I’m like Tetris. I am constantly adapting and dealing with what life throws at me. It sometimes seems that, just like the game, life is an endless stream of challenges. The blocks keep coming and I keep trying to assimilate them all without becoming overloaded and it being game over.
I can’t stop and think about how emotionally overwhelmed or physically tired I am. I have to ignore it and keep plowing on.
Some people wonder why, with everything I have going on and everything I’m trying to juggle, that I sign up to do so many races and voluntarily put myself under so much extra pressure. Part of it is strategy. A tried and tested coping mechanism. If I’m anxious about a 16 mile mountain race then I’m not thinking about how my son moving out has made me feel. While I’m worried about being so slow I get pulled out of the race by the marshall’s and am totally humiliated in the process then I’m not worrying about how we are going to afford uniform for two kids and pay for a Barrister for the day at £800 per hour plus VAT.
Training for half marathons, 10ks, races against horses, ridiculous mountain races and full marathons isn’t only time consuming, it’s mentally consuming. You have to completely invest yourself in the physical and mental preparation. Not only does it have an enormous affect on your muscles, joints, fitness and overall health it trains your mind to endure discomfort, stress and fatigue.
About ten years ago, after a lifetime of feeling worthless I found my self esteem and my value in running. Running makes me feel good enough. When I sign up to run a marathon 9 months after having a C Section that’s because I’m finding and proving my value as a person. It is through these physical challenges I feel able to say “look at me, I am good enough”. Without running, without the trying to do something incredibly challenging and achieving it, I feel not good enough.
The long training runs, the early mornings, the aching muscles, the sore feet, the insecurity and the stress of it all, its habit forming. The pre race nerves, the lonely physical struggle when no-one can do it for you and you must do it for yourself and the feeling of crossing the finishing line is addictive.
Some of the time running is a healthy habit for me. It brings me closer to the people in my life who are supportive and inspiring and encouraging. Other times it’s almost a form of self harm. Having to push myself harder and further to achieve the same high. The same feelings of self worth.
At the moment running is my life jacket. It’s keeping me afloat. It’s the thing holding my hand so I don’t slip under the surface and drown.