The day it all fell into place

So I completed the half marathon. It wasn’t pretty. It was one of the worst runs of my life actually; but crossing that line made everything else that I had been working on, click into place.

For those that are just discovering my blog, here’s a bit of a back story behind why I set this goal, and also why I started my blog. I hit the lowest and darkest point in my life after 3 miscarriages and my partner at the time walking out on me and taking our daughter. Everything that I loved in my life, I lost. I felt like my life as I knew it, was over.

It was at this point where I felt this burning desire inside me to run. I used to be a runner and had let myself go and wasn’t exercising at all. I set myself the goal of doing the Gold Coast half marathon. That was 10 months away and my first “training” session was a 10 minute walk that almost resulted in a panic attack and needing to get back into the house as soon as possible.

Fast forward 10 months. I’d run over 700 kilometers in training sessions. I’d had shitty news from my Physio only a month out from race day that I had a tear in my glute and needed 6 weeks rest, and the week leading up to the race I had a huge emotional break down. But one thing that didn’t happen, is that I never gave up. Not once did it cross my mind to not be on that starting line and give it my all. Not once did I lose track of my goals. I certainly had to adjust them a few times to accommodate a few road blocks, but I was always going to do whatever it took to cross that line.

Because it had been a gruelling journey just to get to the start line, the week leading up to the race was always going to be emotional. I thought it was bad at the start of the week when fear and self doubt set in, but the worst happened when I started to look at the positives of how far I had come. I was so over come with pride, it was over whelming. Only 3 days before the race, I tried to go for a 45 minute run; I lasted 4 minutes before literally having a break down on the side of the road.

Things weren’t looking pretty, but I knew it was coming. I knew that the last week was always going to be tough and that it would bring up a huge amount of emotions that needed to be released.

By Saturday I was feeling good. I was ready. I had a few moments of panic over stupid things that really didn’t matter, like the fact it was raining and I was worried that I wouldn’t be warm enough wearing just a sports bra and I should rush out and buy a singlet. As if that was going to make a difference. But I could step back and recognise that this was just nerves, and I’ve always seen having nerves as a good thing. It means you care about what is going to happen.

I woke up Sunday morning, everything went smoothly. Getting dressed and putting my racing bib on I felt calm and focused. I got dropped off about 1 kilometer from the starting point and did a slow jog to warm up. I felt strong and mentally ready.

Waiting around for an hour before the race actually begins is tough. The atmosphere is bouncing with nerves and excitement and it’s hard to not lose a lot of energy getting wrapped up in it. There was a few moments of thinking “I should have done this or that.” “Why didn’t I train this way instead of that way.” Panic and fear that tries to steal your thunder. But standing in the crowd ready to run, I remember taking a deep breath and thinking “You’re ready. You’ve done everything you possibly could. Enjoy the moment, it’s yours.” I felt a huge sense of relief and clarity. I knew in that moment, that I had come to a full acceptance that whatever happened after that gun went off, that I was proud of what I had already achieved.

I started off at a blistering pace. I hate starting off fast but again it’s hard to not get wrapped up in the energy around you. The first 13 kilometers I was sitting around the 4:30 – 4:40 pace so I was 100% confident that I was going to absolutely smash my goal of sub 1 hour 45 minutes. Then things started to go wrong. I had felt a tiny niggle around my hip at the 9 km mark but it went away so I ignored it. At 13 km the pain started. It was a deep throbbing pain that started in the one area where my injury was, and slowly started to spread across my back and down my right leg.

My physio had told me that if I can run through the throbbing pain then that was ok, but if I felt any sharp, stinging pains I was to pull out immediately. Panic set in big time. I knew there was still a long 8 km to go and with every step the pain was spreading.

At 15km I stopped to spew. I’d had a full protein shake instead of my normal half because I knew it was such a long wait before the race started – lesson learnt, stick to what you normally do before a race. It probably didn’t help either that I was getting myself into such a high state of panic thinking I wasn’t going to hit my goal time.

By 19 km I had stopped probably 5 times to try and stretch, and had to walk for a few hundred meters. My hip had completely seized up and I was basically dragging my leg and walking sideways. Then the tears started as I looked at my watch and saw the time click over to 1 hour 45 minutes. I felt like I had failed.

I’m finding it hard to find the words to describe what happened over the next few minutes. It felt like hours were passing. I was at a cross roads. Do I walk away? Do I keep pushing?

There was a million thoughts racing through my head and all I wanted to do was scream at them to shut up. I just wanted a moments peace. I just wanted the pain to stop. I just wanted it all to be over.

