I ran a virtual race yesterday. It’s funny, because up until this year, quite honestly, I would have laughed (in my mind) at the concept of a virtual race and certainly discounted any time reported from one. I still certainly don’t consider my “time” from yesterday’s effort a “real” race time, but it serves as a nice benchmark of current fitness for the effort expended. My mindset has opened up to consider some of the benefits of virtual racing after the epic injury I had over the winter and spring and the resultant diagnoses and their implications on my physical health, body, and ability to train seriously as I had up to that point. With these considerations, I’ve worked hard to adjust my attitude and goals in the sport and reframe my priorities and perception of what counts as “success.” These days, I’m just trying to enjoy the sport and participate in a way that is not only fun and low-pressure, but that helps me prioritize staying healthy and listening to my body and health above all. Most actual races are too late in the morning for me, since I get up around 3:30 AM, so I end up feeling anxious and uncomfortably dysregulated, physically and emotionally. Given the allergy-based restrictions and difficulties with my diet and digestion, my stomach also hurts so significantly later in the morning if I try to run after meals. In an effort to not overshare, I’ll simply say that the remainder of the day (and several subsequent days) would be spent holed up in the bathroom without respite. This is not only an unappealing consequence, but inherently detrimental to my health, thereby violating my commitment to prioritize my wellbeing over my desire to compete at a high level or in prestigious races.
Besides the unworkable stomach distress that results from altering the timing of my running and eating, a major challenge with ASD for me personally is deviating from my routines, so these virtual races, while admittedly lame, allow me to maintain my schedule, keep anxiety away, yet push the pace a bit, which I enjoy. I also got to support a good cause and I ran fast, which is an added bonus.
Running has taken quite a different form over the past several months post-injury, but I’m really enjoying what I am able to do and taking each step as a precious gift. I run way less than I have in years, both in frequency and duration, but more so than ever, I seem to have rekindled my childlike boundless joy while I’m on the roads. It’s still an ongoing process to remind myself to take it easy and adhere to my strict self-imposed limits, and some days, I fight feelings of frustration that I don’t get to run, or barely get to run, compared to years prior. However, overall, I’m proud of how well I’ve handled the transition emotionally from an intense focus on running well to one of enjoying running if and when my body allows it; I’m a highly competitive person by nature and was always admittedly obsessed with running. I prioritized it over most other things for much of my life, particularly during my adolescence when I allowed my commitment to it fuel my anorexia. It’s not particularly easy to change your relationship to things in your life, especially when such a change contradicts your personality at its very core. I hope that my better balanced approach and healthier relationship with the sport in recent months will permit my body to physically handle some days of enjoying the road at a running pace. I know that I’ll always appreciate the gift that is each step.