Last week was a really rough week resulting in a significant flair up of my depression. Washing my face or my hair, making the bed, getting dressed….these simple tasks were all a challenge let alone going to work and taking care of my family. Normally, the best medicine for my depression is a good run. This often helps me pull out of the cycle of despair and get back on my feet enough that I can move forward. Not so last week. My runs were making me more depressed as I slogged through one slow, hot mile after another.
My Saturday long run was looming ahead over my head like a dark cloud all week. It was to be my last long run before McKenzie River 50K in two weeks so I knew it was a critical run but had no idea how I was going to get through it. I texted a friend with my woes and she responded with the enlightened comment, “Frustration is wasted energy. Put that effort into your goals and positive thinking”. A life preserver as I drowned in my sorrows.
This same dear friend also agreed to meet me in the middle of my long run for a few miles giving me the gift of accountability. I got up at 3:30 am, got dressed and grabbed Amira to head out the door. Her and I ran a couple miles together then I dropped her off at home and headed to my friend’s house. These first seven miles I ran comfortably within my heart rate zone. It wasn’t fast, but it wasn’t a slog either. I felt good, better than I have in a while. And five more miles in the company of a friend after many solo runs recently was quite the blessing.
After going our separate ways, I had another 14 miles on my own and lots of time to spend in my head. As the sun rose higher on the horizon, the temperature began to rise quickly. Listening to books is my favorite pastime while running and on this occasion I was listening to a wonderful book called “The Ultra Mindset” by Travis Macy. He writes of applying the insights learned from endurance sports to the endurance of life. Being the second time I have listened to it, I took away different messages and indeed I was struck by a particular message. He wrote that elite athletes don’t expect conditions to be ideal on race or game day. I let this sink in.
I started deliberating on my own life and asked myself how often do I go about my day expecting things to go my way? And the moment it doesn’t, do I crumble? I reluctantly admitted to myself that I do in fact do this more often than I like at home and on my runs though ironically not at work which is the most stressful of the three.
When the boys don’t cooperate over dinner, I get frustrated and angry. When bed time doesn’t go as planned and it looks like I might not get my full night’s rest, I get panicky and waste a lot of energy. If a run doesn’t feel good, I beat myself up. I discovered that these are areas I need to let go of wanting everything to be ideal.
So then I began asking myself if it would be better to expect things to wrong and be prepared? I came to the conclusion that this wasn’t a wise approach either. It would be equally unhealthy to be paranoid about life. Forever walking around asking “what if?” would create paralysis when what I am seeking freedom. Entirely counterproductive.
During these long miles I decided that balance comes from putting in the work to be ready and then trusting that I will be able to figure it out as I go. Having faith in my parenting, my training, my mental strength. Simply put, faith in myself.
As my run continued and I was having these deep thoughts and revelations, I got to put my new found resolution into practice. The heat was really cranking up and shade was nowhere to be found on my selected route. I found my excitement and love of running wane as the sun began to roast me and my brain.
Conditions were definitely not ideal on this hot Phoenix morning. Action was needed to keep me from sinking into the “Pit of Despair”. I decided that a moving meditation was in order to help refocus. I put on my Headspace App and did a ten minute meditation. Andy Puddicombe’s voice described a visualization of allowing the body to fill up with liquid sunlight. I was able to use it to turn my perspective on the sun from “I hate you sun, go away” to “Thank you Sun for filling me up with your energy and light”. Perfect!
The rest of my run went pretty seamlessly and while I was grateful to finish, it didn’t take me long to wish I was still out there. I learned a lot from this long run and only need to remember to carry it through with me on all the many miles ahead. I might need to relearn it a few times more, but the roots are there for it to grow.
What is something you have learned on a run or in life that resonates through you? Post in comments below!