Hitting the Wall in Running and Life

Belmont Harbor

I recently hit the proverbial wall – both in my training for the New York City Marathon and in life overall.

A few weeks ago, I was celebrating my birthday and excited for the future. I kicked butt in the Magnificent Mile Half Marathon over Labor Day weekend and I was getting ready to go to New York, where I expected to see Serena Williams win her 22nd Grand Slam at the U.S. Open, meet up with various friends and squeeze in a 16 mile training run along the marathon course. For possibly the first time since I returned from my career break trip, I felt like I really knew what I wanted in multiple areas of my life and was confident that I was on the verge of getting there.

And then, suddenly I ran face first into a massive wall.

I spent the week leading up to my New York trip working crazy hours and arrived in Manhattan on a Friday night completely exhausted and simmering with disappointment that Serena lost in the semi-finals just before I boarded my flight. While I tried to make the most of the trip and still saw some great tennis, my mindset had shifted and a shadow had been cast over the weekend. I got caught in the rain on Saturday and took the train back to the city half soaked; my 16 mile run didn’t pan out as planned; I didn’t end up seeing friends I had hoped to see; and after sitting through a three hour rain delay for the men’s final, I ended up with a horrible head cold for the next few days.

On top of it, when I got back to Chicago, I got some disappointing news that just threw me into a tailspin. I can’t go into details, but I cried like I haven’t cried in a really, really long time. I started questioning pretty much everything and wondered again if taking a year off to travel four years ago was worth it.

And then, as I walked the two blocks to Walgreen’s to pick up cold medicine while I was home sick from work on Tuesday, I took an awkward step and felt a sharp pain suddenly shoot through the inside of my left knee. I tried to shake it off, but it hurt to even take another step. I almost started crying again in the middle of the street as all of my marathon training plans seemed to be going down the drain. How did I go from so high just two weeks earlier to so low?

I spent the rest of the week in a daze. I was mentally drained, physically exhausted and my body seemed to be rebelling against me. I suddenly felt incredibly alone and it hit me more than ever before how few good friends I have left in Chicago – instead of turning to anyone locally, I got online to vent to my friend Ali who lives halfway across the world. While there probably were friends I could have turned to, I have been so removed from them for so long, I felt like I didn’t want to impose – especially because I was objective enough to know that no single thing that happened in the previous week or so was worth being all that upset about, but it was the confluence of events that combined to make me feel like I was hitting rock bottom (and I realize that in the overall scheme of things, these are all very much “first world problems” to have, but it doesn’t make anything that less painful in the moment)

I kept telling myself that sometimes it takes hitting that really¬† low point for things to start turning up again and, hopefully, to get to another high point. Life is just a series of highs and lows, right? My life has never been one to just run linearly – it’s constantly a roller coaster. And it’s tough when you go so long without really knowing what you want and then you finally think you figure it out, only to discover that it’s just not quite within your reach. At least not right now.

So for now I press on. I’m no longer sick and I think I’ve caught up on sleep. Work is still crazy because we’re short-staffed but I am forcing myself to not give in to my workaholic tendencies and take a step back from putting in ridiculously long hours. There’s a reason I’m not a big firm lawyer anymore and I need to remember that. Sometimes I have to be willing to say no. My knee pain has dissipated and I managed to do a five mile interval run tonight with ease so I am feeling cautiously optimistic again about the marathon. I’m making plans for my Ethiopia trip at the end of November and I’m looking at options for the Great Wall Marathon in China in May. There’s something about making travel plans that always perks me up a bit. On the other hand, with the next month spent in Chicago (my longest stint here since last January!), I have an opportunity to finally be social and catch up with some friends here – something that is long overdue!

And I’ll do my best to stay patient, recognizing that sometimes all the trying in the world doesn’t get you what you want. Sometimes you just have to accept, as I saw on Twitter last week, that if the door doesn’t open, it wasn’t your door.

p.s. Wanna make my week? Give just $5 to support buildOn as I run the NYC Marathon to support this great organization! I’m almost 40% of the way to my goal with 40 days to go until race day!

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5 thoughts on “Hitting the Wall in Running and Life”

  1. Katie, I’m so sorry you had a rough week! I’m glad your knee isn’t hurting anymore though, that sounded scary! I can totally relate to not having close friends nearby. I hardly have any not-so-close friends in Berlin. I am much closer to friends who live in completely different parts of the world, which is usually fine, but sometimes you just want to hang out with someone in person. I have no real advice for you there, but I do understand. And I’m here to listen if you ever need to vent again!

  2. Ouch, tough week Katie. Good onya for not being all downbuzz and feeling sorry for yourself for weeks on end though!

    What is your day job?

  3. I hear you on those ups and downs. Since coming back to life in Toronto after our year away I’ve had many moments of questioning as I struggle to deal with a new job in a realm completely beyond me. And then I have good days. And it gets me confused. Anyway, I try to remain optimistic and see what plays out and what unplanned opportunities may come along. Good look with your battles Katie!

  4. What your going through is normal. Especially since you have spent time away traveling. It can be hard and we sometimes question the decisions we made. I read a lot of travel blogs and struggle if I am living my full potential when I yearn to be out and traveling. Everything will work out in due time.

    I enjoy your blog. I relate (same age). Take it one day at a time.

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