Pretty much everyone who knows even a little about running and racing knows that the Boston Marathon is the Holy Grail of races. I read somewhere that fewer than 10 percent of runners ever qualify for the race.
This by itself is almost enough for me to put myself through the training to qualify and eventually run this race, but it isn’t the main reason.
Running has been an incredibly healing act for me. It’s not a secret I didn’t have the greatest parents and that I’ve spent the better part of my adulthood trying to untangle myself from the devastation. I made a ton of mistakes, including using alcohol to cope. I also have to be mindful that I don’t use my love of running to do further harm to myself. I’m prone to literally beating the crap out of myself, whether with drink or eating disorders or self-mutilation (at one particularly dark time, I tried to break my arm and another my leg. Fortunately, I was unsuccessful). I’m sort of shocked that I found a decent husband and stable relationship with him. My marriage also is one of the biggest factors in me being able to fight for my self-worth.
Most of my bad behaviors were ways of diverting myself from the real underlying pain. By the time I got to therapy for the first time in my early 20s, it was already my default to self-destruct rather than feel anything. Somehow, I’ve managed to have at least some small instinct of self-preservation that drives me to seek help and wants to get better.
And I am better. Much better. But as my previous post showed, there are lingering effects that come out when I try to achieve something significant, even if it’s only significant to me. When the achievement is on the line, and not just a training run that no one sees except me, I hear my mother’s voice telling me I shouldn’t even be trying. Except it sounds like my own voice.
I learned at an early age that doing too well in anything would result in some sort of punishment, usually the withholding of affection or sometimes something more devious. I wasn’t always able to put together one over-the-top punishment and my mother’s resentment of me achieving things she could not. I just knew that my mother was one rage from killing me and I never knew what thing I might do would set it off. Being invisible was the best course of action.
So, not only do I start to doubt my ability in things, I also feel like I am not allowed to benefit from my abilities. I’m simultaneously afraid of failing and succeeding. It’s a nasty double-edged sword that I tend to fall on.
But I really want to stop.
The responses to my last post helped me greatly and warmed my heart. It also reminded me that despite how my parents discouraged going to outsiders when we were in need of help, I don’t have to be an island. So, I decided to mention briefly to my running coach a little more about why I struggle in races. She responded kindly and also is sending me a DVD by a sports psychologist that helps athletes with their mental struggles.
She also suggested a book by the same psychologist, Stan Beecham, called Elite Minds. I started reading it, and it’s a terrific book. I think it’s actually already working, as I thought about it today during my 13.1 mile training run. I was struggling with the pace, but I reflected back on what I’d read, and it helped me through. I want to do a more detailed review of the book in another post once I finish. The author had me at the disclaimer when he said that the book was not for me if I was looking to be happy. But if I was looking to be the best version of me, then this might be the right book to help me. This book might be for athletes, but everything I’ve read so far applies to children of narcissists. Beecham advocates truth, both good and bad, and encourages people to confront the false truths about ourselves. Beecham also quotes Scott Peck, which many ACoNs will recognize from his book on narcissism, People of the Lie.
I’m running the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Hat Trick in less than 2 weeks. I’m approaching these three races as a learning opportunity in several ways:
1) The 5k race is an hour before the 10k, so I get to test out doing a longer warm up run before a race.
2) Both the 10k and the half marathon are on the infamous Boston Marathon Newton hills. I’m excited to arm myself for my future Boston race with experience of running these hills.
3) I’m participating in a shakeout run with Bart Yasso on Friday evening. Totally running-geeked out about this.
4) They are offering several seminars on running. In particular, Shalane Flanigan is talking about how women’s running is different, and there will be a seminar on course strategy for the half marathon.
5) I’ll find out how my body deals with 3 races in two days. I have to admit, this sounded much more daunting when I signed up and before I ran two marathons.
6) iPods and earphones are discouraged, so I’ll be running sans an audiobook. I’ve been thinking about trying this in races anyway since I tend to not remember anything I’ve listened to when racing.
7) I won’t be running for time. I plan to enjoy the hell out of myself while running part of the Boston Marathon course. No pressure, just practice.
The weekend will be about preparing me to run better, be a part of the running community and help me get that elusive BQ.
But why is Boston so damn important to me?
Well, I was born in Newton, Massachusetts, home of the Heartbreak Hill. I want to be reborn, goddamn it. I am going to crest those hills and cross the Boston Marathon finish line triumphant. The act of running is my journey to taking my life back.