The universe is having its fun with me… I love/hate when that happens.
‘Retreat’ has never been a word in my vocabulary. I’m a fighter. I’m a survivor. I have only quit something a handful of times, and it was usually because I had to quit, not because I wanted to. I’ve used the word ‘Retreat’ once in my life.
It was 2001 and my last nationals in skating. I had planned on retiring after this nationals and going on with my adult life, but I wanted to make this last trip special. I knew I would never be in an arena, waiting in the pit, wearing a costume, ever again. I just knew that it was time to put a period and close this chapter in my life.
Long story short, there was an incident with a family member that made the whole experience one of the worst in my entire life. Instead of enjoying this last moment and doing everything I wanted to do, I was now caring for a 10 year old, and I literally had zero focus for my event. My coach, wanting to let my family know that it was bananas that a kid that wasn’t the most talented skater, but had an insane work ethic, continuously got the shaft, and it was making me a headcase. Instead of hearing the message and saying to themselves, “Uh…maybe we should quit being self centered assholes and give Jenni her one last moment,” they just took it as an insult and it made things worse.
I went home with 17th place. I had made the final and placed in the top five the year before.
I threw my skates in a closet and fell off the face of the earth for 10 years. It was the only other time I had retreated in my life. 15 years of competitive skating that was nothing but a continuous struggle for me was meaningless. I had never had a moment.
13 years later I would retreat again.
Why run anymore?
I have the hips of an 80 year old.
My gym membership was cancelled, and it’s a luxury I simply cannot afford.
I don’t have time to run. The time I do have, I can’t just leave 3 kids alone and go for a run.
I raised thousands for breast cancer and ran for those women with all my heart and soul, but I’m still defined by my past. I could raise thousands more, and no one would look past things that happened years ago. It’s the ugly baby I’m forced to carry around with me.
I worked so hard to achieve and be perfect. But he had an affair anyway.
Whatever. There is no point. Time for another period on another chapter in this book.
I trained WITH A COACH for the entire winter, running sub-8’s and my first run outside I ran in the 9’s. Nice to see I wasted so much time with all of that.
There simply is NO POINT.
And honestly? I was ok with retreating. I was tired. I felt the same way I did after the 2001 Nationals. Maybe the new chapter has new things for me.
Or did it?
Like I said in the beginning of this post, the universe was going to work on this a little, and this time I was going to pay attention. Not like last time when I turned off my eyes and ears to the world around me.
A couple of running friends reached out, and it planted a seed. People missed me. All this shitstorm and people noticed I wasn’t there. Kind of an asshole move on my part if I ignore them, right?
Oh? A free race entry at the end of the month to a pressure-free race? That could be fun…and free!
I stopped and picked up a Competitor and Chicago Athlete magazine at the gym where the lady that checks me in usually noticed I was there pilfering the free magazines but I hadn’t been there in over a month. Busted. Oh I get a corporate discount here because of my new job, and I can afford it now? You’ll comp the month I missed?
So the seeds were planted. I could now go to the gym near my office during lunch breaks, and the kids had somewhere to play while I ran.
Then the phone rang. It was my coach Patches O’Houlihan (not his real name, duh. Watch Dodgeball and you’ll get it.)
“Not my name anymore, Coach.”
“You’re always going to be ‘Sale who runs like she wants to be a pretty fat-girl’ no matter what you’re calling yourself. Sale, I haven’t seen you at a single track workout in April.”
I told him I had quit running and ran off my long list of justifiable excuses.
“You’re a damn coward, Sale.”
A coward? Did this man just HEAR me? I’m just trying to make my life work, and he’s calling me a coward because I didn’t go to his stupid track workouts? Have a seat COACH, I’m about to ream you a new asshole.
So I did. And he listened. “There she is. There’s that pissed off fat girl. Come to a track workout and get even more pissed. I have never met someone so scared to death of being good at something in my whole life. Put yourself first and get your fat ass (It’s a term of endearment, I swear. He says I can be a good runner but I insist on running ‘like a fat girl’ because I wear running skirts and headphones, and don’t follow a training plan. Runners are jerks.) on the road.”
I still didn’t go to the track workout. I freaking hate those, and being agreeable isn’t exactly my nature. But I did go re-up at the gym, grabbed a yoga sculpt class on my lunch hour, and then ran a couple of miles later that night. Slow miles. Easy miles. No pressure.
Later on that night, I got a text from another running friend. “How’s the running going?” and details of her marathon this weekend.
How’s the running going? Well I ran.
I ran and I have a lot of friends who care if I run.
Listen to the universe, Jenn. It’s telling you something. Nobody’s letting you fall off the face of the earth this time.
Today, I went for a 3 mile run. I intentionally forgot my watch and just ran. I have no idea how fast or slow I was going, but the miles went by really fast, and I felt good afterward. Really good. I thought of this blog post while I was out there, I thought about that last nationals, which is a memory I can barely speak about, much less think about.
I had asked for a moment then.
I’m demanding one now.
Retreating isn’t an option. You can’t turn your back on something that saved you. A year ago we were living in a hotel after losing everything in the flood, and I forced myself to get up and go out every morning at 6:30 because my family needed me and my sanity.
This is no different. My family still needs me and my sanity. I’m also on an Egg McMuffin kick that isn’t going to burn itself off. I can’t end this story with being insane and fat. The story I’m avoiding and trying to change ends that way. I am not sending the message that I retreated. The fire in the belly is there. I just need to light it again, is all…while being a lot kinder to myself in the process. Yes, I will probably run a little slower. So. What. It doesn’t matter. It will be temporary. The legs will come back.
I have no idea where my mileage is, how far I am from 1,000 miles, and I guess it’s a good thing, because it would only make me feel like a failure to know I’m so far away from my goal. How much I’ve backslid. How much ground I’ve lost.
The miles don’t matter. It’s the journey. I’m back on the horse. I will race again.
My fight is back. I’m running the Downer’s Grove 5 Miler a week before my birthday as my ‘comeback’ race. I promised I would be Elizabeth’s legs in my first race of the year, and while it’s going to be 6 months late, I’m going to keep that promise.
In the words of my father, “It’s only just a road…”
Thank you, universe.
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