I’m a quitter. I mean, seriously, I started writing this post last Wednesday, and I’m just now finishing it on Sunday.
(Are you reading this? If you’re reading this, I didn’t quit, so give me a high-five).
Recently, I quit training for a marathon.
In March (because the kind folk at the Chicago Marathon make you commit to things so early that you can’t possibly grasp what you’re committing to at the time), I signed up for the marathon lottery, hoping that I would win because that would mean I’d be forced to get in shape, but mostly, hoping I would lose because who in their right mind wants to run 26 miles?
Unfortunately, I won, and thus had to pay an ungodly amount of money to put myself through the torture of training for this dumb event.
And then… things happened. Between working full-time while also trying to help my husband run a business, having phantom pyschosomatic back pains (this is a whole other *situation* that I probably need Vicodin/therapy to work through), and just generally not having time to do these long runs, I realized about a month ago that I might possibly not be ready for this dumb race.
I ran one marathon when I was a sophomore in college, and shockingly – to no one but myself – I found marathon training much harder than it was nine years ago. Huh… maybe because the last time I did this, I lived the carefree life of a college student, and I was, um, only 18? Based on how quickly my body seems to have deteriorated in the past decade, I’m really hoping this swift, downward trend doesn’t continue in the next decade.
So a few weeks ago, I made the decision to not run the marathon. Or, shall I say, my body made the decision for me.
At first, I felt a sense of shame… it took a long time to admit to myself that I really wasn’t going to do it. I would struggle on a short-ish run, but then say to myself, “OK that was probably just hard because it’s so hot/I’m really tired/my knee feels weird/etc.”
When I would think about still trying to do it, I would kind of freak out. And then I would think, maybe it’ll help if I make a new playlist and buy new running shoes. And then I would realize, nope, I still don’t want to do it.
When I told Dave I no longer planned to run it, he kind of gave me a hard time, because he reminded me that once we start having kids, I likely won’t be able to do something like this again for a while.
And then I got so offended! That was certainly not very helpful commentary.
And then he was like, “I’m repeating your own words back to you. That is literally why you told me you wanted to run the marathon this year.”
(They say women never let things go, but men remember things you said, verbatim, like six months later.)
And I was like, “Ahhhh, yes… I’m remembering that now. I said those things!”
I thought that he was disappointed in me – but he wasn’t. He just wanted to make sure I thought through it. But after I had come to my decision, he was totally supportive.
But this is a person who has vowed to love me forever, so I was still worried about other people I had told about my training, and I didn’t want them to ask me about it, lest I be forced to face the reality that I was probably not going to do it.
But then, a couple of people asked me about it, and I realized, it really wasn’t that hard to be honest. I would say something like, “um yeah, here’s the thing: I’m busy and over-committed, I have the back of a 70-year-old (I imagine?). But also, the other thing is: I just don’t want to do it this year.”
It was weird – but freeing – to admit: yeah, you know, I just don’t want to do something I signed up for six months ago.
Sometimes, when things like this happen (committing, then quitting), I feel disappointed – like I’m a failure. But now I’m realizing, that nobody thinks I’m a failure. When I tell people why I’m not running it, they generally understand. When I tell them my reasons, they get it. None of my friends, family members, or coworkers think I’m a failure for deciding not to run. This is a goal I personally set – nobody set it for me, and thus, nobody thinks I’m a failure for not doing it.
And nobody at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon organization is upset that someone who would’ve run it in about 4:30 – and that’s being generous – has decided to drop out.
(They have my $185, anyway.)
I’m realizing that it’s OK to set a goal for myself but not meet it. It’s OK to cut myself some slack. Nobody is setting these goals for me, so nobody is disappointed in me when I try, but don’t meet them.
And slowly but surely, that way of thinking is sinking in for me, too. I know others aren’t thinking less of me because I quit, and I’m starting to not think less of myself, either.
So today, as I scroll through the Facebook posts of friends who ran the race, or watched others run, I don’t feel bad about myself. I feel like myself – a version of myself that I really like, because I’m not deriving my purpose from the Things I Do. It’s so natural for me to feel good about myself when I get things done, or accomplish some tangible goal – and conversely, to feel bad about myself when I don’t meet some goal that I’ve set. And while setting goals and working toward them is a really good thing, I’m realizing that I tend to find value – as a person – in what I do. But I am not a composite of the goals I accomplish. I’m not valuable because of my achievements. (Ironically, as I’m writing this, I’m also checking my fantasy football team – a group of people who are only valuable to me for the things they do. But I’m sure they’re great people, too.)
Yesterday, I was talking to Laura about my decision not to run, and as she listened to me and encouraged me, it became very clear: this person doesn’t care if I run or if I quit. She certainly cares about what those decisions might reveal about what’s going on in my heart, but she doesn’t think any differently of me, whether I run it or not.
So on this marathon day – which I thought might be a hard day for me, mentally – I actually feel fine. The only thing I feel sad about is that I don’t have the legs of someone who could run a marathon. But I don’t feel like a failure, or a quitter, or someone who can’t keep my word.
So if you ran today, congratulations on accomplishing something really great! But if you – like me – made a decision not to do it; we have our reasons, and we’re not letting anyone down.