Giving Up Hope

In Spring 2003, I signed up to run the Marine Corps Marathon.  At the time I was living and working in D.C. and had completed my first ½ Marathon two years prior and felt like it was time to move up to the big time of marathon.

The last weekend in September 2003 at the end of my 21-mile long run, I sat on the curb three-quarters of a mile from my house and wept.  For 20-minutes I sat on that curb in the heat and cried.

At the end of October 2003 when the howitzer fired to start the Marine Corps Marathon, I was not among the thousands of runners gathered in the early morning chill at the start line in Arlington, Virginia.  I was burrowed under the covers at my home in Fairfax, Virginia, sad and a bit ashamed that I was not running.

I can’t tell you what happened.  Something in my head just broke during that 21-mile long run.  I broke mentally.  There was no way I’d ever finish 26.2 miles.  No way.  And those tears shed as I sat on that curb in late September 14 years ago were a mixture of emotion, frustration and mental fatigue. 

A couple months ago, I got an email congratulating me, as I’d been selected in the lottery for the 2017 Marine Corp Marathon in Virginia in October.  Over the last year, I’ve jockeyed back and forth with the idea of racing a full ironman.  For your reference (if you’re unaware) a full ironman is 2.4 mile swim; 112 mile bike and 26.2 Mile run for a grand total of 140.6 miles.  I’ve completed four half ironman and am three weeks out from completing my fifth.  But the thought of a full ironman makes me anxious.  In order to remove that anxiety, I know I have to stand and face the marathon.

Many people who read this will scoff and say: “Novia, it’s no big deal.”  But it is.  To me.  Everything I do in triathlon/running is tempered by my brain, or more precisely, I get in my head too much.  So what some see as a (forgive the pun) ‘no-brainer’ I see as a mountain that dwarfs Everest.

Three months ago, I started working with a new coach.  I shared my goal of a full ironman in 2018 and a fall marathon this year.  I shared with him how my biggest handicap is lack of leg strength and a weak mental game in rough racing/training situations.

A couple nights ago I hopped on the treadmill to do a tempo run.  I hadn’t been on the treadmill since January.  I despise the treadmill.  It irritates me.  But, that night, the treadmill wasn’t bad at all.  I busted out the 60-minute run without issue because my legs were stronger than they’ve ever been EVER.  I didn’t struggle, I didn’t wonder if I was almost done, I just ran.  Strong.

I told my new coach three months ago, “I just want to finish Marine Corps standing.”  In the same breath, I said to myself, “I just hope I can finish and not walk and not finish last.”  As the weeks pass and I get stronger, I’ve let go of hope.  I no longer have a need for it.  I no longer abide in a world of “maybe it’ll be okay.”  He’s laid out a plan that in these early months is paying tangible dividends.  Strength dividends that will continue to grow until I toe that line on October 22, when I feel the soundwaves of the starting blast of the howitzer reverberate in my chest as I take the first few steps that will finish a journey begun 14 years ago running with strength and confidence and hope nowhere to be found.