My motivation had disappeared. It was gone. It was nowhere to be found and I was concerned.
For the better part of two weeks I spent more time wracking my brain for reasons as to why I could no longer muster up the desire, let alone the energy, to go for a run than actually going. I had become quick with the excuses as to why I couldn't (i.e wouldn't) go at that moment - it was cold, it would be warmer later, I wanted to let my stomach settle, I had some work I needed to do, I was tired, I let the kids sleep in, and on and on.
I say "at that moment" because for the most part I would go. Eventually. Yes, I would go at some point during a 36 hour period after my training plan called for a run. But I wasn't enjoying it. It felt as if I was just going through the motions and not putting anything into it. I was only in the 2nd week of the official training program and was already asking myself "how am I going to make it until April?" during each run, no matter the distance, as I lethargically completed the last third of a mile down my street to my home.
More questions: Where did it go? Had I left it somewhere during that 5K on Thanksgiving? Did I leave it in Vegas with all of those other things that happen in Vegas (that someone else was doing) when I returned home from my business trip? Did I have an extended period of post-marathon letdown still lingering since September? What could it be?
Complete disclosure: during those two weeks there was a stretch where it was the first time that I had gone two-plus days without running not because of injury or resting after a race. I simply did not want to go. Vacations, business trips, illness, bad weather, work lunacy: I always found time to do my runs. I had no answers. Just frustration and a couple of terrifying thoughts.
Maybe "it" was over.
Maybe it wasn't coming back.
Maybe I was cooked.
Regardless of my lagging motivation and all of my unanswered questions, I pushed on through week two of the training plan. I, quite literally, had to grind through the midweek runs that I would normally plow through with relative ease. I was out of breath, out of energy, and out of confidence.
When Saturday of week two came, the day of the second team "long" run, I woke to a rainy, miserable, cold day that was perfect for staying home and doing it "later when it got nicer out". I figured if I was going to be wet and cold I may as well do it without a ride into Boston and paying for parking. However, instead of pouring another cup of coffee, I started to hate myself and beat myself up. I was already up. I had all of my gear ready. I hadn't been to the first official team run because the kids slept in, my wife was away, I was jet lagged, and it was snowing that day. I really want to feel like part of the team and, while these runs aren't mandatory, I wanted to make an appearance. I was most likely going to have to run on worse days anyway. Should I stay or should I go? Ugh!
"Go." said my wife from the kitchen. She can just tell when I am having such internal turmoil and that's the only way to end it. Unable to provide a compelling argument otherwise, off I went.
While running up Beacon Street in the cold drizzle I couldn't help but notice it was almost the same exact weather as my first marathon at the end of September.
In my private thoughts since that day, I felt that while finishing a marathon, no matter how long it takes, is an incredible accomplishment I will forever be proud of, I had wanted to do better. Not a ton better, mind you, but I knew with every fiber of my being that I could've done better. I had trained hard and felt even afterwards that I was physically ready. It was the incredibly important mental part of distance running that let me down. While my body wanted to, and was able to, keep moving forward that day, my mind was doing everything it could to stop it and, honestly, did a pretty good job as it slowed me down just enough to make me doubt myself regardless of my accomplishment.
I had thought I prepared for every aspect of that day: what to eat, how to dress, hydration, fuel, pace, strategy, etc. What I forgot to prepare for was that adversity of an unknown factor cropping up and trying to stop me before my goal. That unknown was the weather. It wasn't the heat, humidity, cool nights, and cool mornings of a fantastic summer of training that I was used to but a cold, miserable, wet, "I'll never warm up" kind of day. While I was ultimately able to push through the physical challenges the weather posed, I wasn't prepared for the misery, desperation, and demoralizing effect that it had on my mind and what that would be like after 18-20 miles. I ran for over 4:30 in cold pouring rain in a t-shirt and shorts wearing running shoes that, according to my wife, felt like they each weighed 10 pounds. I had every right to start to crack. I was damn near expected to. Hell, in some ways I would have surprised myself if I hadn't.
Suddenly I started to look at things another way. That day, despite the disappointment in my own performance, I had made it through, reached my goal, and I am better for it. As I continued on my run that morning I realized that I had learned so much from that day. I was able to learn first hand (not from some book, runners forum, or blog entry) what it was like to go through "the process". That day taught me so many lessons that I will use this time around and in future races. I had finally put my finger on what I could only describe to my wife as "I just feel different". I had done it. I had been there. I wanted to go back. I knew what I needed to do.
It was then that I picked up my pace a little and, realizing I was on my way to fighting through this latest challenge, I vowed that I would play the hand I was dealt each day, make the best of it, take what I learned, and move on to the next day. It was the only way to keep moving forward towards my goal.
My personal fundraising page: http://go.liverfoundation.org/goto/mattkeepsrunnin2013