Yesterday was the Twin Cities Marathon, and it marked my second year in a row of not participating, after finishing in 2018, quitting in 2019, and running it solo in 2020. Last year I saw all my friends participating and felt sad and kind of ashamed of myself. Last year I lost a lot of motivation to run, and felt completely without purpose, beyond my quest to run every street in St. Paul (which I completed on Christmas Eve 2021). I thought the discomfort and jealousy I felt following my friends’ accomplishments would spur something in me and I’d get back on track with training for endurance events like marathons and ultras.
I didn’t. I can’t say for sure, but I think this year I might actually run less than last year, and last year was the lowest distance I’ve run since I started tracking. Naturally, I didn’t run any marathons. I’m a lot more at peace with that this year. Once again, I had to prioritize my mental and physical health, and training for something high stakes, that consumes a lot of time and energy, would run counter to that plan. I could hardly justify giving up one of my precious weekend days to get up early and run for 5+ hours. Even writing about running had to go – my work was consuming so much of my brain that I had no creative energy left over. I slept poorly (sometimes not at all!), my legs sometimes felt weak and wobbly (though I had no balance issues at all), and often times if I ran, I felt anxious the entire time (zero runner’s high) instead of settling into the run a mile or two in. I struggled to make simple decisions and I found even a single evening or weekend commitment was too much. I decided I would only run when I felt like it, and just focus on doing my work as well as I could.
A few things happened recently that have changed things for the better. In August, the Inflation Reduction Act was passed, and I can’t understate the immediate and significant impact it had on the work that I do (I build solar plants). Overnight, it transformed my approach to my projects for the better, and that made my job more bearable (I love what I do, but the intense pressure to meet certain targets or face catastrophic impacts to my projects was not part of that love). After that, two things happened in quick succession: I went on vacation, and I got promoted. The promotion alleviated a lot of the pressure to perform and be perfect all the time – it’s a long process to get promoted at my company, and it can be derailed very easily, so I felt like at any moment I could sabotage my own success. It wasn’t logical or helpful but I was very focused on this goal.
I got to go to Colorado knowing the financial success of my projects was more secure and my own career was on the right trajectory, and it only took a few days before I had shed a lot of the stress, anxiety, and worry, and the physical effects evaporated. (It would have been more immediate if we had not decided to drive up Mt. Evans, which was terrifying.) I didn’t run at all (it was too hot and I don’t handle altitude very well), but we hiked every day and I slept well almost every night.
I got back home and the energy persisted. My first full week back at work, I was motivated enough to pack running clothes and work out directly from the office, instead of going home and hoping to get in a few miles. And that’s continued through all of September into October. I’m still working on getting out of the run/walk habit and adding distance, but I’m making progress. It feels great, and explains why I haven’t felt a lot of concern about not racing, or FOMO at seeing other people racing.
There’s no guarantee that I won’t spiral back into doom and gloom and miss out on another season of racing, but I’m feeling hopeful that I’m starting to feel committed and competitive again. Of course, now I look at the prices of races and think “Is it really worth it?”