I had two weeks to go before the Quebec City Marathon. I was about to finish my longest training run yet: 23 kilometres (14 miles) in two hours. I was feeling good. I had a couple hundred metres to go and decided to sprint it out.
And that’s when I felt the pain in my Achilles.
I planned on running a marathon from the moment I wrote out my first list of Year of Fear challenges.
I have never run a marathon before and, quite frankly, it scares me. Running has never been my favourite activity and 42 kilometres (26 miles) sounds brutal.
I started training earlier this year. It was going well. I was steadily getting better but then an injury stopped me in June. I strained my Achilles tendon and decided to take time off to let it heal.
I didn’t run in June. Then July turned into a write-off following my break-up. By mid-July, I didn’t think I could be ready to run a marathon at the end of August so I called it off.
“I’ll have to figure out a new Year of Fear challenge,” I thought.
But then at the end of July, at the peak of my post-break-up blues, I put on my shoes and went for a jog. I had to get out of my apartment. I was still living with my ex and my emotions were out of whack. I thought exercise would help clear my head.
And it worked.
I ran almost everyday for the next three weeks. I started building back my endurance. My Achilles felt strong. In three weeks I went from thinking, “There’s no way I can still run this marathon” to “This marathon is going to happen. And I need it.”
I needed a goal to strive toward—something to take my mind off my break-up.
In three weeks I went from struggling through a 20 minute jog to running 23 kilometres in two hours. I was on my way. I was going to accomplish my goal.
And then my Achilles injury came back two weeks before the marathon.
I spent the rest of that day pouting. I knew I was done.
I was going to fail my first Year of Fear challenge. But more than that, I failed the promise I made to myself to use this marathon as a springboard to move forward with my life.
It took me a few days to accept my failure. I told myself it wasn’t worth risking my long-term health, but that didn’t exactly make me feel better.
Failing sucks. When we put our minds to something it’s not easy giving up or failing to reach our goal.
But failure isn’t the end of the world. The sky didn’t fall because I didn’t run a marathon, nor did I go back to the rough emotional state I was in during my break-up.
We all experience failures in our lives. Some big, some small. But how often when we think back on those “failures” do we realize we took something greater out of it?
For me, I beat the stubborn, competitive devil that sits on my shoulder. “Keep going, wimp!” he likes to say. “You can rest when you’re dead! Push yourself! No pain, no gain!” Growing up playing hockey, I’ve heard it all. And in many ways, those mantras and cliches are ingrained in my head.
For the first time I told that little asshole devil, “No! I’m getting older. I can’t push myself like I used to. I prefer to be able to walk to the grocery store tomorrow instead of hobbling there on crutches.”
As far as I’m concerned, that’s a win. I’m not 20 years old anymore. I need to respect my body and what it’s saying to me.
I probably shouldn’t forget that I ran 23 kilometres in two hours. That’s more than a half-marathon. I guess that’s something to be proud of.
I’m also learning to appreciate the importance of setting goals and asking myself the question, “If I fail, how will I recover?” In my mind, failure wasn’t an option.
It’s important to consider the possibility of failure before embarking on a lofty goal or challenge. It doesn’t mean we’re setting ourselves up to fail. It means we’re ready to react in a positive way if failure does happen.
Now to the next challenge…