Stronger Than I Can't

A “YES I CAN” moment brought to you by that little voice that says that you can’t...

My “YES I CAN” moment happened in the middle of a 100K trail relay 13 months after I started running. I had run 5K’s, a 5-mile race and a 10K without much hesitation. Running sucked a lot of the time but I knew that the reasons I was running were more important.

Exactly one year after I joined a running group, I ran my first half marathon. Despite how well I had trained for it and thought that I was ready, it was a disaster. I was miserable and it showed, I limped to the finish line and the volunteers there wanted to rush me to the medic because I looked so horrible. I was dehydrated, had a migraine and was throwing up in the parking lot of brunch. I did not want to ever run another race, but I had already committed to running a 100K relay 5 weeks after this race.

Sycamore Canyon 100K relay is a 4-person trail race where each person on your team completes 2 (roughly) 8-mile loops. It starts on a plateau and drops down to the valley floor and finishes with roughly 1400’ of elevation gain. Mentally I wasn't in the best place, still recovering from my half marathon meltdown, but my training runs had gone well and I was excited to do a team relay. My first loop was early in the morning and it went great. The trail was beautiful and I felt great. My 2nd loop, well, that was a different story altogether. Even and Odd loops are run up different sides of the plateau and I was dreading the finish before I even started. I was trying not to think about the last 2-3 miles and just run the course like I had in training.

I hit that halfway point of my 2nd loop and everything was starting to hurt. I hit 13.5 miles and realized if I was running a half marathon, I would already be done. But no, my dumb ass still have 2 ½ miles to finish and that finish was all up-hill. The last section of the my 2nd loop was 2 miles up this rocky, switchback mountain bike trail that includes 3 false peaks. So you think you’ve reached the top and it just laughs at you.

I reached the 2nd false peak thinking that I should be close and that I should be able to see the cars in the parking lot, my teammates and that finish line. When I didn’t see those things and realized that I still had one more brutal uphill climb, I had a meltdown.

I sat down on a rock crying, I wanted so badly to be done. I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t strong enough. I just wanted race crew to come to pick me up.

That’s when I heard the little voice in the back of my head, the one from my childhood; The one telling me, “You're stupid, fat, ugly, worthless, a failure, nothing more than a quitter”, and I got angry. I got really angry at that stupid hill, at that voice in my head, but mostly, I got angry at myself.

I had spent the better part of my adult life trying to put that voice, that fear and those feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness behind me. I was better than that, and I knew it. Why would I give in to that little voice now when there were people standing at a finish line at the top of a hill cheering me on and believing in me?

In that moment of pain and frustration, when I wanted nothing more than to give up and quit, I knew that I was stronger than that voice. I was stronger than the angry, spiteful, hateful person that was tied to it.  That, “Yes, I CAN DO THIS”.

I survived my childhood, I survived the depression, anxiety, and fear that held me down most of my life, I survived growing up with an abusive alcoholic, so I damn sure wasn't going to let some hike be the thing that I quit on. I cried the entire last mile up that hill and cried even harder when I finished.

Three years later, running is still hard and I have a lot of bad runs, but I’ve carried that feeling from the side of that hill with me. It doesn’t matter how hard running is. Yes, I can do this, because it will never be as hard as what I’ve already walked through.

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Cheryl MacDonaldComment