Until the NYC marathon, I had believed in progression and improvement. That if I invested the time and energy and followed the plan, I’d be set. I’d see results. Maybe I wouldn’t PR exactly, but I wouldn’t crash and burn.
Last fall, though, this was not the case. The Staten Island Half Marathon was a preview of how well I could crash and burn on a course, a preview of the New York City Marathon that wasn’t pretty. The thing is, the Staten Island Half Marathon felt like a reversal of all the work I’d done over the previous 2 years. If I didn’t PR a race, I usually got within 10 minutes of my PR. I was in a certain range, which I’d come to believe was normal for me. Yet at the finish line of the Staten Island Half Marathon, I was off by half an hour. My time was the closest I’d come to matching my first half marathon in May 2012 ever, and not intentionally because I was stopping to see characters.
And the New York City Marathon reaffirmed this for me. I came close to matching my first marathon time, not my second or third marathon time.
The linear march of progress towards improvement seemed to not only become stagnant, but it had actually slipped and declined and I’m still trying to deal with that. As the people around me improve, I’m still trying to figure out how I went so wrong a year ago. It’s hard to have faith in a training process, to log a lot of miles, to dedicate so much time and energy to training for a marathon, when you’re not even really sure it’ll pay off anymore. I know you never really know what’ll happen on race day, but I feel like I just don’t know anything anymore. Like before, I could have faith in improvement, that I’d always worked hard and improved and now…
Now to work hard with no improvement has been… well, disconcerting to say the least. I skipped spring half marathons and now I feel adrift, like I don’t know where I stand relative to my past selves and perhaps that’s even more bothersome than anything else. Much like going awhile without weighing yourself, you can only delude yourself into thinking you’ve lost weight for so long before you get on the scale and realize you’ve gained back all the weight you lost.
When the weight loss and the improvement stops, where does that me? Without realizing it, these things have been defining features of my life for a few years now. I felt control, I felt in charge. In the literary tradition of the fitness story, the fitness blog, the before and after, there’s just always progress. Improvement. A new goal to chase. There’s the before and after picture with an implicit, “And she lived happily ever after” but what about when weight loss doesn’t bring the happily ever after, just like there’s no guarantee a prince would?
Now I don’t have my control anymore and I have to just go out and train and trust that if I work really, really hard I’ll see some kind of improvement because without improvement, where does that leave me? I guess part of getting over the NYC Marathon experience is figuring that out. A year later, I still don’t have the answer.