It was having that last thought that clicked me back into gear. I had worked tirelessly for 10 months to get to this point and in 2 short kilometres, it would be over and this was my moment to reap the rewards for all that hard work. I started a slow jog again and started to take in the crowds. The last kilometer the streets are lined with supporters and the atmosphere is amazing and something that words could never describe.

By this stage the pain was so intense it was taking my breath away and the tears were flowing freely. I was doing a weird shuffle run and my leg kept giving out on me. The crowd picked up on this and suddenly I was hearing constant shouts of “come on Jess you’ve got this, don’t give up.” It was incredibly overwhelming and humbling and an experience that I’ll never forget.

As I turned the last corner I saw the finish line and panicked a bit as I thought I’d missed seeing my family. Then I heard my Mum scream “Go Jessica.” I turned and saw them and felt the most immense amount of pride and accomplishment. I waved my hands and gave them a fist pump. Then I focused on the finish line and crossed in 2 hours and 1 minute.

This was it. I’d done it. I’d battled the most horrific traumas and overcome so many bumps in the road and I never gave up. The last 10 meters I kissed my neck lace that Mum gave me after my first miscarriage. I looked at the sky and thought about my 3 angel babies that I lost and I cried. Oh man did I cry. As I crossed the line it all came out. My legs finally gave way as well and I hit the deck. I don’t know how long I sat on the ground and cried but it felt like an eternity. The emotional release was intense and all part of the process.

I finally stood up and started taking it all in. It was breath taking. The other runners were a mix of pure raw emotion like myself, and also crazy with excitement and sense of achievement.

Seeing my niece and daughter coming up to me was another huge moment. I grabbed them for dear life and cried again so with so much pride. Lexi is only 3 so she really didn’t understand what was going on, but I remember crouching down and holding her at arms length and I could tell in her eyes that she knew this moment was huge but that she didn’t fully comprehend what was happening. She was fascinated with my medal and wanted to wear it which again made my heart bust with pride.

It’s been 4 days since the race as I sit here and write this and I still don’t think I’ve fully processed it all.

I look at the person I was when I started this journey and I barely recognise her. I’ve spent endless hours in therapy working through everything I have spent 35 years bottling up. I’ve looked deep within myself to find out who I really am and who I want to be. I’ve embraced what I used to see as flaws within myself and now see them as parts of me that I love. I’ve accepted who I am and have grown to love this person.

Moving forward I know my journey isn’t over. I will continue to grow and learn more about myself. I will have bad days and relapses into bad habits that I used to have. But I now know that I can handle whatever life throws at me and that is an empowering feeling.

So while I completed the half marathon in probably the ugliest way possible, all that matters is that I crossed that line and achieved my goal. And the most incredible part of it all, was the journey I took to get there. The transformations I made to grow and heal myself. The person I discovered inside myself that I had been hiding all these years. The friendships I’ve made since starting my blog and sharing my story. It’s all of those things that matter most, not the actual run.

The journey of 21.1 kilometers will last a lifetime and I will always look back on that moment as one of the greatest achievements of my life.

How running saved me

In 2013 I completed a half marathon and I was fitter and healthier than ever. I had just left working in the fitness industry and was in a new relationship. Within a few months of feeling on top of the world after reaching such a huge goal that meant the world to me, I was 10 kg heavier and wasn’t training at all. This carried on for the next 5 years. I had periods of really feeble attempts at getting back into training but always made excuses and would fall back into laziness again. 

It wasn’t until after my last surgery where I was laid up in bed and couldn’t move and I hated myself so much, that I finally got the burning urge to train again. It was actually killing me to not be able to do anything and as each day passed I got more and more frustrated. I was busting at the seams to get started but I knew that I would have to take it easy and start back very slowly or I would injure myself and end up giving up again. 

My very first ‘training’ session was literally a 10 minute walk. Not only was it painful and uncomfortable as I was 2 weeks post-surgery and I still had glue holding my belly button and 2 other cuts together, but it was also uncomfortable mentally. I was feeling so depressed and grieving from the miscarriage and didn’t want to leave the house. So getting outside was a real struggle and was totally overwhelming. But I did it!!!

It was hard to not put pressure on myself and push for more but I made sure to only focus on the positive. That I completed my first session and had taken a step forward. I had to keep reminding myself that it didn’t matter how slow I was going, but I was finally going. It was around this time I set myself the goal of completing another half marathon. I had 10 months before the Gold Coast Airport Marathon was happening. Game on. 

I didn’t tell anyone for a few months that this was my goal. Fear of failure was making me keep it a secret and I didn’t want to add any pressure to what I was already feeling. My training was still going very slowly but I was loving it. I was finally feeling like me again. I was looking forward to training and would actually feel “itchy” when I had a rest day and normally ended up going for at least a walk. 

