I’m a total over-planner.
In anticipation of the 1/2 marathon on Sunday, I stocked up on whole wheat bread and a fresh jar of natural peanut butter (my favorite pre-run food), re-laced my shoes to be snug in the right places, washed my running bra (the one that doesn’t squish my implants too much), and even put on the “Women Warriors” iron-on on my new grey tech shirt in honor of my Cancer Wellness women. A few weeks ago, I picked up a stack of energy gels and a bag of sport chews for race day. All week, I’ve been drinking water (okay, okay, and some beer and wine during late night paper writing), eating carbs, and trying to add an hour of sleep to my 4-5 hours I’ve been getting this past year. I’ve done everything to prepare for this race.
Everything, but train.
See, I haven’t run in over 3 weeks. And, while that run was a solid push — it was in honor of my middle daughter’s birthday — I haven’t spent enough time on my feet logging in miles. I’ve been inconsistent — choosing writing papers over running miles. Reading journal articles over hitting mile-splits.
During the fall semester, I had a lot on my plate: full time doctoral classes, full time work, full time mom, and even auditioned and joined a working band that rehearsed twice a week. I also started working with a friend to launch a non-profit that provides pathways to higher education for students from under-served communities, and I stepped up as the Chair of an alumni committee from my undergraduate college. I was driving the kids to and from karate, gymnastics, school and after-school programs, soccer, and social activities. During the fall semester, my oldest child broke her arm, and we were back-and-forth to the hospital every 2 weeks for check ups. I had follow-up surveillance for my own BrCA appointments, and my full plate was looking more and more like a Las Vegas buffet.
But, in all of those activities and responsibilities, I thrive. I actually love stress. I love working in an optimal level of “To-Do.” I can honestly say that there is very little in my life that I “wish I was doing” — I’m doing it all. And, I’m loving it.
I’ve always viewed my activities and responsibilities as “taking good care” of myself. I’m intellectually stimulated; I feel (most of the time) valued at work; I’m in a loving marriage; I get to raise three fantastic kids; and I’m living my dream of singing again. I’m surrounded by supportive and inspirational friends and family; and, I’m essentially in good health. I am blessed to be busy.
Through all of this, though, one thing that I wasn’t doing last semester was running. I love running. I love the soreness of my legs after hill sprints, the tightness in my core after training, and the rhythmic and predictable sound of my sneakers on the pavement. I love hearing the voices of my musical friends echoing through my headphones as I pace myself by singing along with them. I love the sweat on my forehead, the redness in my cheeks, and even the occasional blister that shows up after a long run.
In January 2012, I registered for another half marathon. Knowing that my spring semester was going to be intellectually brutal, training was going to be my way of focusing on health and strength. It was going to be my way of taking care of my body.
But, lately, the realization that I haven’t spent time training has hit home. This past week, I was faced with not achieving my goal — a pretty rare experience for me.
“Liza, it’s not that you aren’t capable of running 13.1 miles, it’s that doing so could harm your ability to achieve your other goals. If you get hurt, it might mean you don’t have the energy to finish your papers for class, or participate in end-of-year activities with your seniors, or not be able to sing in your next show. It’s not about whether you can do it, it’s about whether you should do it,” said Jorge one night.
The decision to not run the half marathon is one of the most difficult ones I’ve had to make in a long time. It wasn’t a difficult decision to be a full time working student, to sing in a band, or to train for the half marathon. That was just me seeing my busy life as a privilege. But, making the decision to put myself — my health — before my goals is tough. A part of me feels like a failure for not running tomorrow; another part of me feels like a really empowered individual who knows what’s good for me.
This experience reminds me that life is filled with decisions that challenge our own sense of self-worth. It requires us to face whether we are doing harm or doing good -- if we are giving up, or simply giving in.
Not running tomorrow’s half marathon is giving in to the truth that doing no harm must include doing no harm to ourselves. To myself.
The stack of energy gels are still on my counter top, my laces are perfectly snug, and my running bra will still be clean for my next leisurely 8-mile run. My friends will still be keeping me company through my headphones, and the rhythm of my sneakers will always welcome me back. My papers will get done, my seniors will graduate, and my kids will still be proud of me. And, I’ll be able to role model for them that not running the half marathon actually DOES helps me to realize the most important goal of all: Do No Harm.
We are really good at taking care of others, of business, and of responsibilities.
If only taking care of ourselves was as easy.
Peace, love and learning to do no harm,