setbacks and slowing down

On New Year's Eve, I went for a ten mile run. It was the kind of run that makes me remember why I love this sport so much : the weather was clear and crisp, and I felt so strong that the miles seemed to fly by. Before I know it, I was heading up the snowy slope of my parents' driveway, sweaty and happy.

Later that night, my calf felt tight, like a giant knot was percolating under the surface. I made a mental note to give it some extra foam rolling love, and didn't worry too much. But a few days later it was still there, so tender now that the morning after six-mile run, I stepped out of bed to feel a jolt of pain rush up my leg. And I panicked.

The fear of re-injury is visceral at this point : at least once a week, I have a nightmare that ends with me crumpled on the side of a trail, unable to pull myself into a standing position. I usually wake up, panicked, and need to lull myself back to sleep while I rub my left hip, as if to reassure myself that it's whole.

It's no secret that after the last year of my life I believe in the power of the universe and I believe in the power of positivity. But over the last week, as I immediately shut down my running and counted the days until I could get in to see my doctor, I momentarily lost track of both of those new tenants of my life.

You see, it wasn't the only setback I'd faced as it related to my journey to the finish. I was feeling uninspired, unwelcome and extremely self-critical. The familiar blues I feel upon returning to D.C. had settled squarely in my chest, I was waking up each morning missing home with a deep, powerful ache - and I was beginning to look in the mirror critically. Who did I think I was to attempt a do-over? Why can't I be as fast as other people? The old thoughts came back : should I be working out more? Three times a day? Is this enough to truly do my best at that race?

It was the same slow circle I'd found myself in last year : grief, anger, injury, resignation. By the time I got into the doctor's office, I was on the verge of tears just sharing the news that, once again, running was causing me pain.

But then the universe smacked some sense into me. 

In 2015, right before I ran the Philly Marathon with my mom, I wrote a piece about why I'd started running, and submitted it to Women's Running. I never heard back - common in the freelance world - and promptly forgot about it.

Wednesday morning, I was down. I texted multiple people - I was out. I'm not meant to be a runner, I'm not meant to do this, and it's definitely not meant to be a special personal accomplishment. What was the point?

And then later that day, an acquaintance contacted me. Hey, they said. Is this your piece from November 2015 in Women's Running? So cool! 

They'd never told me it ran, and on the day when I decided to give up on myself, someone found a piece that detailed exactly why I run. 

I laughed. Then I wanted to cry. In that moment, I remembered why this is so important. I realized I was going against everything I've learned to believe this year : Not to be so critical of your body, because everything it does is pretty remarkable. Not to let other people dictate your own happiness and success. Not to let minor setbacks become catastrophic mountains. And to stay positive, and believe in the power of the universe, above all.

Today, my doctor told me that my leg is just rebelling a bit after not being used in this way for so long. It's a mild strain that should resolve pretty quickly - as long as I give it some rest and TLC. And I wanted to laugh again. Message received, universe and guardian angel - time to believe in myself again, and shake off the negativity. 

Nothing about life is supposed to be a cakewalk, so why should I expect my marathon journey to be perfect? If it continues to be gloriously, fantastically complicated, I have to learn to let that be okay. Setbacks are okay. Slowing down is okay. Not continuing to believe in yourself and trust your journey? Not okay.

The next few months will see me mark two particularly painful anniversaries, but hopefully, at the end of it, I will finally carry myself and my favorite angel across the finish line. And I know it's possible that I may not get there - but losing the strength I've developed over the last year? Not an option. So, this week was a tough week. But I'm not counting myself out just yet.