Miles 7 & 8

26.2 A SERIES

Everyone has dreams. Since I was about 16 years old, one of mine has been to run a marathon. When I cross the finish line in NYC on November 5th, I’ll likely do so with a recorded time of between 4 and 5 hours. In reality though, it will have taken me much longer to get there. There are things inside and outside of us that bring us closer to our dreams. There are also things that delay us, that push us so far away from our goals they are sometimes out of sight. If we are lucky, little by little, we are often able to transform those stumbling blocks into building blocks–they become the foundation for our strength, resilience, and ultimate determination. This series aims to uncover my long journey. Each week, I’ll share the people, places, and things that have brought me to the place I am at today, and that I hope will carry me from the starting line in Staten Island, to the finish line in Central Park. Mile by mile–this, is my 26.2.

Mile 7-Anguish & Joy…for the love of running and writing

“There’s no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”-Maya Angelou

The similarities between running and writing are endless–and at times, almost unbearable. Literally right now, as I begin to write about this Mile 7 in my marathon series, I’m plagued with fatigue and doubt. Why did I even decide to start this project? I could have done one piece and called it “Why I’m Running the Marathon” and been done. This is so much more arduous than I had imagined when I laid it all out. Why do I continue to torture myself–why don’t I just give up?

It’s interesting and sort of crazy that two of the things I love most in this world–writing and running–I contemplate giving up on on almost a daily basis. I’m not sure what it is about Mile 7, whether I’m ending a run there or continuing on, it’s always one of the toughest markers for me. My most frequent thoughts go something like this:

What have you really accomplished by running today? These few miles are not going to change your life, or even your fitness.

You’re exhausted, how are you supposed to run 26.2 miles if you can barely run 7? I don’t see it happening.

I hate this. This is so hard. Why do I do this?

Similar thoughts come up when I’m writing:

What have you really accomplished by writing this piece? You’re not going to change the world, you probably won’t even change any minds.

How are you going to write a book or a script–something of real value, if you can’t even write a silly blog post?

I hate this. This is so hard. Why do I do this?

One of my favorite movie lines comes from Tom Hanks’ character, Jimmy Dugan, in A League of their Own. When his star catcher Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) decides to quit baseball citing that it “just got too hard,” he responds:

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard, is what makes it great.”

The first time I saw A League of their Own I was ten years old; that line has stuck with me ever since. I knew it was true. I knew that there were things that were really special–but also really hard. I knew that less people did these things solely because they were difficult, and that added to the allure for me. As I grew up, I was determined to find the special things that I was going to do, the things that other people gave up on. I knew whatever I did would have to be something I loved. If I didn’t love it, I would give up too.

For as long as I can remember I’ve seen life as a story; I’ve lived with narration in my head since I was five or six. I always knew experiences were meant to be shared; I think for a while I suspected storytelling was my only true defense against loneliness. There’s no solitary narrative–there’s always something that at least one person can connect to.

I write because I love words, and I cherish the way they link my view of the world to other peoples’. Sometimes writing comes easily to me, but more often than not, I struggle. There was a sliver of time in my life that I thought that meant I wasn’t supposed to write. I thought if I was born to do something then it should come easily to me, or at least easier. Now though I see that it isn’t the struggle or lack there of that indicates what I’m meant to do. Rather, it’s the fierce compulsion to persist through that struggle that steers my work and reveals my life’s journey.

I’ve finished a “silly” blog post, and had old friends from high school write me to say how much it impacted them or how they related to my feelings. I’ve actually had someone write to me, “I thought I was the only one who felt this way.

On mile 7 I have said to myself, “You have to stop, you can’t run any more than this.” Then my persistence has taken me to mile 10 or 11.

Just like writing, running consistently disproves all the doubts I have about myself. These two things that I love are always shattering my limited scope of what I believe I am capable of. At mile 7, I will remember that I have pushed past this marker before. I will keep going, because I’ll recognize the struggle, and I will know that if I don’t give up, there are unbelievable gifts on the other side.

Mile 8- Speaking of Things that I Love–What am I Eating after this?

brigitte-tohm-222137
credit: brigitte tohm via unsplash

 

Having a genuine and robust love affair with food is not something I take for granted. After years of struggling with body image and eating disorders, I am able to understand and appreciate how rare it is for someone like me to really adore eating as much as I do. My relationship with food did not improve overnight, it’s taken years of consistent work to wholeheartedly absorb three concepts that are really important to me:

  1. Food is life
  2. Food is fuel
  3. Food is joy

Whether our problem is overeating or under-eating, at some point, many of us have wished that food could just disappear-that we could eliminate eating as a task. We can’t. Food is literally what sustains our lives, we need it to remain on this earth. Living in a rich country like the United States, it’s easy to forget that there are places all over the world that lack the resources to feed their citizens. Food is a human right; I remember feeling ashamed on the day I woke up and finally realized that I was squandering that right by starving myself. There came a point where I ultimately had to decide whether I wanted to live or die. A “yes” to life, was a “yes” to food, I could no longer have it any other way. Once I accepted food as part of my humanity, I realized that I had a real choice over whether it would remain a dark looming shadow, or transform into a bright spot that I got to encounter on a daily basis.

