Welcome to the latest post from MRG contributor Heather Quinlan, who is sharing her journey of training for four half-marathons this year. Read her introductory post here » 

What does a runner post about running when … She has not been running? Hi, my name is Heather and I have a confession to make:

I’ve run about a total of 10 miles since my half-marathon on May 24 in Traverse City. I have another half-marathon in about two weeks. Please take a moment to let that sink in …

It’s not that I’ve not been active and working out. It’s not that the runs I’ve had have “sucked” or left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s not that I’m trying to be neglectful or disrespectful of the run. It’s just that … I feel “stuck.” And trying to figure out exactly what has stymied my running shoes has been more than a little frustrating. But I’ve been giving it some thought and I think the temporary lull in action is driven by …

FEAR

Fear can be crippling. Factor in the unknown, and you’ve magnified it exponentially. Heading into this next half-marathon, I feel almost as nervous as I felt heading in to my very first half in October of 2011. One thing that continues to make me sweat (no pun intended) my next 13.1 journey is that it’ll be my first half in the heat of the summer. In my mind, I keep envisioning pools of sweat oozing from every pore in my body as I run each mile. I can even feel my fingers swelling as I type! Why is this freaking me out? I’ve no clue. But it’s been lingering in the back of my mind for some time now. This fear of running in the heat, causing me to stumble during my training, and who knows, all my fears could be for naught. It may end up being an unseasonably cool July summer morning in Chicago. So needless to say, I need to bury this hesitance about the heat. It’s going to be what it’s going to be. For the next two weeks, I need to be a walking water hydration station. Bottoms up! But let’s be real: my lack of training has to be driven by more than just the fear of a little heat.

June was a very busy and often quite stressful month. The days and weeks leading up to the last day of school for this teacher (June 23and not because of the “Polar Vortex”) were very mentally draining. This past school year marked my 10th year of teaching (honestly, this seems impossible, and I refuse to equate that fact with me getting old), and it was most definitely my most challenging one. But the challenge always seems to intensify when you have students (and a teacher) ready for and in need of a break.

Running may have taken a back-burner, but T-25 workouts kept Heather Q. going through an especially busy time of year.
Running may have taken a back-burner, but T-25 workouts kept Heather Q. going through an especially busy time of year.

I was doing my best to balance the end of the year work demands with healthy eating habits and getting in some sort of a workout (thank goodness for T25–that’s all I have to say). I was driving home from work last week, officially on “summer break” and what do you know, I started to sense a sore throat coming on. Then sure enough that night as I was preparing for bed, I started to get achy and the chills (they were multiplyin’).

Yep, I was sick. How fitting, right? As I spent time taking naps, rotating shifts of DayQuil/NyQuil, and watching more Bravo TV than I think I ever have in my life, I realized why I was sick. My body was worn out, and the second it knew I was “free,” it took over and held me hostage. As much as I hated being forced to start my break this way, especially when I was so excited about having time, MY time, to get back to running, which I truly do love and miss, I knew it was a “necessary evil” that would do me good in the long run. And wouldn’t you know it, that “long run” actually came sooner than I anticipated. It was maybe my third day of lounging on the couch, in-between episodes of The Real Housewives of NYC (guilty pleasure, I admit!), that I gained some insight and clarity about my health journey as a whole.

I am afraid of reaching my goal weight. Yep! Ridiculous, huh? I’ve been hovering around this 100-pound weight loss for well over a year. You’d think that after losing 100 pounds, I’d be well on my way to losing more, but my mind has had other plans. The reality is that in some way, I’m afraid of losing more, doing more, achieving more. It makes no sense to the outsider looking in, but let me give you a glimpse from the insider looking out.

This journey has ignited passions for my life that I never thought possible. I’ve developed a deep love for running, for fitness and nutrition, and for helping inspire change in the lives and journeys of others. With that being said, I think that for some time now, my subconscious mind has hijacked my journey in a way. I could be down over 200 pounds by now, finishing a half-marathon well under three hours, but I’m not (yet). As my family used to say, “Shoulda, coulda, woulda.” What bothers me isn’t that I’m not down that much by now–what bothers me is that I’ve not taken the time to pinpoint WHY I’m not. That is, until now. Finally, I think I may have it figured out.

photo 1-7As passionate as I am about changing my health and leading an active lifestyle, my subconscious has held my progress prisoner because of this fear – “If you want this, Heather, it will need to become a part of your life. Forever.” Wow. This will need to be, in some way, shape, or form, a part of your everyday life. If you want this like you’ve always said you did, there’s no turning back. And there you have it, friends! That’s the point where my mind gets overwhelmed and my Happy Pace stumbles just a bit. Fortunately, as overwhelming as those subconscious-turned-conscious thoughts have been, my determination to never go back to the ways of that 380+ pound girl has never wavered. I’m never going back there. That much I DO know. But the question remains: how am I going to move forward?

Well, I guess the best way to move forward is very similar to how you complete a half-marathon: one step at a time. Just because I’ve unscrambled these subconscious roadblocks doesn’t mean that I’m free of all fears and I’m good to go. But now, I am aware of and ready to face them. I realize that being afraid of something that hasn’t happened and often seldom happens in the manner in which our mind has imagined it, is rather silly. The time is going to pass anyway, why not make the most of it?

photo 2-9
Let go of the fear of the unknown…

I can’t believe that 2014 is half over. I don’t regret the last six months at all. Even if I didn’t do as much as I could have, I have still made incredible strides to improve my health over the last six months–strides that I wouldn’t take back at all. But now I have more time on my side–six more months to prove something to myself. What that “something” is, only time will tell. When you don’t put strict parameters on what you “think” you should accomplish, it becomes exhilarating and the possibilities are endless.

So here’s to letting go of the fear of the unknown (well, within reason of course!) and letting the promise of progress dictate each stride. One of my favorite quotes comes from a movie series I used to watch with my Grandma when I was a little girl, Anne of Green Gables – “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” It is, isn’t it? Here’s to a new beginning in 2014 for us all, even if it’s July instead of January. Let go of your fears and let the awesome stuff happen … if you dare.

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