Happy Friday folks! It’s 5:30 pm and I’m still in the office. I decided to write a blog post instead of going home. Is this dedication or what?
My training schedule called for a 5 mile run on Wednesday and I felt pretty good that day. I was determined not to make any pit stop until I got to the halfway point. The wind was in my back so I cruised all the way to the beach. I only had a headwind for a half mile on the way back and the rest was easy peasy. It was one of the BEST run I’ve had in months. The weather was perfect. My UC was mostly asleep. I was not tired or out of breath. My running mojo was back.
And then Thursday happened. I met with Rosangela as usual after work and we set to run our weekly 5k. I told Rosangela I wasn’t going to stop until we were 2.5 miles in (that’s the turn around point for us). I was all hyped from my awesome run the day before and damn it, I was going to make it to 2.5 again!
But you see, I don’t always make the decisions around here. My body was not going to cooperate two days in a row. The run just felt hard from the get go. I had to use the restrooms almost a mile in and told Rosangela to continue without me. The wind was in my back for most of the way but I still felt tired. “This run is a struggle bus!” I kept thinking to myself. I met with Rosangela a little bit later and she told me she was worried about me. “Take it easy, don’t force yourself” she tells me. Words of wisdom. I continued on and took another bathroom break after mile 2 before turning around to do the last mile. By then it was pitch black outside and I was running against the wind gusts. It was just too hard so I took several walking breaks, which was really depressing. I stopped at the Westin rooftop terrace after mile 3, drank water and chatted for a bit before doing my last mile back to the car. By then the wind had gotten even stronger. I still managed to run most of it but I was plagued by diarrhea. Clearly my UC was flaring, bad. It was just a terrible run all around and all I wanted to do was to get home and forget about it all.
The whole run debacle on Thursday and my conversation with Rosangela was a teaching lesson in running. As runners, we are always learning how to push ourselves and our limits. How we have to keep going when we’re tired, hurting or when the mind tells us to stop. But it is also okay sometimes to respect your limits instead of pushing them?
I’ve read many testimonials of runners who have chronic diseases like UC write things like “I am not going to let [insert name of whatever disease you want] run my life!” And that’s exactly the mindset I had during the last 2 years. After my diagnosis in 2014, I did 2 half marathons, a couple of 5k’s and a 10k here and there. I continued racing even though the very act of racing caused my UC to flare. I signed up for a full marathon not even thinking about how UC was going to impact my training. Giving up my running goals was unthinkable. I was going to do this marathon no matter what and no silly disease like UC was going to stop me.
But now I’ve had a change in mindset. No matter how much I want to run the marathon, no matter how much I want to get as fit as I can, health has to come first. We have to be healthy to train for a race, and if we’re not, all the running may actually do more harm than good. So now, I don’t believe that anyone living with a chronic condition should let it rule their life, but neither do I believe denial is the answer. It just means I have to make some adjustments from time to time.
I know that every runner has a bad run or a bad day from time to time. During a race, we often have to play mind games with ourselves to keep going when the going gets tough. So to a certain extent, struggling is completely normal in our sport. But for runners living with a chronic illness or a physical limitation, it may not always be the best thing to keep pushing, especially during a training run. I mean, sure, if you’re at mile 11.5 in your half marathon and you’re tired as hell or your legs are hurting, by all means keep pushing til the end. Don’t give up now. But if you start your training run feeling like crap, maybe it’s better to get some rest and try again tomorrow.
From now on, I decided that I will listen to my body and respect it. I will not deny my UC or pretend it’s not there. If the disease is flaring and making me uncomfortable during the run, I will stop. If the run feels extra difficult because I am fatigued, I will stop. If I’m just not enjoying it at all for whatever reason, I will stop. I will give myself permission to cut the run short and try again the next day. And I won’t judge myself for it.
There’s always another day.