The amount of random trails I have found in Chicago is astonishing. I ran down California Avenue one day and stumbled on a running track right along the edge of the Chicago river. It wasn’t large by any means, but it was there. It led me into a small forest surrounded by rocks, leaves and mounds of dirt I’ve recently learned are there for dirt bikers. Further down California is Bloomington Trail. An elevated bicycle and running path heading East towards the Lake. It’s beautiful and modern, elegant yet understated. It’s the kind of path that makes you feel like a real Chicago runner, which, I guess I am now. Just today I found another path along the river in the middle of a park off Montrose. It was a nature path filled with flowers, buzzing bees that steer clear, singing birds and tall grass that hugs you in without touching you at all.
There’s been a lot about my training that has not been fun. I could do without the shin splints, the balmy heat, the cramps and scabbed feet. The scrapes, falls and aching toes are everything but a distant memory. Worrying if I’ll be able to keep my toenails is not something I ever thought I’d need to worry about in my whole adult life, I’ll tell you that much. However, through the stitches, scars and shaky shins I have also found the deepest sense of peace. I think I finally understand what you’re supposed to feel when you meditate. When you reach 10 miles in to a long run your brain does this crazy thing where it all goes quiet. Even with “Green Day” screaming in my ear, the world is asleep and I am the only person in it. I thank my drive for that but also, those mysterious, treasured trails.
6 weeks out, my first instinct was not to reflect, but to pout. I’m nervous. I know I’m prepared. I know I’m ready. It’s hard to describe why I’m nervous. I guess I’m scared that I’ll wake up that morning and feel sick to my stomach and not be able to see it through. The real sweet spot though about doing this on my own is that I can do it whenever I want. I don’t make it one day, I try again the next. So, that can’t be where the nerves are coming from, no. Too fixable. I know what it is and it’s all mental.
Despite popular myth, running long distance hasn’t put me in the best shape of my life. Not yet at least. I’m still holding out hope for that. I am a beginner, after all. It hasn’t made me fast or necessarily “athletic.” Sure, I’m definitely fitter than I was right before. My endurance is great and I’ve never seen so many muscles in my legs before. Fitness, however is the last thing it’s done for me. What it’s done the most good for is my mental health. Like I said, I’ve found peace in my rustled mind but I’ve also found a lot of confrontation as well. It’s given me the time to think about my life; where I’ve gone wrong and where I’ve gone right. I’ve thought about what I like about myself and what makes me cringe. I’ve felt lonely and crowded and taken aback and even bored. I’ll never forget dropping after 15 miles and crying like I’ve never cried before. It was gross. Sweat and tears are gross, but it was also so cathartic.
Maybe I sound like a mushy idiot. I can’t help it. It’s my whole life lately. All I talk about is running and my anxiety. They go together perfectly like eggs and toast, pen and paper, MaryKate and Ashley….
The moral of the story is – I am 6 weeks out and yes I’m scared but I’m much much more excited. My mental fears are all the things I will face in my brain while running 26.2 miles. I know I’m going to want to give up at some point. I’ll probably have to tell myself at various miles to stop having limiting beliefs and to halt the endless feelings that I’m “not doing it right” when I’m inevitably walking and not running. I thoroughly expect to cry but I also expect to enjoy it and hold a cheeky smile on my face as I jump, skip and swing my legs to “Fountains of Wayne” and “They Might be Giants.”
You know what I also can’t wait for? The finish line. When I knock Andrew down and rub my sweat all over him. I’m so thankful for him during this entire journey. After he endures my sweat he will also get a kiss and one of my beers from the 6 pack of beer I will absolutely be buying to celebrate after.
Lastly, I thank you for reading this post. If you’ve read all of my posts, I thank you even more. Being able to express myself through this whole adventure has been a key to my ability to keep going. I will update again once I am a month out. Then I am sure I will write about the whole experience after the marathon is over. Wow, aren’t those the most beautiful words. you’ve ever heard? “Once the marathon is over.”
Sounds so bittersweet.
Self care, self flare.