The more I began to nourish myself, the hungrier I got–the more I wanted out of life. I wanted to write, to travel, to experience love, and to run. I ran on empty for years and years. Looking back, I’m not really sure how I did it; I like to think surviving the abuse I put my body through is a testament to how strong I really am–that resilience is something I’m enormously proud of. When I finally began to see that food was the key–that it opened up the door to so much possibility for living, a true desire to fuel myself was born. Races and travel and adventure all require energy. Understanding how to provide my body with the sustenance it needs to produce this energy has not been easy–it’s taken a lot of trial and error and I’m still learning every day. But the work is worth it. As the propulsion of my legs gets faster and stronger as I push towards the end of a run, or I feel my glutes engage and lift me gracefully up a long set of stairs, I give thanks for my strong limbs and full belly. I know that I don’t get the former without the latter.

Obviously I can’t know what I’ll be thinking during any of these miles during the race–this is all imaginative conjecture. Still, I’m willing to bet that some of my first thoughts about what I’m going to eat after the race will come around mile 8. I will probably let myself eat whatever I want for at least a few days. After several years of taking care of myself, I’ve built sort of a resistance to over-gorging–how my body feels always wins, so overdoing it for too long rarely happens nowadays. Sometimes I’m even annoyed that my body won’t let me splurge more–there seems to be some sort of beast living inside me that roars if it goes too many days without broccoli. But that is the other thing, I love broccoli.

Although I only have the one treatment center I went to as a reference and the current literature, it seems to me that what’s missing from the recovery of eating disorders is joy. I understand that when we start out, so many of us just need to learn how to survive. But, eating and food offer us so much beyond survival if we really want it. Food is nurturing and delicious and we get to experience it several times a day–what else is like that? Some of the best memories of my life have been created around food–the tastes, the smells, and the feelings will stay with me forever. My first meal out in Paris with my husband was at this unbelievable place where we ate the most incredible seafood– we just happened to stumble upon it after winding down our day with a romantic walk in an uncertain direction. The streets of Paris, and bread, and butter, and oysters, and prawns. It was love at first bite and we never looked back–we didn’t have even one so-so meal in Paris, everything was a home-run.

I get all the feels when it comes to cooking as well, especially for loved ones. I make Christmas dinner for my family every year and it’s one of my favorite gifts that I give and receive. I cook for hours. I prep a ton on Christmas Eve and then I’m up Christmas morning before anyone else in the house–peeling and chopping and rolling and baking. From the taste testing over my shoulder all day to the moment it all comes together on the extended dining room table, feeding the people I love warms and empowers my soul–it’s the ultimate nourishment.

And so, as I salivate at mile 8, imagining the glorious smorgasbord that will await me at the finish, I will also give thanks to food for:

Giving me a life that I’m eager to keep on living

Making me strong and able to go after my dreams

And creating some of the most satisfying and joyful memories of my life.

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this piece, I hope you might like to continue with the series… please consider following me through WordPress or through email by using the links on this page. You can also follow me on facebook  ~all support is appreciated. thank you. x

33 thoughts on “Miles 7 & 8

  1. Mile 7! The things that mean the most often come at the highest price! They require work. Good work girl. I love reading it all 🙂
    And mile 8! I relate to the struggle with food. Thanks for sharing. It’s been a long road for me to realize, and continually remember, at the very least-food is fuel! I ran through high school and barely ate a thing, thinking being skinnier would make me faster.. So silly.. but I find joy in the food now too! How far I’ve come… So grateful. Thanks for the reminder. Keep it up 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel like I could have written this post – except for the fact that I am not quite ready for 26.2! I can’t wait to read about how you really thought about these things to get you through your race – especially food. Always food. I run for food! 😉

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  3. Having run a lot of half marathons, my body starts to revolt around mile 15 these days!! This weekend I made it to mile 17 of 18 and just stopped, told the Hubs to take the watch and finish the last mile, I couldn’t do it…well that didn’t go over well!! He got me through that last mile, but it was a hard one!!

