the full. The other runners didn’t. They were spent and hence their comment. They couldn’t imagine the 42km finish line because they didn’t train for it. But you did. Trust your training 🙂

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