Dropping Out, and Why Quitting Is — More Often Than Not — Totally Okay
I wrote this on June 1, 2018 when I was trying to decide whether or not to drop out of a half marathon I had been training for and had my heart set on for the last 6 months. I felt like I needed it today, so I pulled it out, dusted if off, and am sharing it here. Fun fact: I can’t even remember what breakup I was alluding to toward the end of the essay. It just goes to show that the best place we can be is in the present and that most things don’t really matter in the long run. Even changed plans.
I dropped out of the AF Canyon Half Marathon.
At the time of writing, I haven’t actually done that yet, but I’m saying it out loud to see how it feels. (Undecided).
Yesterday I hiked/ran in the mountains with a new friend. We went 8.5 miles. She let me take my own pace for it, and pause when I needed to. It was SO nice, and while my legs felt a bit like noodles afterward, I did my usual icing and compression sleeve routine, and the next day I felt pretty dang good! I noticed my quads a bit, but barely.
Tonight I rode my stationary bike for 10 minutes to warm up, then decided to go for a night run — because I LOVE night runs in the summertime, and it’s finally getting warm enough to feel like summertime. I did NOT take it easy because I had a burst of energy to get out before I left. I By the end of the mile I was going at an 8:30 pace — ending at just under 9 minutes for the entire run (I started slower and reached that 8:30 pace toward the end). I focused on keeping my knees bent to absorb the shock of the asphalt. I felt good as I ran, but as soon as I stopped, I felt horrible.
Both of my shins hurt. The outside back of my right knee hurt. And when I went inside, sat down, and started stretching and icing my legs, my right calf cramped up.
That’s when I realized, I don’t know if I can do the AF Canyon Half. This is me writing out my feelings.
The AF Canyon Half is a downhill race, and my goal pace would be just a bit slower than what I was running tonight. That is more of an impact (because of the downhill) at the pace I was running tonight. The last downhill training run I tried to do also hurt my shins (last Saturday — I only made it the first 4 miles downhill before my shins hurt too badly, and I knew I risked injury if I continued my run).
Sometimes things just don’t work out like we expect them to — even the best of things.
A few years ago I was working a full time, relatively fulfilling job as a social worker. I was helping people! I was building relationships, working creatively, and every day was different! I had my own office! I wrote such eloquent court reports (I really love writing, if you can’t tell)! And I regularly got to go to court and be all official! I worked hard and I cared about my work!
But my shoulders ached. (As I typed that, I just dropped my arms off of the keyboard and whispered aloud, “Oh, crap.” The pieces are fitting together now).
My shoulders ached and all the yoga, stretching, natural remedies, and chiropractor appointments couldn’t get the ache to subside.
I was registered to begin classes to work toward my SSW (social work license) that summer. With the stress of work increasing, I decided to drop that program and get my license later. As I drove home from work on the day that I dropped the social work classes, I suddenly realized that my shoulders didn’t hurt anymore. For the first time in months, my shoulders were relaxed, and I realized that maybe this wasn’t my path right now. I put in my notice at work and left a few weeks later.
How does it sound to not stress about hitting that PR? Pretty dang nice. How does it sound to just run and hike in the mountains? With all the fresh air and grounding earth and green trees and satisfyingly burning muscles? SO nice.
There are things that intimidate me about training trails, but if I could have 1000 days like yesterday morning, I’d gladly take them.
I think God (*or the Universe, or whatever Higher Power you believe in) has more in store for us than we do for ourselves.
If I hadn’t left my job as a social worker, I don’t know if I’d be where I am now — so fulfilled in a completely different field of work, making less money and working fewer hours right now, but grateful for the many opportunities for growth and creativity with this company.
There are other things that are hard, like a recent breakup that has me feeling a great deal of missing — but I’m appreciating the opportunity to work through the layers of my own character, insecurities, and shortcomings. A couple weeks ago I asked God to show me what I am to learn from this, and I continue to have “a ha!” moments as time goes on.
I don’t know what’s going to happen as life continues to unfold — in running, in love, in employment, and what have you. But I can tell you that my faith and hope in God have never been stronger.
If I drop, I drop. Maybe I’ll rest my legs for the next week, then couple weeks after that, and feel energized and ready to run the AF Canyon Half. Either way, it’s going to be okay.
P.S. Everything really did turn out totally okay.