Monday, June 26, 2006

Delete bad run!

I have been learning a rather hard lesson in personal failure over the last few days. It's teaching me some very interesting things about myself. The first is that I'm not used to not achieving my goals. The second is that I have some way to go before I can truly lay claim to personal resilience. That's okay - I probably needed that pointed out to me. It's just pretty gutting to have it happen the way that it has.

In February I started training with a group of women at my local gym. At the end of the training programme I took part in the Special K Duathlon, and achieved my goal by completing in under an hour. Here's me running over the finish line screaming "under an hour, under an hour!" That's my fab friend Leonie grabbing my hand, about to run over with me.

I had so much fun I signed up for a 10km run in June. We trained for eight weeks. I hit all my milestones, my fitness increased, I lost weight, enjoyed myself, and then yesterday, on the day of the event, I went out and completely bombed. I couldn't even run five km without stopping to walk. I felt sick, and my legs felt overwhelmingly weak. By the time I got to the end the girls in the squad that I usually leave for dead were overtaking me. I got over the finishline and ended up blubbing while my trainer grabbed my shoulders and told me over and over again that I was fit and had done really well. But I couldn't see that I'd done well. I'd had to walk, and I'd failed to reach my target by 9 minutes.

For me there was a lot more at stake than simply running an event. I had a lot of personal identity and self-worth tied up in doing well. It's kind of galling to have to write about this, because I thought that over the last eight weeks I'd gotten over identifying myself by my medical conditions, but without trying to give myself an out, I should state that some people would say the fact that I can even contemplate running 10km is quite remarkable.

When I was six months old I was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus, commonly known as Water on the Brain. After corrective surgery my parents were told that it would not be clear whether I had suffered brain damage until I was eight years old. As a result I was never allowed to be physically active as a child, although thankfully the warnings of brain damage proved unfounded.

In my late teens I discovered the gym, and have been an on-off member all my life. A couple of years ago I was doing really well - lifting lots of weights and doing lots of cardio - when I became mysteriously ill. For two months I became steadily weaker, until I was diagnosed with Addison's Disease and an underactive thyroid gland.

I've been really lucky in that my two auto-immune conditions are really well controlled on medication. A lot of people with Addison's are not so lucky. But all of my medical issues meant that, when I finally started group training, I attached my identity to my new abilities all the more strongly. So when I fell at the hurdle I think I took it even harder than I should have done. I've been battling a complete and utter sense of disappointment. I had begun to see myself as athletic, fit and capable. Staggering to the finish line somewhere near the back of the pack was not in the picture.

So what do I do now? Right now I want to get out there and run the course again. Probably not the smartest idea. I'm carrying a bit of an injury that probably didn't help the run, and that I should really get sorted out first, but what I really need to do is deal with the mental stuff going on inside. I need to stop beating myself up, and I need to learn from the experience. Hey, I did something that I find hard. I put myself out there and risked failure, and this time around I failed. But I tried, and I guess that's the important thing. After all, we trained for eight weeks, at around four runs a week, and only one or two were what I would have regarded as failures. That's a pretty good ratio really.

On the day I lost both the mental and the physical battle. But there are things I can do to help myself conquer both. I'm signing up for half-marthon training, which begins next week. I'm not going to let that 10km barrier beat me. Damn it, I am fit!

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