    I have a hard time eating after a long run, it takes me hours to feel like I want to eat, but when I’m ready, I’m ready!! I excited to enjoy some Chicago style pizza after that run!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jodi!! I was reading your blog post at work but only got half way through it–but I saw that you totally soldiered through that 18 miler. You are amazing!! You are kind of making me wish my hubs was running this one with me!
      That’s interesting you find it hard to eat after a long run. I get RAVENOUS. Actually, I’ve been just generally ravenous lately, I’ve been eating so much. But good stuff, and feeling strong so it’s been ok. I will say I moved my cheat day to Sunday and I tell myself I can eat what I want after my long run, and I often disappoint myself with how relatively healthy I still eat. The junk just doesn’t go down that easy anymore. But after 26.2 I think it will be on. I am so jealous you are going to have Chicago pizza after yours!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Cat!! I know with that 18 miler behind me, I’m on track for 20!!
        I have no idea why I am not hungry soon after a long run?? I am using the nuun performance powder and honey stinger gels, but that’s not a meal!! And you can bet that I’m going to eat all the food in Chicago!!

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  4. Interesting as always, Cat. The word that kept arising for me as I read this was Savor. Savor the journey, the sensations, the food, oh yes, savor the food and how it does nourish one. That strong body that runs, moves up the stairs, takes you through this world and life, savor it all.

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    1. I will savor it all Steph!! That brings to mind–going to savor the rest of this summer. Everyone around me seems to be rushing it out the door and saying Fall is here. Life goes by too fast already, I’m savoring my seasons!!

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  5. I’ve taken the “what shall I have to eat” thoughts and discussions a step further by ensuring that all long training runs (and most races) end up at a food market or at the very least somewhere with decent coffee and pastries! Letting your mind wander is a brilliant antidote for some of the tougher miles – whether it’s about food, writing or the mysteries of the cosmos it doesn’t matter. And if you can find a fellow runner to chat to so much the better. I really struggled with my first two marathons and was in danger of making it a hat-trick by about mile 7 of my third. Didn’t feel right, body felt lethargic and I was in danger of giving in to it – and then I used the simplest trick in the book. I smiled. Sounds like the cheesiest thing ever but each time I felt horrible I smiled at someone on the side of the road or at a fellow runner or at someone manning a water table. I’ve done it in every race since 🙂 Keep going with both your words and your mileage – you write and you run because you love it, so keep doing it for you.

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    1. SMILE!! I love this Nik! I did something similar my last half marathon. I started shouting encouragement to other people as I ran by them. Anytime i saw someone really struggling, I gave them a shout out–just a simple, “you got this!” seemed to go a long way. For me the whole key to what you are saying is GIVING–when we feel like we don’t have enough in us, somehow giving to others provides what we need to keep going. I hope I do more smiling than crying at the marathon–i am sure there will be a lot of both!
      Thanks Nik. Appreciate your comments so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great insightful blog! Really interesting to hear you link writing and running. I only started my own blog after I properly started to focus on my running, even though I’ve always loved writing I’ve been reluctant to put any of it out there for others to read. And I’m always surprised when anyone other than my mum says they loved it! I know it’s still rough around the edges, just like my running. And if I wanted to be serious about it I should do it more, also like my running haha! But I’m just trying to be relaxed with it and enjoy it, not put myself under any pressure to perform and this is a lesson I’m trying to apply to my running!

    Great to hear that you’ve got your first marathon in November. You’ll love it, especially the buzz at the finish. I did my first last year and have one in October. I was good up until mile 20 and then my legs needed a lot of persuasion to keep going. But I loved it, and wanted to push further, so did my first Ultra this year. Can’t wait to push it another notch next year and try for 100 miles.

    Keep up all the awesome work!

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    1. Thank you SO much Debbie!! For me running and writing are inextricably linked–there just seem to be so many parallels all the time. So much of it for me is about staying the course and pushing through tough parts–and also never really knowing what I am capable of.
      So great that you have started to put your writing/yourself out there. It’s a challenge, but it’s a good feeling to face those challenges I think. I’ve been through a LOT of days where my Ma was the only one reading–and of course she’s loved everything I’ve written 😍.
      I loved reading your comment to see all the ways you so quickly linked your running and writing as well–I relate!
      Thank you for your good wishes with the marathon! I’m really so excited. It’s taken me a LONG time to get to this place and I’m really so thrilled to get the opportunity to have this experience. An ULTRA!! And now 100!?!! 🙈👏🏽. That is so amazing. Glad to be along for your journey!
      Please don’t be a stranger, love having your thoughts here!! x

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  7. I hear ya about mile 7. What is it about that mile? During the half I ran two weeks ago, mile 7 was the worst! It’s always at that point that I start to think through pros/cons of just quitting! haha I won’t lie: sometimes I even think about how bad I’d feel if I just turned around early and didn’t finish. I haven’t done it yet, though! I need a strategy though for the race in two weeks — I’ll pass right by the parking lot (and my car!) at the 7.5 mile mark!! Don’t need any temptation to just sit down and call it a day! haha!!

