I made the vital mistake of not training for my last half marathon. My body is not cooperating with me and my legs, I think they’re ready to detach. The exertion of yesterday is beginning to take a toll on my mood today. But I’m still beaming with pride that I got through it, and that’s one of the best parts of racing
When I first started getting into running, I did so to clear my mind, sort through my feelings, and reflect on being only 28 years old and widowed.
I would talk to George on my runs, tell him about my days, what I miss about him, what used to make me laugh, and then on those rough days what I hated about his absence. It was cathartic and assisted in my healing. But I also think running gave me a feeling of false positive.
When looking back, vision is always 20/20, but at the time I didn’t know. It was so new and fresh and I wish I knew better. But I didn’t, how could I? I feel like I started dating too soon, made poor decisions with my friends and how I treated them, how I acted with my co-workers, how I spoke to my players, and of course making a decision that will change the course of my career.
But running also provided me a new sense of what is important to me. I am a full-time
fitness professional with a collegiate coaching background. I love the training process and the end result of all the hard work it takes to gain strength, speed, self-confidence, and of course mental gains. Pairing up with Widow Dark Thirty and helping the Widow Dark Fitness line, I have the opportunity to help other widows use exercise to heal.
So what does this have to do with Half Marathons?
Having done a marathon, I know half marathons are my bread and butter. I know how to handle the distance and I know when my body begins to struggle and fatigue. However, this last Montgomery Half Marathon…the lack of training did me in… If only I could turn back time.
Vision is always 20/20 in hindsight… But it made me reflect on valuable lessons about training for races, and how it parallels widowhood and readjusting to life after loss.
5 Lessons of Running and Widowhood
- When running, there needs to be a level of relaxation. Your body needs to be prepared for the long haul, whatever speed and distance it is. That’s why most people can’t roll out of bed and run 10+ miles.
Try telling a widow to relax, is almost as bad as telling a widow to “move on.” Easier said than done. Learning how to relax on long runs takes time and practice. It doesn’t just happen. Just like with widowhood, figuring out what words, moments, trinkets, smells, clothes trigger grief takes experience and unfortunately practice on how to deal with it. There isn’t a choice of distance because the distance is the rest of your life. How to deal, and get by daily becomes a lifetime of emotional and mental training. Over time it does get easier, but the cost is damning.
- The mental fortitude to keep pushing even when fatigue comes in is another aspect of race training. Figuring out ways manage physical stress along with mental negativity is a fine line between a successful run or a struggling run.
The evenings or mornings after horrible grief waves can allow for projects, daily tasks, bills, cleanliness all to become secondary. Sitting in bed is soooooooo much easier but not really gratifying. And when the bed wins, that’s when the regret comes in. There are countless reasons why to shun the day and stay locked inside. There can be thousands of reasons why to do something, but the one dagger of I’m grieving can turn life into a ship that cannot be repaired before it sinks. But those days when the kids need you, there’s a crucial work deadline, important recruiting meeting, those are sometimes the most accomplished moments. The times when you feel you conquered grief. I feel in these moments, a person learns more about themselves and how to be more successful the next time crippling grief rears its ugly head.
- Reading the course is vital too. Seek out others who have run the course to know if the hills are as bad as the course map says. Is it a slight slope for 2 miles or steep and grueling for 1/2 mile?
Seek out others who have been widowed. Seek out others who are fresh to widowhood and see if some of their experiences are similar to yours. Two of my closest widow friends were both widowed in 2013. One was widowed in April 2013, and the other was widowed 20 days before I was in November 2013. We have stayed in contact for 4 years and have talk hours on top of hours about anniversaries, birthdays, random grief waves, new relationships, first breakups, etc.
Know your course also, because grief is individual at the end of the day. Something you might never have expected might send you into a tizzy of grief, depression, despair, anger, etc. Make a mental note of it, and understand that bump is one to be mindful of. Also, in my case, when I listen to voicemails from George, I better be ready to know that it comes with an emotional consequence. Think about your own personal course, and master it the best you can.
- Invest in proper footwear. Wearing the wrong shoes can lead to increase physical stress and eventual injury. If you suffer an injury on your training runs, understand how you might be compromising your form.
Invest in yourself! Widowhood is a time to learn more about yourself than you ever wished or wanted to. Life changes, and it cannot go backward. So there are two choices a person has: Kill or Be Killed
Grief can kill you. But invest in yourself and finding HEALTHY ways to deal with the unavoidable. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs only prolongs the feelings that need to be felt. Running until exhaustion also only puts off what will eventually come back to rip you apart (lessons I’ve learned). If life gets to be unbearable, seek out a source that can help you, whether it’s a grief counselor, or attending Camp Widow, or talking with The Grief Consultant, or a Life Coach. Your mental health is valuable and should be an investment so in the long haul, you are becoming the best version of yourself under these circumstances.
- Put in the work, enjoy race day. Though the training was long and grueling, not every race day will be a Personal Record. But go in, do your best and be proud.
One thing I love about running is it’s you versus yourself every race day and each time you lace up your shoes to hit the road.
One thing I hate about grief and widowhood is it’s you versus yourself. There are days when you wish to be anyone else but you, and what makes it worse is, it’s an uncontrollable emotion that you’re fighting against. Some days are better than others, but as the saying goes, with two steps forward one step back. There will be setbacks, there will be victories, but at the end of the day, how you react to each one is individual. As days become weeks, and week become months and then years, as long as there’s personal growth you are proud of when it comes widowhood, no one can strip that away from you. But just know, life will be different, but it can also be different in an enjoyable way.