I can remember my last track workout clearly – I wanted to cry, muttered profanity at my watch after each lap and called my coach, still panting, frustrated and wanting something to blame. That was March 7, at what I thought was the peak of my training for this season, right before I had to take a 16-week break from running – 16 weeks of frustrating 15-minute “test runs” ending in the same acute shin pain, 16 weeks of backing out of races, 16 weeks of questioning everything I had done up to that point, every footfall, every training run, every mile. Those 16 weeks fed a growing fear within myself, a fear of lost fitness, lost opportunity and lost aspiration.
Months later, I’m stronger than I ever was, mentally and physically. I’ve learned – these fears are strictly within myself. I am their catalyst, and I am the only one that can control them.
Injuries happen. Setbacks are inevitable. I can’t fret over the lost time on the roads, but I can control how I spend my time recovering. After years of being banned from running for ten weeks at a time, I’m banishing my fears and taking control, and it’s working. Something is finally working.
Eighteen weeks after that uninspiring track workout, I hit the track again, yesterday morning, with a renewed spirit, tenacity and eagerness to see what I can do. It was sprinkling rain, and I shared the track with two professional runners located in San Diego. I nailed it. While my fastest splits weren’t as fast as March’s workout, my slowest weren’t any slower. I was absolutely giddy. Something clicked on that run. I replaced my fear of failure with my love for the sport.
I can count the number of my successful run workouts since March on one hand; however, I have endured countless strength sessions, begun physical therapy to find and strengthen my weaknesses and have made the intricate details of recovery – getting eight hours of sleep, refueling within 30 minutes of each workout, icing my shin at least once, if not twice, a day – my top priority. I’m stronger, happier (less hangry) and my acute shin pain is down to a dull ache. An ache that doesn’t equate to splintering bones, but to mild tendonitis. I can deal with that.
I have realized that I am the catalyst, and I have a choice – to feed my fear of failure and remain complacent or to revel in the unknown. I can decide which path to take: that of predictability and ease or that which leads to my edge, where each goal is just beyond my reach. In the safety of predictability there are barriers keeping me from exploring my untapped potential, leaving me in limited mediocrity. This unpredictable edge, however, has no railing. There is nothing to protect me from overreaching and plunging into the darkness, but there is also nothing to keep me from getting stronger, smarter and grasping that goal with two hands, eyes fixated in the distance for the next one.
That is where I am choosing to be. On my edge. The place where strength, hard-work and passion outlast fear; where my destination may not be clear, but I can find confidence in where I’ve been; the place where I am most uncomfortable, yet find comfort reaching a little further, pushing a little harder and establishing an ever-changing edge.
The future can be dark and scary, but that is what makes it most riveting.