Training and the Future

Last fall, I arbitrarily decided to make 2017 the year of the half marathon. At the moment, I have five halves on my calendar. While my foot hasn’t bothered me at all for months, I don’t want to push my luck, so I decided to take 12 weeks to train for my first half of the year, which will happen in late April. I really only like to run three days per week, so I opted for Hal Higdon’s HM3 program, with slight modifications to his prescription (namely, I’ll cross train three times per week instead of two times, and I’ll only take one rest day per week under normal circumstances instead of the suggested two).

I started training on Sunday with 30 minutes of yoga–which, admittedly, feels like a strange way to start half marathon training, but I want Sundays to be my yoga days when possible, so yoga it was. I went for my fastest run in quite some time on Monday and felt great. If all goes according to plan, I should log 13 total miles this week: the most I’ve run since October.

Training, whether for a full marathon, half marathon, 5K, or any other race, is a future-oriented endeavor by nature. I suppose that goes without saying, really. You put in the hours of running and cross training so that, in two, three, four, or however many months, you can show up on race day and do your best.

I’ve always understood that race day isn’t guaranteed. When I talk about my upcoming races, I generally include a qualifier–“if all goes well,” or something similar–because I’m aware that not everyone makes it to the start line. It makes me nervous to definitively say, “This is happening,” especially since I’ve spent enough of my running life in and out of physical therapy to know that just because you want to run a race doesn’t necessarily mean you will (particularly if you decide to stop doing your PT exercises because they’re boring and time consuming and then your hips get weak again and some other part of your lower body gets hurt again because you have apparently have nothing better to do with your time than pay a physical therapist hundreds of dollars to hang out with you and bruise your legs. Not that I would know anything about that, of course 😛 ).

Even though I’m aware that ~things~ can happen between day one of training and race day, all of my worst case scenarios have usually consisted of stress fractures or other season-ending injuries. I have never particularly worried about making it through the next two, three, four or however many months, period, just to get to race day, never mind run the race itself. The shockingly brief period of time between January 20 and today have changed that.

I didn’t realize quite how much I had taken political stability for granted until Trump was inaugurated. To be fair, Obama was the only president who had held office during my adult life, and while I was aware of politics when I was a kid, it’s not like I 1) paid that much attention or 2) had any sort of power whatsoever to do anything. Frankly, I was far more concerned about never getting A-‘s than I was with what Bush did in office, or with when my family’s cable package would include the Disney Channel than I was with anything Clinton did in office (and since I was between the ages of 0 and 2 when H.W. Bush was president, I, obviously, was not at all concerned with any of his actions or decisions). I didn’t spend my free time scrolling through the thoughts and opinions of friends and strangers on the Internet reading through everyone’s feelings, predictions, calls to arms, etc. Maybe this kind of outrage is normal when someone outside of the bubble you live in becomes commander-in-chief. But I doubt it.

I also didn’t realize quite how much I had taken my anxiety for granted until Trump was inaugurated. I worry, a lot, about just about everything under the sun. If I’m being totally honest, sometimes I think worrying is my safety blanket. It doesn’t feel normal to not worry about anything, so I generally find something to worry about to one degree or another. My big fears–fires, tornadoes, flying–are all, ultimately, rooted in a fear of dying, and while I absolutely worry about all three of those things, there is always, in the back of my head, a small voice reminding me that while I could die because of one of those things, I’m probably not going to. My oven probably will not spontaneously explode. A tornado probably won’t level my house. My airplane probably won’t fall out of the sky. That small voice can remind me of those things for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I have lived through turning my oven on and being in a house with a turned-on oven many, many times, through tornado-spawning severe thunderstorms, and through many flights before, and I almost assuredly will this time as well. Beyond that, literal billions of people also survive using ovens, severe thunderstorms, and flights annually. That small voice never manages to actually conquer my anxiety voice, but it at least tempers it a little bit. My anxiety and I, however, have never lived through a president who thumbs his nose at convention, then spits on it and throws dirt on it for good measure, and to say that this uncharted territory makes me nervous would be an early candidate for Understatement of the Year.

