I've been training all summer for my third Chicago marathon. For the most part, my runs have gone well. Until recently when I hit a wall—the one runners always talk about.
I was attempting to do a 23 mile run. I was about 16 miles into it when I snapped. Something inside me begged like a baby to be done—not just with this one run, but with the whole business of marathoning.
You don't even like to run, my brain whined. Stop now, and make up the miles tomorrow or next weekend.
I tried to rationalize quitting: I don't really have to run all 23 miles. Besides, adrenaline will carry me the last few miles of the marathon, so even if I don't get all my training runs done, I'll still be able to finish the race.
Last year, I made the mistake of going to my high school reunion the night before a race, which meant I stayed out too late and never ate a proper dinner. Between my extreme fatigue and lack of fuel the next day, my brain got caught in a loop of negativity, further fueled by my overheating body and aching hips and feet. I was delirious with discouragement. I pulled over to stretch—then I broke down.
"I'm not sure how I'm going to do 10 more miles," I told Anne, my running partner. I desperately wanted her to leave me and run ahead. I thought I could walk the rest of the miles and cross the finish line at my leisure.
Anne said, "I'm not leaving you. We're going to finish this race, and we're doing it together."1