When we are out there preparing for the next marathon and even one mile at goal pace feels like a race, we runners doubt ourselves. Even after a flawless training season, we doubt ourselves.
Am I really supposed to be able to do another 25 miles at this pace? Really?
We do the training, building aerobic capacity and the strength for speed. We practice fueling, pacing, and holding it together when we feel like shit. We build focus and confidence so we don’t blow up when it doesn’t go exactly as planned. We prepare for what we can control, which sometimes feels like everything and sometimes feels like nothing. Even when we follow our training plan and do everything by the book, why is it still so hard to believe it will work for us?
Believing in the process isn’t just about running. All around us every day incredibly complex tasks, like bridge construction, commercial air travel and surgery, all require millions of processes converging at the right moment. To live, we have to believe in these processes; that the bridges we travel over will not collapse, that the plane we’re on won’t crash, and that our surgeon won’t make a mistake. If it is so easy to believe in the processes that make up our industrialized world, why is it so hard to believe in the processes that are ours?
Two months ago, my logs here and on Strava mysteriously disappeared after the Columbus Marathon when a crisis in my life blew up and a bunch of things in my life changed. I felt trapped. I worried about anything and everything, my insomnia went from bad to terrible and running went out the window. I needed Xanax just to make it through Thanksgiving dinner. I am definitely not the first, and far from the last, person to find herself suddenly stuck in a bad episode of anxiety and depression.
In the old days, I would have stewed for months or years, but I’ve come to learn that other people are wiser than me. As we runners do, I turned to my running friends for guidance. When you are trapped in depression, it is difficult to imagine that someone else has seen it all before: good days, bad days, big changes, bad marriages, therapists, years of insomnia, unreachable doctors, medications, lessons, changes. I listened to everyone else’s stories on life and problems. I spent a lot of time in Salty’s basement and I’ve come to find that almost everyone I know has been depressed or on a psychiatric medication at some point. I’m not the only one to have a crisis. I have to trust my friends when they say it all works out. As a result, I ended up in a therapist’s office and on medication within weeks instead of years this time. Believing in the process means trusting something or someone because it has probably worked before. No. It worked before, many times. You or I are not the first ones to have a life crisis or use that training plan or have a bad workout.
I’m having a really hard time. It is difficult to let go and accept that the process is working. It is hard to put faith in all of the people that came before us who tested and perfected the process. Just as we do in running, I have to trust my therapist, my doctors, clinic coordinator, labs, the medications and my friends. Sometimes it feels like blind trust that may or may not work, but it isn’t really much different than believing in the process of marathon training. I thought I would be back here announcing big dreams. Instead I am back here announcing that I have to believe in a different process.
What I learned from running, and in particular training like an elite, is that our problems and anxieties are not unique. We have to put faith in other people and trust them; our coaches, the people who wrote our training plans, the meteorologist that tells us the weather tomorrow, even that the race will start on time or that our water bottle will be on a table exactly where it is supposed to be. Then on a perfect day, all of the pieces come together and we run the race of our lives because we had the courage to put our doubts away, to trust other people, and to believe in the process.
Has running helped you have more faith in your abilities, processes, yourself?