Emotional Stress and Running
Emotional Stress and Running
Posted on May 3, 2016 by Catherine Watkins
Another long overdue blog post, but I think it’s because I have been wondering how to approach this blog. It has been a blog in the making for a while but it is one of those hard ones to articulate as although it’s my story to tell, it is personal and also involves others.
The last month or so has been quite possibly one of the more stressful months personally that I’ve had. This stress has led to very minimal sleep and a huge amount of emotional ups and downs. I am not going to get into the details but I am going to say that trying to train and race while in this state of exhaustion has been difficult.
It’s funny as I read stories often of how people continue to thrive through adversity, and I like to think I am one of them, but this experience made me recognize that sometimes attempting to thrive or push through the stress isn’t the best idea. In fact sometimes it may be better to be aware of the impact of the stress and to adjust expectations accordingly. The battle between being that outwardly strong woman while inside feeling lost is difficult.
I did try to push through some training sessions while feeling exhausted. The easy runs felt therapeutic, but the intensity sessions just felt draining, plus I didn’t feel happy with the results of the sessions as I wasn’t running well. It wasn’t that all workouts were bad, it’s just that they weren’t as strong as I would have liked. However, looking back now, given how little sleep I was getting they were actually not bad.
The culmination of this month was at the Sun Run. This is one of my favourite races of the year. I have run 3 of my best 10kms here, with last year being the fastest at 33:52. I went into the race having not slept at all and feeling emotionally fragile. I got to the start line and already felt defeated. Many of my running peers asked how I was going to do and I just said I was hoping to finish strong. A few already were aware how I was feeling so I didn’t explain to everyone.
We lined up on the start line and my stomach dropped. It was strange starting my favourite race feeling so low. The first km went out fast and I knew it would be a tough day. I decided that I was going to finish but my goal would be to win the masters title and not worry about anything else. At 4km I was still in 2nd in the masters race and about 10th overall. We hit the short, steep climb up to the Burrard bridge and I decided to push a bit. Just before 5km I caught Maria Zambrano (1st master at that point) and Lisa Brooking and Lisa and I pushed ahead. I passed 5k at 17:12 which was 12 seconds slower than the previous year and I wasn’t feeling good. I decided to just work with Lisa and see if we could get each other to the finish. It wasn’t easy, it was a complete mental battle for me. The exhaustion made me want to quit numerous times but I kept pushing. I finished in 34:47, 1st master and 9th female.
Yes I met my goal of first master, but no it didn’t feel good. I smiled for some photos then sat down on the curb and just let myself feel. There were tears, not for the race, but for the emotional toll I had been experiencing. Allowing myself to be vulnerable and show my emotions allowed my friends to come and comfort me. It probably would have been smarter to have sat this one out and just let my mind and body rest. I was in no way really ready to push myself this way, but in some ways I’m glad it did as the physical exhaustion allowed me to let go emotionally.
So what does this mean going forward? Well the last week has been a bit better. This is an emotional journey that will continue for a long time as this is not a stressor that will just disappear. I will say that I am getting some more sleep this week and that I am feeling stronger in workouts. In fact I had a couple of good ones this week! The amazing support of friends, family and my coach Richard Lee have really helped me work through this. I recognize that it’s important to share when things aren’t going well just as it’s important to share when things are going right. There are lessons in both. My coach articulated it well by encouraging me to forget about times and to remember that feeling I love of running fast. I am taking that to heart.
I am heading to Spokane Washington tomorrow for a quick trip to race the Bloomsday 12k this weekend and I plan on racing hard while enjoying the experience of a tough challenge. I am excited to connect with fellow Oiselle team mates Lyndy Davis and Trisha Drobeck as well as the amazing masters runner Marilyn Arsenault. I will embrace my love of running and be grateful for where I am, enjoying the journey.
thanks again to my amazing family and friends for all their support, my other family Oiselle and my great sponsors Nuun, Zensah, RunGo, Forerunners and New Balance Canada.