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You Win Some, You Lose Some- Lessons Learned as a Marathon Walker

Written by Tiffany Basore PT, DPT
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tiff 1Growing up I was an athlete.  While being a perfectionist and competitive by nature helped me reach some goals, it has also held me back.  There were times in my life where I avoided things because I was afraid to fail. In 2009, I took a chance and trained for a ½ marathon.  Despite playing multiple sports, long distance running has never been “my thing”.  I was nervous to participate for fear of failure, but I put these thoughts aside and I trained.  I followed a plan, I was consistent, and I didn’t get hurt.  When race day rolled around I was nervous but I felt I had prepared well.  I had been experiencing some mild health issues at the time which had altered my diet, but I didn’t worry too much about it.  I woke up the morning of the race with my legs feeling like lead.  I attributed this to being nervous and over-thinking things.  I started the race hoping I just needed to get into my rhythm, but I never did. I trudged on for 12 of the 13.1 miles willing my non-cooperative body to keep moving.  Just past mile 12, there was a hill.  I knew there was no way my body would carry me to the finish line if I tried to run up it.  My entire body was letting me down in a way it never had during any of my training runs.  As I began to walk, a medic asked if I was okay. I stubbornly said yes, but when asked to walk a straight line, I couldn’t come close.  He checked my blood pressure, oxygen, and blood sugar, all of which were too low.  I had to stop.  My body had failed me.  I had failed.

 

After months of training combined with my innate fear of failure, I was crushed, I was embarrassed, and I felt defeated.  I still don’t know exactly why my body performed the way it did on that day, but with time I came to value the accomplishments I still achieved. 

  1. I faced a fear
  2. I ran more than I had ever run, even with a body that was breaking down.
  3. I failed - and you know what, it was okay.

Since that time, I have sought other forms of exercise besides distance running.  Sure, I may try training for a long run again, but I may not.  If not, it will not be because of my previous failure.  Instead it will be because I’m choosing to listen to my body and pursue fitness activities I enjoy more.  One such activity is long distance walking.  On May 17, 2015 I walked the Cleveland Marathon with a friend.  We were two of only a handful of people walking the 26.2 miles.   There were times during the walk that I found myself feeling inadequate as I watched countless runners of all ages and sizes take on the task.  I watched a man juggle and bounce a basketball the entire way, along with several firemen running in full gear.  I started to downplay what I was doing because I was “just walking”.  However, as we continued walking, I began to embrace what I was doing.  I too had trained for this including 20 mile walks (think 5+ hours) by myself, both a mental and physical battle.  My muscles too wear achy and put to the test by this endurance event.  I too had to find the right balance of fluid and fuel to keep my body going.  When I stopped focusing on what other people were doing and started focusing on what I was doing and what my body was capable of, I began to feel a sense of accomplishment.  I couldn’t stop smiling as I crossed the finish line 6.5 hours after I started.

Sometimes success is not about being the fastest, the strongest, or the best.  Instead of dwelling on where you aren’t, focus on where you are and what you can do.  Appreciate your body for the work it can do.  Look at where you’ve started and how far you’ve come. Don’t discount your accomplishment because it is different from someone else’s.  I think the biggest thing I learned in walking a marathon is that it is impossible to fully enjoy and embrace your accomplishments if you are constantly comparing to others.  Likewise, you shouldn’t discount another person’s success because it is different from your own.   Join in the celebration of the achievements of others and cheer them on when they are struggling.  In your own battles, recognize that the mental struggle can be harder than the physical, but the satisfaction when all is said and done can be equally sweet. 

Between my half marathon run attempt and my marathon walk success, I have learned what it feels like to be on both sides.  I have learned through both experiences and grown in empathy and compassion.  Instead of feeling beaten down by my failures, I choose to feel empowered and motivated to keep moving, keep trying, and keep smiling in whatever circumstances I am in.  With that, I will leave you with this:

The Top 10 Ways Walking a Marathon is Like Recovering from an Injury:tiff 3

10. It is important to properly fuel and prepare your body

9.  It can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel

8.  Sometimes the last hurdle is the hardest

7.  A little encouragement can make a big difference

6.  At times it can be downright painful

5. Things don’t always turn out exactly as you hoped

4.  The mental battle can be harder than the physical

3.  No two journeys are the same and comparison really is the thief of joy

2. There will always be things you can’t control

1. Regardless of the outcome the experience will teach you a lot

 

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