So much has happened in twelve days that trying to think twelve weeks into the future feels both impossible and terrifying. I don’t even want to try to imagine what kind of state the country could be in come April. I suppose everything could be just fine. Our built-in checks and balances could do their job. Our representatives and senators could break with their party lines or vote for the greater good of the country and its longevity than what their fears for 2018 dictate. The past two weeks have not made me particularly optimistic about things being “just fine,” however.

I’ve tried to do what I can to both maintain my sanity and stay accurately informed throughout all of this. I started donating to groups working for those whose rights and safety are in jeopardy, whether “those” are people or the environment. I’m subscribing to reliable media outlets–the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal. I…have not called my representative or senators, though I did at least figure out how my representative is, which I figure is a step in the right direction. (As a side note, I’m somewhat unsure what kind of impact calling my representative or senators would have. Unsurprisingly, living in Chicago, everyone representing me in Congress is…not aligned with Trump, to say the least, so it’s not like they need my convincing to stand up for what I believe is right. They’re already doing that. So I don’t know what impact attempting to engage them would have? This is a genuine question, so if anyone has insight, please feel free to let me know.) But all of these things feel so futile. What difference will one $25 donation, one subscription, one phone call make in the face of an administration that seems bent on stopping at absolutely nothing to get its own way? I feel so powerless, and I don’t know how to fix that, or if it’s even possible to fix that.

I suppose, in a very, very roundabout way, choosing to still train for my half marathons is my very, very small way of trying to hang onto the flickering spark of hope I (barely) have in my soul: the hope for a future that does not include revoking the Constitution, for a future that does not include depriving non-white, non-Christian, non-straight, non-male humans of their right to have the exact same rights as white, Christian, straight males, for a future that does not include war, for a future that does not see me fleeing to Canada, despite how increasingly tempting that prospect becomes day by day. Choosing to still train for my half marathon is my way of saying to myself that a future exists, even though at times it can be exceptionally difficult to believe that.

So I’ll continue running, and cross training, and totally failing at keeping up with my PT routine. I’ll continue doing what I can to fight for what I believe. And I’ll continue doing what I can to kindle the spark of hope in my soul and the soul of others into a fire.

5 thoughts on “Training and the Future

  1. Every morning I’ve been waking up and one of my first thoughts is “what nonsense is going to happen today?” It’s a scary time and I cannot tear myself away from the news while watching this trainwreck. I’ve never been much for politics either but it feels more important than ever to stay up-to-date on the latest occurrences. I’m with you, let’s do all we can to spark hope in these dark times!

  2. This is something I’ve thought about myself, but you’re one of the first bloggers I’ve seen who actually addressed it: the guilt we feel at continuing on with the objectively selfish pursuit of running/training when there are so many more important things going on in the world.

    Perhaps I’m just rationalizing, but, I think it comes to a point where yes things are bad and we need to fight, but we also can’t stop living our lives. Running and training makes you a better person, and you need to be a better, healthier person to be an effective fighter. Giving up the things we love will cause us to be more stressed, not less, and it doesn’t help anyone in the end. Instead of using dark times to punish ourselves for getting any enjoyment in life, perhaps we should all use this “check your privilege” moment as an opportunity to take stock of our priorities, clinging to what is meaningful and discarding what is not. Running, staying fit and training for goals is important to me; being obsessed with my fitness and revolving my world around improving my marathon time is not.

    • Yes! You said all of this so well 🙂 Sitting around and lamenting about the state of our government/country isn’t going to do anyone any favors, and while half marathon training may not be “action” in the traditional volunteer/get involved/donate sense, I think it kind of goes along with the whole “put on your oxygen mask before helping others” principle – you have to take care of yourself first (within reason, like you said) if you want to be effective at helping others.

  3. Pingback: Half Marathon Training Check-In | accidental intentions

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