When planning for a marathon there is much online content discussing the steps that can be taken to guide a runner to a successful finish; schedules, gear, injury prevention, pacing, speed work, comparable celebrity finish times. You name it you can find it!
In my experience post race, I was bemused to find that there was not the same abundance of advice regarding recovery. Once I’d heard my name come through that loud-speaker, I was essentially on my own.
It has been fifteen days since I ran my heart out meeting a lifetime personal goal. In retrospect, my physical training was successful. I am still proud of my accomplishment and less bothered by the fact that my time wasn’t within the range I’d had hoped for. I loved every minute, even the painful ones and the ones where I was consumed with doubt.
The mental challenge of going from full-blown training to restful observance of it is a tremendous transition. Recovery days one through four were brutal.
The old habits of emotional eating and anxiety appeared with vigor; they hadn’t been beat in training, only subdued. The fact that they were actually lying dormant was a blow.
On day five I laced up my brand new Newton’s, but the run was slow and hard. I clocked thirteen minutes per mile for a whopping 1.75 before calling it quits.
Figuring it was too soon to get back out there I tried not to be bothered, but my type A was showing and I was really beating myself up about it.
I tried again days later and ran a decent five, but the love wasn’t there. I was glad when I got home. I prayed that this was temporary.
By now I had searched and searched online for information to make sense of what I was experiencing and in my frustration turned to my friends in Internetland who were the first to show me some light.
After tweeting about my lackluster runs, one twitterer mentioned that she’d heard it took one day for every mile to be fully physically recovered. Easy math I could do; one month to give myself some leeway.
A commenter on my blog told me of her own depression that surfaced after her second marathon. It became so bad that she opted for antidepressants to get her through. This kind of honesty is what I wasn’t finding in my search. I was grateful for hers.
And then my sister arrived into town last Monday and I saw my nephew (whom I had helped raise from the time he was one until three), but had not had much communication with in the most recent years. Standing in front of me now was a teenage boy, all five feet nine inches of him. I swung my arms around his neck and the tears started to flow.
When I got home that night they continued.
I called my older sister and kept crying.
A full-blown panic attack followed. I’d never actually had one before, so I was surprised by its force. My heart was beating out of my chest and I had to take a Clonapin to settle down. It didn’t work, so I took another.
I fell asleep and woke the next morning feeling groggy, but better.
As if the fog had lifted, I was able to think with a clear mind and it became obvious that the pressure I was putting on myself to be as strong and powerful as I’d been before the marathon was suddenly gone; like all that training had never happened.
Seeing my nephew was the tip of the emotional iceberg in terms of the way I was managing. I needed a good cry. It needed to come out and I began to feel as if real recovery was finally going to begin.
So does it make sense then that I’d want to go through this again?
Yes, of course!
stubbornness and determination are a part of my gene pool and one must never stop learning in this life.
The next step is to move out of my comfort zone both physically and mentally.
With running taking a short hiatus from my schedule I’ve recently headed back to yoga.
Last week while standing in tree pose with my branches spread wide I straightened my neck to peer toward the sky and thanked God. The second tree pose on the opposite leg allowed me the opportunity to thank Him again.
Yesterday, after rolling onto my right side at the end of savasana I realized I was facing the sun. With hands folded at my third eye and with my other two tightly closed I could feel the warmth from the light. This time I thanked the Universe.
The overall experience of my marathon has not yet finished, though the race itself has.
Today I feel renewed, rested and peaceful,though a bit less physically strong and not quite ready to resume any significant running.
Most importantly I am grateful.
Grateful for the sum of the experience.