The subject of this post is not something I’m well versed in. Once I’m driven to accomplish a task, the more challenges I face, the more determined I’m likely to become. This can work in my favour in times when I need to dig deep and find the strength to continue. But it can also be detrimental to my health because my mind tends to push my body further than it can or wants to go.
On the PCT, I was so determined to finish the trail I pushed through injury, pain, and weather conditions I’d never face again to cross the border. On the Yukon River Quest, when the foot pedal of my kayak snapped off, and I lost steering for half the race, determination saw me through to the finish line.
My latest challenge has been training to run a marathon, despite the fact I don’t actually like running. The furthest I’ve ever run was 21km when I was at the peak of my fitness in 2016. But after listening to a very inspiring interview with ultra-marathon runner David Goggins, I signed up to run the Vancouver Marathon on May 5th, believing not only could I finish with only two months lead time, but after listening to this powerful podcast, I was confident I could win the race on mind power alone.
This is where reality and my ambition began to collide.
On my first training run, I decided I would go for an hour and push as far as I could. One of Goggin’s quotes that struck me was that people often quit at 40%. So every time I started to feel tired I would ask myself what percentage I was at, and if it weren’t 100%, I’d keep going. Basically, I was convinced if I hadn’t vomited by the end of the run I wasn’t pushing hard enough, a statement that horrified my poor mother!
On that first day I ran 11km, sprinting up the last hill to pass another runner across my make believe finish line. I did almost vomit, but I was elated, grinning triumphantly because I’d successfully pushed past my 40%.
However, the next day I ran, I started to feel pain in my hips. Over the next four days, I continued training, but afterwards, I was struggling to walk and found staircases excruciating. I saw a physio back in Australia who prescribed me orthotics because my left leg is shorter than my right, and according to him, was the cause for throwing my pelvis off balance. He told me to take a week off running, get used to the new insoles and take it from there.
Cut to a week later, after paying an exorbitant amount of money I ran 8km and experienced even worse pain in my hips within the first few minutes. I was crushed, but assuming it might be the last time I would ever run, I ran the full 8km I’d intended, tearing up my feet on the useless orthotics in the process and limping home in defeat.
I spent the next two weeks on an exercise bike attempting to maintain some kind of fitness until I arrived back in Vancouver to visit my trusty chiropractor, Dr. Sam. I essentially went straight from the airport to his practice and after a descent readjustment, he told me to take two days off with no running before seeing him again.
On the second visit a week ago, he gave me the all clear to run, so naturally, I went straight to the gym, signed up with a personal trainer, invested in a concoction of protein powders, supplements, and electrolytes and hit the treadmill.
Kyle my trainer told me what I was attempting was ambitious, to say the least, but for the first few days, I think I had us both fooled. I transformed my diet, went to the gym for at least three hours each day, and walked out with a huge grin knowing I was moving one step closer towards my goal.
Then yesterday I did my first 10km run since my initial training, and within the first few minutes my hips flared up again. Of course, I ran the entire 10km, but I went straight back to my chiropractor who merely shook his head and asked if there was any way I could get a refund for the race.
Somehow I was not prepared for this response and had to hold back tears while Dr. Sam completed his treatment. At the end, he told me to rest for the weekend and see him next week, and by the time I left his practice I was an emotional wreck, crying the entire way back to my friend Sue’s house while biking through Vancouver’s persistent rain.
At that point, I had to question why this race is so important to me.
The truthful answer is something far deeper than my conscience drives me. Whether it comes from a place of fear or insecurity or a desire for attention, I don’t know, but it’s in my nature to follow through on things I say I’m going to do. It’s a part of an identity I pride myself on, and when something goes against the grain, it throws my entire sense of character into chaos.
The other answer is the marathon is the only concrete element in my life right now. I’m homeless, jobless, and have just moved back to a city I’m not even sure I want to make my home in. I want to be self-employed and set up a business in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and in the midst of searching for accommodation, considering living out of a van, and debating part-time dog walking jobs, I’m spending my savings on personal trainers and protein powder, trying to gauge whether I’ve completely lost my mind.
Compared to my other objectives, the marathon is a rather straightforward affair. It has a specific date, a set distance, a defined course, a cut-off time, and I have a nutrition and training plan to follow. It would almost seem ‘easy’ if my body would just cooperate.
So as I sit here with an icepack on my hip having waddled up the staircase of Sue’s apartment, I’m still holding onto a small thread of hope that somehow in twenty-four days I’ll be ready to run 42km. Though it seems unlikely as I can barely scuttle across the road to beat traffic, if I do have to accept defeat on this particular challenge, at least I’ll be satisfied I didn’t quit at 40%.