Today marks the start of my Africa adventure, a trip I am OVER the moon excited for. Three weeks away in Zimbabwe and South Africa, at a time where it is not yet spring in NZ and I am feeling overdue for a vacation. But flying into Sydney this afternoon, with a 16 hour layover, to my surprise I got quite emotional looking out the window into this great city.
Part of the emotions will be the stress of preparing for my trip, all the things to remember, the medications, foreign currency, visa woes and the like. But really, it is because Sydney holds a really special place in my heart.
Sydney was my second marathon, and it was the first marathon that I actually trained to finish in a specific time, not solely with the goal to finish. And trained I did. I trained my ass off. My life was run gym work eat sleep. Alas, my body wasn’t conditioned or strong enough, and I ended up with major overuse syndrome, manifesting itself in a painfully tight IT band, TFL (which is by your hip) and glute mede. I was seeing the physio and having needling done two to three times a week. I was confined to the pool for a month, aqua jogging for up to 180 minutes on a Sunday. There was one day, two weeks before the marathon, that I cried four times. It hurt to run, to walk, to sit, to stand. I wanted to give up, but I had worked so hard and felt like I had everyone else’s expectations to live up to. I had forgotten about my expectations, my goals, and the art of enjoying to run.
I was lucky that I had an amazing coach, Marty, who provided me with some inspiring words of wisdom, telling me that it would all be ok, that I was an athlete, and that my mind was strong. I shouldn’t be afraid to fail, I should be afraid not to try. And regardless I had shown already my determination and ability to put my mind to things. So I got through the mental block and continued on. Flew to Sydney. And ran.
I finished in 4:15 – well over my goal of 3:45, but i was proud. I finished. I overcame that barrier and that voice telling me I wasn’t strong enough. I also finished despite my physio asking me to do the half marathon (saying that if I did the full, I wouldn’t be able to walk across the finish line let alone run it…that I would be crawling or have to pull out part way through) finishing should have been the goal. In perfect world. But up until 29km I was on track for 3:40, feeling great. Only then, at 29km, with 13 to go, did the sharp stabbing pain kick in. But you know what, while Sydney may have broken my body, it did not break my spirit.
I ran the entire 42.2km, stopping only to drink water at aid stations, and ran the last one or two kilometers along the harbor and up to the Opera House so fast, so strong, knowing that I could do it. I could finish. The act of actually crossing the finish line, standing at the steps of the Opera House as I wore my medal proud and hugged my Dad, made me realize that Sydney was not just a physical challenge for me. It was a challenge of the mind, and I was immensely stronger for making it through.
So it is timely, that just over one year after the Sydney marathon (one year and nine days to be exact) that I am flying back into the city, looking out the window and seeing the bridge (the start of the marathon), the opera house (the finish) and all the parts in between. A great time to reflect on what I have learned since then, and how much stronger I am now. A stronger runner, because I identified my weaknesses, my goals and have spent the last year working on those – I have seen such great results due to that focus…I have transformed my running technique from being a heel striker to a forefoot/midfoot runner, and have increased my calf strength and leaned down in general. But I am also a stronger person. In all aspects of life. And today thinking about September 2015 me versus September 2014 me, the current one has her life together so much more. Because having the guts and the strength to run 42.2 kilometers, whether in pain or pain free, means that you overcome a hurdle you once thought impossible. And for me, finishing the Sydney marathon and running the entire way, even when I was hurting and wanted to stop and give up, meant that I found courage and determination to overcome the pain, and I know that no matter what life throws at me, I will be able to call on that courage again.
I will leave everyone with one of the quotes I found that helped give me strength to continue trying and continue training last year. It’s funny, I was so worried at the time about failing in everyone else’s eyes if I didn’t run, if I gave up, I refused to give up. However I know now that I wouldn’t have failed or disappointed anyone. Really, the truth of the matter is that I was unwilling to admit to myself that I could fall apart. Or that I could fail. And that I might not be as strong as I wanted to be. I still am not the strongest person – I have a 60km race to prepare myself for soon and i will likely face some demons training for that. But life is a journey, and life as a runner is always a particularly interesting one!