On Sunday I left my apartment rip roaring and ready for my longest run. I felt good and although it was a little warmer than usual I was ready to take on the 20 mile challenge. In fact, I knew what my Instagram post was going to read. I had it all ready. I began my run. When I entered the park it was apparent that an event had taken place that morning, the pedestrian barriers were up and pink signs lined the road. People decked out in pink were walking in small groups around. The American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event had just ended. So, naturally, while running and faced with endless time to think, I thought about all the women in my life that have been hit with breast cancer. I thought about the men, women and children I was passing by. I thought about the survivors and I thought about their families and I thought about mine. I thought about courage and bravery and medicine and carrying on. I thought about pain. And I thought about hope.
And then after a few miles, I started to crash. My watch kept beeping at me, I was in a very high heart rate zone and slowing my pace wasn't helping. My legs started to feel like lead and while I didn't feel dehydrated, I didn't feel great. I stopped, drank some water, and then continued on my loop. Hitting 6 miles, I was at the beginning of my second loop and I pulled over to stretch, eat a gel and drink some more water. My foot kept cramping, my body felt heavy and my heart monitor was still beeping at me, despite the fact my pace had slowed considerably. I battled with this for the next 5 miles, completing another loop around the park. At nearly 12 miles I stopped running. I was exhausted. My heart wouldn't calm down and despite the gels I felt like crap. Was this the runners wall I had heard about? Or was this poor pre-run fueling on my part? I had 9 more miles to go, but two more loops around the park in the same manner sounded like hell. And I was afraid i'd push myself too far. What good was a practice run if I was battling to get the miles completed?
I went to the lawn and I sat down. I thought maybe a break would calm my body down, while my mind battled with 'giving up.' Do I have time to fit in another 4 hour run this close to the end? Couldn't I just keep going? Why was my heart racing? Why did I feel like this? And then I walked out of the park. I would try again another day. My logical brain took over and while I had anxiety for the 24 hours of when I'd fit in another long run, I'm glad I gave myself permission to walk away. Continuing on would have done more harm than good. And while I detest giving up, it was the right choice. In what little brain power I had left, I exited Central Park, thinking of the women in pink: how courageous they are; all of anyone connected to a cancer fight. And while this isn't a new thought for me, it was enhanced knowing that I could walk away from my pain. Signing up to run a marathon is voluntary, cancer is not. The future is a blank mystery so I acknowledged my luck as I walked away. And if ever needed, I hope I posses their bravery within me.