Grit & Gratitude

Grit & Gratitude

As we approach the end of the year I find myself reflecting upon the races that I did and did not do in 2019. This photo includes this year’s race bling and it has more in it than I realized. In fact I thought it was a relatively light year for racing but I still managed around 35 events.

If you know me at all then you know I’ve done a bazillion running races. I use that scientific measurement (bazillion is a thing isn’t it?) to be funny. But, the truth is I have no idea how many races I have done or the number of miles I have run since I started in 1987. I only know that once I discovered running and racing, I simply never stopped. And in 1992, I discovered the marathon. Since then I’ve done 63 marathons.

I love marathons. I think the distance of 26.2 miles (42.2K for folks that don’t race in miles) is far enough that everyone should be impressed with themselves for starting and finishing one. For me, a marathon is a big deal regardless of the time it takes to complete it or where I rank in the results. The moment I cross the finish line I am proud of myself. And often during a marathon I am proud of myself for doing something that less than one percent of the population has done. I think that focus on how special what I am doing is helps me finish stronger than any amount of training could.

While I love marathons, I am also GRATEFUL for my ability to do them. I know I am lucky and I do not take that for granted. 

I found lots of articles and studies that tell us that the benefits of practicing GRATITUDE are nearly endless. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.

After a tremendous racing season in 2018 I began the 2019 year registered for five marathons. That seemed perfectly reasonable because I had done five marathons in 2018. Heck, I had even won a few high profile races outright.  Unfortunately, my body did not agree with my goals. I had experienced discomfort when running in 2018 but I pushed through it and basically tried to ignore it.

However, by February 2019 the pain was present outside of running. I was scared because walking, standing, sitting, swimming and cross training hurt as well as running. I know now that it all relates to my pelvis. After the better part of a year of physiotherapy, yoga, pilates and an attitude shift I am able to run with more tolerable pain levels.

Until the end of September I kept hoping (or maybe “expecting”) the pain to go away and I was frustrated that I wasn’t better despite being really smart about recovery. I didn’t run any of those FIVE MARATHONS I was registered for. Instead, I took the trip of a lifetime with my family and didn’t focus on the races I was missing or had missed. And on that amazing vacation despite the heat and unfamiliar locations, I manages a daily 5K. I didn’t think about how uncomfortable the running was but focused on how great it was that I could see foreign countries through running.

I still have pain running and sometimes walking or lying down. But, I’ve accepted that some pain is just a part of me now. I don’t think I will ever again run fast without a high level of discomfort because of how my body moves to go fast. I find a long stride or running uphill to be the most painful. But, if I run slow enough and shorten my stride the pain drops significantly. So I can still run, I just have to run differently. And I am happy to have figured that out.

Plus, I have gotten really smart about pain acceptance. Many studies have shown if you accept chronic pain, your tolerance of it increases (or in short, it doesn’t feel as bad). I am not saying to give up on fixing what is causing your pain. Instead I am advising, trying to find that fix but in the meantime accept that the pain is a part of your life now and it may stick around or it may not. That is grit. And I’ve always had grit.

So having figured out my running “work-around” I decided to put my theories of grit and gratitude to the test. I registered for two marathons in the same weekend at the start of December. Generally, I wouldn’t recommend anyone do back to back marathons. But, aside from some wicked blisters that caused me to lose one toenail (and likely more) I can say that my body was TIRED and SORE starting that second marathon but the pelvic pain was the same for both days.

I felt like a superHERo when I finished the second marathon and my pride and gratitude at finishing two marathons in one weekend was off the charts. I believe that if you can accept things out of your control (like accepting pain and finding your GRIT despite the pain or because of it) and focus on GRATITUDE; well the sky’s the limit on what you can accomplish.

GRIT & GRATITUDE will continue to be a mantra for me in 2020. I am currently registered for two marathons in 2020 with the first one coming up on Sunday, March 1st. I’ve got a hunch next year is gonna be a good year.

Now, what are your plans for 2020?

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