I have always enjoyed participating in sporting events. Marathons are one of them. After five full marathons, a few 21km and 10km events throughout the years, I have not gotten enough of the adrenaline high that would last 24 hours. The sense of achievement and satisfaction of completing a race is akin to crack cocaine (not that I have ever use that stuff). To put simply; I just love how it feels after a completing a marathon.
This past weekend has been a weekend that filled me with dread for the past couple of weeks. The thought of driving 4 hours, socialising during dinner before and after the event, not to mention, the 42.2 km run itself felt like a mammoth task to take on in a single weekend. Gone was the enthusiasm and excitement when the ‘Enter’ button was clicked a year ago. The sense of being in a good place mentally and looking forward to running a full marathon with a friend who took up running early 2019 has since dissipated.
The week leading up to the event, I kept feeling this sense of dread and foreboding that I have to complete a 42.2km run, despite feeling depressed and physically tired. The past month of training has been a struggle, not being able to keep up with my friend. My body and mind were too exhausted and broken to run any faster. My usual pace of 5’30″/km dropped to an average of 6′-7’/km. This physical sluggishness did not help with my mood either. After every training, disappointment seeps through my pores and my mood takes a dive. The blackness of the past few months have made running more of a to-do check list to be done thrice a week. The sense of calm and joy that running usually brings has been obliterated.
My partner and I left for Queenstown on Friday (20/11/2020) in the morning and I was preparing myself for a social weekend. That night itself we were going to meet with my partner’s colleague and son who did the 10km run. Then, the night after the marathon, we were going to have dinner with my running friend, her partner and her partner’s mother and sister. I kept worrying about being overwhelmed by the social encounters that I have to deal with and thinking about it, adding to the anxiety. I have had these experiences before and I know that I always end up enjoying myself during these social interactions, but it does not stop me from feeling anxious about them when I am depressed. And…as always, I did enjoy them, like I always do.
The morning of the run, my alarm rang at 0620 hours. Groggy from restless sleep, waking up twice during the night, the throbbing headache from the night before blurred in the background, I pushed the discomfort aside as I fumbled my way to the other side of the room to grab a drink, not wanting to wake my partner, the room remained dark. It was not long before another alarm went off and my partner mumbled and reminded me to fetch the breakfast tray from the dining area downstairs. Breakfast was underwhelming; full grain bread, Nutella, a pair of hard boiled eggs and a banana.
The run itself was somewhat disappointing personally. I felt tired by the 3km and could no longer keep up with my friend and by the 13th kilometre, I wanted to quit. Quitting a race was never an option. Pushing through the screaming muscles and pain was expected, not an exception. Quitting seemed so obvious in my mind that I really entertained it for the next 15 kilometres. This just added to the grunt. Each 500m sign to the next hydration station, became a beacon that to keep running, to quickly arrive the hydration station when my legs can stop turning, so I could drink and stop running.
Passing each hydration station and seeing the kilometres melt away, focusing only on my breathing and legs, reaching the last kilometre to the finish line, I sprinted towards the finish line. A melding of cheers from strangers, friends and my partner, a glimpse of their faces from the corner of my eye as I cross the finish line, made every painful stride worthwhile. The adrenaline flooded through my veins as I soak in the surroundings of people blanketing me from every corner, a volunteer placing the finishing medal over my head broke my reverie. I smiled at my partner as she approached me and asked for a hug while my sweaty body protested as she held on tight. What a wonderful weekend!
Surrounded by the people that mean most to me during experiences like this is what I have to keep close to my heart whenever that feeling of wanting to hide away in the blackness threatens to swallow me whole.