by Dave Moyer
What a year that was. I was adjusting my first real world job, picking up life in a big city (which I never thought would happen), and trying to continue running at the same level as in college. “Runner” has been my primary identity for the past 10 years. So when life pushed hard and essentially reduced running to nothing, I really felt like I lost my identity. The day I said “I’m not even a runner anymore” was the rock bottom of my running career. However, life has shown me more than once that when things are tough, rock bottom may be what you need for a phoenix to be born. Here is my story.
Opening up 2014, things were looking on the positive. I had my acceptance letter into the Boston marathon, I’m running with a new cool running club (looking at you FHR), and my new job performance “stats” were showing improvement. My marathon training plan was in hand, and I was ready to go. From a runners point of view, week one was right where I wanted it.
And then it happened. Winter was the busy season in my line of work, and to say it became overwhelming is being nice. I was no stranger to it, school had also been exhaustingly busy, but I always kept grades up and continued running, right? This was the same deal, just with work now, right? Well… no. As my mileage spiraled uncontrollably downwards, I did more late nights at the office (like LATE nights), and followed eating habits that might have been allowable had I just finished an 18 mile run. To keep up hope, on Tuesdays and Thursdays (and often just one) I’d drop all work, at the expense of falling behind, and go to an FHR workout. I knew I had to go, because of the upcoming marathon, and I just wanted to escape from work and run. Well, we’re not at rock bottom yet, let’s check out February.
When you first skip a run, it’s an exception and it bothers you. When you skip enough runs, you hit this highly dangerous zone where a normal day doesn’t include running. The exception then becomes the 1 or 2 days you do run. And now, going for the run bothers you… because it’s just in the way. This was my rock bottom. This is where I stepped back and said “I’m not even a runner anymore.” I wasn’t even sure if I should bother going to the marathon, why would I, I don’t run anymore. Let me provide you with a graph I later posted to Facebook, see if you can find February.
Now this would be an awfully depressing post to read if this is how it all ended. However, as the graph does suggest, something monumental must have happened. I just got exciting looking at it. For real, a bunch of cool emotions just smacked me, and I want to go for a run right now. Fortunately, those 1 or 2 runs a week I begrudgingly made myself do were still FHR workout days. I got to run with friends who pushed me through my worst, and I’m going to go ahead and also call out Owen. He saw how tough it was going, and he said one key word that really turned it all around. He said, “You’re stubborn.” You’ll go out there and run those 26.2 miles even if you’re not in the shape you want, because you’re stubborn. And he believed in me, and my FHR friends believed in me, and that’s about when I started to believe in me again.
I’m a competitive person, and now that I knew I was also stubborn, I certainly was not going to allow life and work to beat me. About this same time, daylight savings hit and the nearest Rita’s Water Ice in Rhode Island opened for the season (arguably two of the best days of the year). I got the emotional kick starts I needed. I built up to 3, 4, 5 running days a week, with key long runs returning on the weekends. I made an effort to incorporate myself more closely into FHR, and the tides began to change in sync with the warming weather. I was looking forward to running again, FHR runs, solo runs, trail runs. The marathon was fast approaching and I decided to make the training graph above to show where I’d come from and to empower my stubbornness going forward. I posted the graph to Facebook with the caption “Despite life denying me as a runner, I will run a marathon in 3 weeks. And I will run it quickly and proudly, with my city, and with my friends. Take that real life.”
My next post was the day of the Big Run, and I was very excited to share it. “The last 16 weeks as a runner have been the most difficult I’ve ever endured. Not because training was hard, because life said, no running. It nearly won. But this week, things will change. Today I will run 26.2 miles into the city I call home, and Wednesday I start a new job, in solar! #BearFever #HuskyNation #WeArePennState #FHR #BostonStrong”
Now I will say, on paper, it was not the best marathon I’ve ever run. But, it certainly meant the most, as my city and I were both rallying from our respective low points in our running histories. The run really was difficult, especially the hill, but when I finished, the pride I shared with the city of Boston and the runners around me was just overflowing. I’ve never put my hands up to cross a finish line before that day.
The rest of the year I spent improving my relationship with that club called FHR that guided me through my worst. I thought it a very fitting way to give back when FHR also asked if I’d like to help lead Thursday workouts. I immediately accepted. One of my most exciting ways to give back to the club was helping FHR start competing in USATF events as a team. We made our debut at Franklin Park for the New England regional cross country race, and then took a small team down to PA for Nationals. I hope next fall, even more FHR runners can share the excitement of cross country racing. Other notable events that completed the high end of 2014 was running my first Reach the Beach relay with FHR, and then later running my first half marathon (and having my half photo in a magazine!)
To wrap it all up, I’ll share a response I gave on FHR’s year end survey.
“What is your proudest accomplishment in 2014?”
“My biggest and proudest accomplishment of 2014 has probably been surviving the year as a runner. February 2014 was one of the lowest points in my running life, a single Tuesday or Thursday FHR workout was often the only run for the week. Work was so exhausting, I stopped feeling guilty about skipping my other 4-5 runs. The marathon was coming in April, and I thought I was defeated. Then a great friend named Owen told me I was too stubborn to be defeated, which was exactly the roundabout support I needed. I began to set some changes in motion, mentally rallied, and ran that marathon in pure spite of all that tried to bring me down. It certainly wasn’t my best time, but I had won the war. The rest of 2014, I spent continually improving my life balance with running, and my relationship with FHR so that this might not ever happen again. If running makes you happy, don’t let anything put out your fire. Keep running, stay stubborn.”
High fives for family support.
We made it.