The Journey to Badwater: Comparison and Acceptance

Mind is everything. Muscle-pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.
— Paavo Nurmi

They say that "Comparison is the thief of joy," and it is true. I have never been one to compare myself to others. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, good days and bad. We all have the things on which we choose to focus and the things we choose to compromise in exchange. We all have our limitations (family, health, work, relationships). In recent weeks, though, as my injuries have slowly continued to heal, comparison has overtaken my mind, comparison to a former version of me.

Now that I am able to run again, I am constantly faced with the memory of the pre-injury version of myself, and the further removed I am from the runner I was before my injuries, the better that athlete is in my mind and the weaker the athlete is that I am now. I am now able to run cautiously, but not without pain entirely. My fitness is not where it was. My lungs ache to keep up. I am slower. Taking seven weeks off meant that there was no time for a gradual return if I still planned on running Badwater. For that reason, I am tired. I am tired all the time. There are days when I set out to run and I struggle, I fight, for every single step. It's demoralizing and defeating. It has crushed my spirit. It frustrates me and it makes me feel weak. 

Although I've continued to make slow progress and am training within my limits, my mind has been paralyzed by fear of experiencing that sort of pain again and by feelings of inadequacy. Some of those feelings are warranted, most of them are not. Still, they sit on my shoulders like a weighted vest. Perhaps this is not the reality for most people returning from injury -- it certainly never was for me in the past -- but it's my daily existence as I claw my way back from what has been my most severe and debilitating injury to date. There are days when the self doubt weights so heavily on me that I feel like I'm sinking in mud or treading water rather than running. My mind beats me down, telling me that I'm not strong enough, or fast enough, or good enough. It tells me that I don't deserve the opportunity I've been given. Every day, though, I fight this voice and I train. I run, I walk, I hike, I crosstrain, I sit in the sauna. I remind myself that I don't take on challenges because I know I can conquer them; I take on challenges because I want to face the prospect of failure head on and overcome my fears. As I move forward in these final 6 weeks leading up to Badwater, I am trying to redirect my focus to the progress I have made, to think about the things I am doing right, and to think about what I have and am continuing to overcome. I am getting stronger every day, mentally and physically. 

When I reach the start line In Death Valley, I won't look back on my training and think it was ideal. I won't look back on my training and know that I did everything I had hoped and planned to do. I will, though, look back on my training and know that I did everything I could with the body and the time that I had, and that's all any of us can hope to say. Acceptance.