26 days after the race, my sister sent me the article on “Post-Marathon Recovery”.
For the past 26 days that was exactly what I was “supposed” to be doing – recovering. A day for every mile I’d run.
But when someone asked me the week before my race about my “recovery plan”, I asked , “What’s that?” The little running chart that I’d been using to track my training for the past six months ended on October 12: “Marathon: 26.2 miles”. That was it. Over. Done.
Recovery? I hadn’t “recovered” after the half marathon I ran last March. Instead, in my post-race runner’s high, I’d called my sister and invited her to run a marathon with me in the fall. My running and training continued.
A wise friend told me years ago that every journey can be divided into thirds: the planning, preparation and anticipation for the journey, the journey itself, and the return home.
It’s been that last part, the return, that I’ve struggled with.
It’s exciting to prepare. To follow the little running chart that led me week after week into running further than I’d ever run before.
Exciting to pack the suitcase, get on the plane, all nerves and excitement.
Exciting to run a race like did – so enjoying every minute of it. So amazed at the miracle that I was actually running the race.
Finishing. Celebrating. Picture taking. The huge, delicious lunch. Sharing the stories. The plane ride home….
And now what?
Put the suitcase on the bed. Fill the laundry basket. Do the laundry.
Tell the stories over and over and over again to everyone who will listen. Be glad that there are one or two people who really want to hear more than the 2 minute sound-bites but who really want to hear the whole long and glorious story.
No one told me about this.
After the stories got worn out of me. After I’d done the laundry. After I at took off the “Chicago Marathon 2014 tee shirt”, stopped carrying the heavy finisher’s medal around with me everywhere, and hung it over the knob to my bedroom door.
I missed the little running chart that told me what to do each day.
I missed the hard work, the labor of preparation.
I missed the purposefulness of preparing for something that had been so beyond anything I thought I could ever do.
I missed the conversations with my sister about getting ready for the race.
I tried running a few days after the race – just 3 miles. 3 miles?! That’s nothing after the preparation for running a marathon and yet after 2 and a half miles, my whole body cried out for me to stop, to rest.
Running had been my prayer, my meditation, my way through my worry, my fear, my sadness these past months. My way into release and joy and strength. What to do now when I can’t “move” these feelings through me?
Terry calls it “PPD”: “Post-play depression.” He’s an actor and a few weeks ago the play he had been starring in, finished it’s run.
The more positive and/or intense the play, the harder the reentry is likely to be. This is partly because a play has a built-in community, often a fairly intimate and intense one, and when the play ends the community is lost as well. So there’s nothing “wrong,” except that I’m out of a job, have no project to lose myself in, and I’ve lost my community as well. That’s all.
Talking with Terry reminds me of so many conversations I’ve had with parishioners after surgery. So ready to get out, get going and instead, no, this last part of the journey – this time of “returning and rest” – the recovery. That slow, slow work. And yes, often the grief that accompanies it – the isolation, and loss of connections, the recognition now, of all that you have gone through and the recognition of the preciousness, the fragility of your own life.
“Recovery” for Terry “involves the normal things to pull out of a funk . . .
Moving my body is good, preferably outdoors and preferably in the sunlight. Getting out of the house is good; getting out of the house to see friends is better. Reconnecting with my family. Making music. If I don’t feel like I quite have the energy, then it’s probably a good thing for me to do. TV doesn’t help. Getting lost in a good novel does. Going out to a movie is ok . . . probably more because it’s out of the house than because it’s a movie. Finding a new project is best of all . . .
Evette and Bob have run many marathons. 25 for Evette. 40 for Bob. They too have learned what helps recovery… a hot tub or jacuzzi, getting a massage, drinking lots of water, eating fruit, soup, bread, swimming. Evette tells me,
Laughing is also really neat and so one time I watched funny movies. That worked wonders because laughing raises endorphins. I like being with people who are laughing. Casual walking also feels good. Breathing normally again is great.
Ruth, coming through an intense season of deep sorrow and joy in her family’s life (its’ funny and so true how joy can be so exhausting as well), is recovering in tears and in gratitude. In noticing the gifts of what is here: “I have tea and play music with friends when I can. I send daily “Thoughts” to a group of over 50 friends via email which keeps me reading and listening for the best I can find to share. I read a lot, meet with a group of friends every Thursday night for prayer and sharing…”
And keeping at it. “I am grateful that through persistence and determination I can play my violin even though when I started again in June, I was like a beginner. I couldn’t make my hands do the right things and I had a lot of pain after playing for a short time. But I wasn’t ready to give up.”
What I hear from Terry, Evette, Bob and Ruth is kindness. Being kind to your body, your spirit and soul after the events in life that have taken a lot from you.
I’ve learned that I should talk to more people like Terry, Ruth, Evette and Bob and ask for advice.
Erin, who also ran a marathon last month, like me, didn’t really think about an “after marathon” recovery plan because she was so focused on just getting through the marathon itself.
For the first week or so after the race I just wanted to rest and NOT HAVE to get myself up and out on a run. That said, I am now bumming that I don’t have that push. I have ran twice since the race (over a month ago). And occasionally I find myself saying “now what?” I know there are many other challenges and things to fight for. I guess it is up to me to determine that next challenge?
That day, when I saw the finish line coming into view, I started to cry. So much struggle. So much hard work. Such preparation and discipline. Such keeping on keeping on when I wanted to give up. It was about the preparation for this race. It was everything about my life these past years. And amidst the tears I felt before me, somewhere out there, beyond the finishing line, an opening into the new.
I know what it is to fall back into how I have been. To fall back into more pushing and striving. And yes, there is a place and time in life for that.
But it’s now, post-race, that I am learning to discover something else on the other side of the finish line.
Where all the laboring leads. Where I can open into the healing, recovery, kindness. Step out into a deeper awareness, appreciation, care and joy moment by moment. Out into breath, being, sun, air – where I am going today. To allow myself to fall into the hands of a catching, kindly grace.