My first “run” was around the block when I was still living in Runaway Bay. 3.2 km that took me 34 minutes!!! I could have actually walked it quicker but I set myself a goal of running the whole way without stopping so I didn’t care how long it took me, I just couldn’t stop. The feeling I got when I arrived home was like euphoria. I was so proud of myself. And it really enforced the fact that you have to set little goals along the way and be proud of each of those steps you take. 

It was around this time the rest of my life started to fall apart and running has literally saved me and pulled me out of some seriously dark places. It felt like hitting this goal was the only thing I had to look forward to, the only thing I could control. Every other part of my life it felt like I was a puppet on a string, I was having to do what everyone else wanted. But running was my thing. No one could take that away from me, no one could control that part of my life. I was training every day without fail. I couldn’t stop. And I was loving every second of it. My body was starting to change. I was feeling so much fitter and stronger and was feeling a lot of pride in myself for sticking to it and staying focused. 

During all of this I was strict with taking care of my body, mainly out of fear of getting injured because I knew that running was the only thing keeping me going, but also because I wanted to get the best out of my body. I was stretching each night, using a foam roller, taking magnesium, eating good nutritious meals and I ending up adding yoga into my nightly stretching routine as well just recently which I actually really love doing and am seeing the benefits already. This doesn’t mean I didn’t treat myself. I’d started drinking alcohol again after 5 years of barely drinking at all, and I’ve had a few pretty big nights. Plus I was doing a bit of comfort eating too but I never allowed myself to feel guilty for it. I was training hard and as a whole was eating well so I definitely deserved some treats too. Taking the guilty thoughts away from treating myself made a huge difference. Normally I’d beat myself up thinking how I’ve ruined my progress, and would comfort eat even more. 

At this point in time I’m up to 16km runs. It’s still a pretty challenging time in my life, and I’m battling every day to keep my head above water. I’m also trying to find a way to manage the not so positive comments that always seem to follow when people step up and achieve something.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve had some amazing feedback and have been truly humbled by some of the comments of people reaching out and sharing their journey with me and saying that I am inspiring them to start training again. These comments have led me to actually start this blog and be more open about my journey and I’m doing my best to focus on them as I deeply appreciate them.

Unfortunately these days there is always negative comments thrown in as well and I do my best to not think about them but some days they get the best of you and bring you down. I don’t believe any of the comments are thrown at me to intentionally cause harm, but it’s just the usual of people not thinking before they speak and not realising how hurtful certain things are. Being called a skinny bitch by ‘friends’ because I’ve lost weight and being told I need to start eating KFC….. it hurts. Being told oh you have it so easy because you were born fit…. it takes away from the hard work I’ve put in. 

Maybe I’m just super sensitive at the moment, but I really believe if you see someone stepping up achieving something and you don’t have anything nice to say about it, then don’t say anything at all. I’ve even had someone tell me I won’t make my marathon goal by going vegan. Apparently eating meat is the only thing that lets you run these days?!?!?

I’ve lost weight because I’m training a lot which obviously naturally occurs. I’ve also not been able to stomach meat for the last 8 weeks or so after reading an article on live animal exports so I’ve completely changed my diet to almost Vegan (I still indulge in chocolate now and then). I’ve also been struggling to eat because my stomach is in knots from the stress I’m under. The last 2 weeks I’ve also spent 3 nights throwing up, again I think from stress. So calling me a skinny bitch and telling me to go and have a big feed, really doesn’t help people!!! It also doesn’t help by telling me you wish you had it ‘easy’ like me. Trust me, none of this journey has been easy. Every fucking day has been an absolute battle. Every step I’ve taken has been through enormous effort and willpower. I wasn’t born fit. I am fit now because I have shown up for myself every day without fail for the last 7 months and I have busted my fucking ass running and training. This is not fucking easy. 

And I know it appears I’m naturally motivated so it’s easier for me than most. But it’s come to a point where running is saving me from all the shit I’m dealing with. It’s the one thing I can control. The one thing that manages to shut up my inner critic for awhile. That’s where my motivation actually stems from. Which isn’t a very pretty place.

As of right now there is 109 days and 19 hours until the run starts. I’m so excited and keep wishing that I could do it now so I can achieve my goal now instead of waiting. But I know something like this is about the journey of getting there, not just the accomplishment at the end so I’ll be patient and keep working hard and keep showing up for myself. I also know that the struggles I face will make the finish line so much more meaningful. 

Just the thought of crossing that line makes me tear up already. It’s going to be one of my greatest achievements to pull myself out of the hardest and darkest place of my life and to turn it into something positive and life changing. 

To everyone that has passed on positive feedback, I thank you for your kind words and I love sharing this journey with you and knowing that you’re starting to change your life too. To the few that have been not so positive, I thank you for putting that fire in my belly to fight harder.