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  8. I enjoy writing too, but mine has been for entertainment reasons. I’ve always been a pessimistic person (my therapist says realist, but I’m not buying that), and when I stop and think about everything going on in the world, I want to cry. My life has been this way since high school. There’s so much in this world that is depressing, that has continually gotten worse day by day since I was a kid…but I have this wry, sardonic sense of humor. And I realized in college, it was much easier to laugh at little things than stress about stuff that I can’t and won’t even be able to change. Having said that my writing shifted from teenage angst in high school to humor. I like to entertain and make people laugh. There’s so much bad out there, and if I can get someone to stop thinking about it for even 10 minutes and put a smile on their face, I feel like I’ve achieved something. My writing has always been a coping mechanism for me, it’s just happened to evolve over time.

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  9. Planning what to tell myself helps me avoid any doubts that come up. The doubt always passes, but the affect of the doubt can be minimized with positive self talk. One phrase I go to frequently mid race is “I am strong. I’ve got this. ” I also think about my kid’s martial arts class. Their instructor yells, ‘How do you feel’ and the kids yell, ‘Feeling good feeling great.’ It is amazing how much power the mind has over the body.
    Great post!

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  10. I loved reading this, in particular Mile 7 as I’ve had very similar struggles with writing! In the end, I always have to remove audience from the equation and remind myself I’m writing for no other reason than to get better at writing.

    It’s easiest to give up when it’s hard… But I also think the things we have to work for reap the greatest rewards. You have it on point! Persistence is key! xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Bobbi! I’ve struggled with the whole audience thing for a long time as well. I think that is a great way to look at it, writing to get better at writing. I definitely have that in my mind. But I also shifted that whole audience thing also. Writing for an audience has destroyed my ability to write at times–you can never speak to or please or relate to everyone. Instead though, when I write, I try to write for one person. I used to think that person was me–but only because I had heard a lot of writers say that before. I believe I can only write what I know, so in some ways, that’s writing for me. But if i am being honest with myself, i do write or someone else as well. That’s what my writing means–it’s how i am reaching out to the world–whether i like it or not, it’s an important aspect of my writing. I’ve stopped trying to fight that and have just decided to try and write for that one person that could be open to my words–or who might need to hear them. I end up being inspired to write for this person, rather than stifled like i am when i try to write for a whole audience or just for myself.
      Not sure if this makes sense. Your comment just brought up something i think about a lot so you got me going! thanks lady! x

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  11. All the best with the marathon, I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Although I have ran the 26.2 distance before in a slow training run, I’m hoping to complete a first marathon event next year. The mental battle with myself and becoming more comfortable with discomfort is something I’m thinking about more and more, had a great learning experience in regards to that yesterday during a half marathon.

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    1. I agree that those are two of the big keys to endurance running: the mental battle and finding comfort in discomfort. When you put it that way it actually makes me think of yoga. I do Bikram, which a lot of people find absolutely miserable. I’ve been doing it for 9 years. I think the most valuable thing I’ve taken from it is being able to find peace in that discomfort–to stay in it and not panic and remain able to persevere.
      Thanks so much for reading. Please come back and share your thoughts again, really appreciate them!!

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      1. Although I’ve never done any yoga, I’ve been practising mindfulness meditation for the past three months – I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few things in common between the three activities. I’ll keep an eye out for your future posts, looking to get back into blogging more after a decade away from it so doing more writing and engaging with others is always good.

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  12. I think we all have those thoughts about running that you’re having at mile 7. I know I do! At times the sheer magnitude of what I’m taking on with the marathon overwhelms me. I get to mile 18 and want to stop. How on earth am I going to do another 8? And yet we do. It’s in those moments that we really get to know ourselves.

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    1. It’s interesting Ali, I think through all of this I’m getting to know myself–and also LIKE myself more. I admire that I seem to be someone who pushes past pain and discomfort and comes out on the other side. I know I’ve done that in other times in my life, but marathon training has me pushing past those points all the time, and it makes me walk around with my head held pretty high. It’s a good feeling.

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  13. I have a friend who falls apart at mile 8. She’s only gone as far as a half and the last time we ran one together I had to talk her through it. It was a great experience for me. She however decided 10K was the most she would ever run. I do well until mile 18 and then I’ve had enough and think what exactly am I doing. Although when I ran the 50 mile last week those thoughts didn’t hit until about mile 35. I can’t even remember much of what i thought about except how many miles till the next stop to see my husband and boss him around for drinks and fuel. It was great fun. You are going to do great and you will enjoy it!

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    1. I still can’t believe you ran 50 miles, that’s SO amazing. What I always find so crazy is that mile 7 can be tougher than mile 10. It’s just such a life lesson to push past and get to the other side. Thanks Rach!

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