I talk a lot about the requirement to respect our bodies. I talk a lot about the requirement to heal. I talk a lot about the need for us as runners, as epileptics, as humans to understand our limits. We can challenge ourselves and try to push ourselves to go further and faster but inevitably, we have to take care of ourselves.
I say that a lot, and yet, I very seldom follow those directions. By very seldom, I mean almost never. Or just, never. I run when I am injured. I pick myself up from the sidewalk, bleeding and cut, and keep running. Sounds admirable? There does need to be a point though, where I should actually listen to what my body is saying.
Seizures may not stop me from running, but the flu certainly will. As I learned last weekend.
I was registered for the Victoria Marathon that was held last weekend and I was SUPER excited about it. I have run the marathon the last two years (in 2017 it marked my first marathon). I was looking forward to making it an annual celebration of my capacity to run. My injuries are predominantly healed and I was feeling like I could actually do it. I had friends running in the half marathon and in the full marathon, so there would be lots going on as well.
On the Friday I picked up my race bib, I had started considering changing my distance from the full marathon to the half. Not only were there the injuries to consider, it was also Thanksgiving and I knew my family would be having a big dinner that night. It would be easier to return home earlier and help out (or nap) before the guests began arriving if I was only running for a couple hours. I didn’t want to antagonize my newly-healed injuries. There were a ton of reasons. I logic-ed it out that I would change to the half. Then I got to the Expo and my ego went wild: they were giving out additional racing bibs that said “My _____ Marathon”.
I would have been able to wear a racing bib that said “My 6th Marathon”. So I didn’t change my distance.
Saturday morning, I woke up with a full-fledged flu and everything that goes along with that. Throughout the day, I kept saying “I’ll be fine by tomorrow”. I was so determined to race. I was so unwavering that I was going to race on the Sunday. No question. I’m strong. I’ve run after seizures. I have totally got this.
I totally did not have it.
Sunday was spent just as sick and miserable in bed. I couldn’t even get up to go to the race and cheer my friends on. In between bouts of being sick and sleeping, I was mad that I missed the race.
At the time, I couldn’t have justified why I was so angry, but in retrospect, it was just a matter of pride. Pride and ego. I was so sure that I could do that race and that I would have a racing bib with the specific number of marathons. It was pure overconfidence that made me not change my distance. All so that I could say I have run 6 marathons. The result is, I have run 5 marathons and am recovering from the flu.
If anyone asked me for advice about whether they should lower their distance from a full to a half for ANY REASON, here’s what I would have said:
- Absolutely, a half is a huge accomplishment
- Definitely, you still put in all the work and training, the race itself isn’t the sole victory
- For sure, if you’re just not feeling it, do what will make you happy. Running is about happiness.
Apparently if I have the opportunity to lower the distance from a full to a half for lots of good reasons, including ones related to healing and injuries, here’s what I think to myself:
- Nope, you want to be able to say that you’ve run 6
- No way, you’re a “marathoner”
- Ego ego ego pride arrogance over-confidence ego ego ego
There will be more races! There will be more opportunities for me to run marathons! I need to learn to listen to my body (for real, not just saying it) and acknowledge that sometimes I can’t do everything. It’s easy to start believing that we have to do things just because we said we would. We don’t have to do anything. Yes, I registered for the marathon and really wanted to do it. I should have done the half when (less than 48 hours prior when I was getting my race bib) I realized I shouldn’t do the full this time.
I believe that my body wasn’t up to the task of running a marathon. My body might have been able to run a half, if I changed the distance, but I didn’t. My body knew that a seizure wasn’t going to stop me from trying to run, so I got the flu, which put me out for the entire weekend. Going forward, if I feel the slightest inclination that I shouldn’t be racing a certain distance, I am actually going to heed that. Ego checked.