It took completing two full marathons before I felt comfortable calling myself a runner. Which, is completely ridiculous since I think that anyone who runs can claim that title for themselves if they want to.
Once I embraced it though, the title of runner, I embraced it whole heartedly. And not only did I identify as a runner, but a marathon runner, and this identification was more important to my internal narrative than just calling myself a runner.
I'm registered for the Montreal marathon on September 22. That's just 8 weeks from now. And I've had to be honest with myself this week and admit that I haven't been training for it. I started to, at the beginning of June, and it was fine. But then, I started traveling to Haiti more frequently, which I love, but which is more often than not a place where I can't run. I didn't take into account how disruptive working in the service industry is to a schedule - especially a training schedule. I just can't work until 2 am and then get up 4 or 5 hours later to run for a couple of hours before the day gets too hot. Marathon training takes a toll on every aspect of your life for a couple of months, and I haven't been giving it that space.
I've still been running, but not training, and haven't done anything longer than 12 miles in the past 2 months. On Thursday, the first day I was able to have time for a run since getting back from a week in Haiti, I took off determined to really step up my game, throw myself into it for the next 2 months, and be ready for Montreal. I made it 3 minutes before I had to stop and walk. Exhaustion from the trip finally caught up with me, and it wasn't just an "I'm bored" mental block, I was too physically tired to run that day. So I walked. I walked on Friday too. This morning actually, was the first run I've had in 2 weeks. And it was good, but it was only 3 miles. Not the 15 it should have been.
Running is wonderful because it's an incredibly personal exercise. Training for a marathon even more so, because you discover parts of yourself and your mind that aren't part of your day to day but that only come up when you are pushing yourself into the boundaries of your physical capabilities. It's fascinating and rare and a little addictive, which I think is one of the reasons us distance runners stick with it.
Usually having a bad run, or being this far off from my training schedule would have me feeling extremely guilty. Because that's the other thing about running. It's personal, so messing it up and doing it poorly makes you feel bad as a person. But, when I'm honest with myself, I'm not training poorly because I'm lazy or a bad person. I'm training poorly because training for a marathon isn't a top priority in my life right now.
My schedule and focus has shifted a lot since I last trained for and ran 26.2 miles, and that level of running is just not as important to me as other things going on right now. Because really, we make time for what matters most to us, no matter how hectic or crazy or unpredictable our day to day life becomes.
And that's the scariest part of all of this. Admitting that this marathon is not as high a priority for me as it used to be. Because it means that the former title of "marathon runner" that played such an important role in my self-identity, has changed. And it means that my internal narrative needs to change with it. Which, is a good thing because people are complex and constantly evolving and if my priorities were exactly the same as they were 2 years ago then that would be boring.
I'm still going to Montreal. We'll see how these next 2 months go, and if I am ready, I'll run to finish. If not, then I'll run a half-marathon in a beautiful city, with some good people, and eat poutine, and that will be fun too. Because running is still important, even if running that kind of distance has become less so.