Something surprising can happen the year after you meet a big huge goal. Like running your first marathon (or your first three in my case). After your mind and your body are so focused, suddenly you feel lost. Well maybe not you, but me.
Following the high of conquering an enormous task, one that seemed impossible at one point, I celebrated for a bit. I felt on top of the world. Powerful. Unstoppable. Like I could achieve anything I set my mind to.
But before long at all, I began feeling lazy. Even as my body was still recovering from the big race, my mind started playing tricks on me as I wavered between never wanting to run ever again and feeling like I must do it again tomorrow. I was enjoying the rest, but hating the way I felt while resting. My mind started telling me I’d never again achieve that goal and in the next breath was planning how I was going to beat my best time. I kept seeking out that same euphoria I felt during those most challenging, yet most satisfying last miles of a marathon. But no other exercise brought me to that place. So, I considered going back for more, to experience the high once again.
But then I recognized the cycle I was in. I challenged myself to NOT attempt a new goal to ween my mind and to lower my expectations. Then came the withdrawal, the self doubt and mood swings.
I have glimpsed dependence. I now understand what it’s like to be an addict, always coming back for more, to quiet my mind and to feel… normal. Except my drug isn’t one you smoke or snort or shoot. It is the endorphin rush I get while using my own two legs to run as far and as fast as I can.
Like an alcoholic who needs more drinks with time to feel the buzz, that same kind of dependence had me needing to run 15 miles to feel high when five miles used to get me there. I’d run through illness and injuries and blizzards. Was I teaching my children discipline or obsession? Dedication or addiction? There’s a fine line.
The end of last year I experienced the low that comes after the ego boost, the confidence lift, the high of running a marathon and then another and another. The beginning of this year I forced myself to take a break from running altogether to bring myself back down to reality. You could say I went “cold turkey.” I focused on getting exercise through other means. And then with a clean slate, I decided to go at it again with a more balanced, less dependent approach. Now I run when I can, because I want to. Not because I need to.
The three marathons I ran in 2015 will always be races and a period of my life of which I will be extremely proud and look upon fondly. Though I have learned that, for me, it is healthier to stick to shorter distances. As I get older I keep confirming through all different aspects of my life, that I am best when I live “in the middle.” Like when I run half marathons or even just a few short miles on the trail instead of three marathons in one year. Or when I strive to eat healthy most of the time and allow myself to splurge some of the time. Or like when I let go of my perfectionist nature and let my house be a little messy.
That is my happy medium where I am not dependent and addictive, but happy, healthy and balanced. That’s where I am now and that’s where I intend to stay.