A little over a month ago on April 22, 2018, I was registered to run the Dam Run 40K. I signed up for this race shortly after my Antelope Canyon 50 mile finish, excited for my next running adventure.
Life had different plans however. My hubby’s school schedule and workload got out of control. This left me with most of the child and household duties. I was slammed at work with my normal job, a national strategic project, a leadership development program, and preparations for a 4 month detail to Washington DC. On top of all that my family had a week of the flu, then a few weeks later, a rotating door of some 36 hour bug that left at least one of us wrecked for almost two weeks.
All this occurred over a 6 week period leading up to the race and I was barely running. I still got out for a few miles 4-5 times a week to maintain some sanity, but as the race approached, I found myself feeling raw and detached. When I thought about the race, I just felt empty.
I commonly get anxious before a race and my brain gets cruel. It tells me that I should skip the race or that I won’t be able to finish or I’ll be slow (for me). I know that I just need to ignore these thoughts because that wicked little demon my shoulder isn’t telling me the truth. This time however, his song and dance were more subtle. It wasn’t waves of excitement followed by waves of anxiety. It was just a low underlying hum of exhaustion, as if even he didn’t have the energy to rally a battle cry.
A few days before the race, I paused long enough to ask myself, “Do I really want to do this race?” I wasn’t worried about finishing, I knew I would. I wasn’t worried about a fast time, I knew that wouldn’t happen and I didn’t care. I wasn’t even worried about the heat or waking up early. When asked the question, my heart answered simply, “I just don’t want to.”
And so I listened.
Choosing to skip a race was a huge risk. Would it open the door to skipping races later? Would it fuel the flames of my depression? Would I feel horrible and regret the decision as soon as the race started?
I decided to skip the race anyways.
The moment I sent off the email letting the race director know I wouldn’t be coming, I felt peace wash over me. It freed me to spend quality time with my husband and kids on Friday night and a night on the town with girlfriends on Saturday night. That Sunday I got to sleep in, relax, and get caught up on household tasks. It turned into the best decision I could have made.
What questions can you ask yourself when trying to decide if skipping a race is the right call?
- Am I injured and could racing lead to worse or permanent damage? – The greatest benefits to running come from consistency and longevity. If one run or race will put that at risk, it isn’t worth it.
- Does a loved one need me and my time more that I do? – Running is a lot about self-love and it is important to make that self-love a priority. But it can quickly become selfish if we put it above the needs of our loved one. A child’s important soccer game or a husband’s final exams might require sacrifices from your running. Running should make you the best person you can be, but if you allow it to always put your needs above others, it is no longer supporting the best you.
- Am I Mentally Burnt Out? – this is a tricky one, especially if depression haunts you. Read my post about burnout for more thoughts and ideas on managing burnout. Yet from time to time, one more hard push might put us over the edge.
- What will I gain from this race? – If the race will give you a much needed confidence boost, a break from a stressful home or work life, or just an energy surge from being out on the trails, then it is worth it, even if you won’t run a personal record.
- What will I gain from skipping this race? – This turned out to be the critical question for me. By choosing not to run, I gained time to relax with my kids, enjoy comraderie with friends, and catch up on some of the undone tasks that had been creating extra stress in my life. I gained more by skipping the race, than running it. This was definitely a new experience for me.
In the end, the biggest key for me was HONESTY. It can be so incredibly difficult to be honest with ourselves. We fall into justifying bad choices or pushing when we should rest. At the time, I was afraid I wasn’t making the right call, but in hindsight, it was the best choice I could have made.
What helps you be honest with yourself when deciding how hard to push and when to rest?