Our Bodies Know Best.

Running Shoes

This Canada Day, I was not only reminded of our great nation, I was reminded of the importance of listening to one’s body.

Like many Edmontonians, I started off my July 1st celebrations with the Canada Day Road Race. I knew that our Country’s 148th birthday was not going to be a 15-kilometer PB (personal best) but wanted to race it anyway. What I did not expect was a race result of DNF (did not finish). This was a first for me and not an easy decision to make on this patriotic, humid, overcast race morning.

Even as I write this, I can’t believe it happened and continue to have some regret for doing it. I take pride in my grit and on the first of July, felt I had none.

The turning point of my decision was made as I came out of Hawrelak Park. I had first contemplated turning back with the 5-kilometer racers but as I approached the turnaround point a very loud voice in my head convinced me it was cheating and that I just needed to push myself a little harder – I should have listened to my body not my brain.

During the Hawrelak Loop my pace rapidly decreased and I noticed I was compensating for the tightness in my leg and the stiffness in my hips with every step I took. I was heel striking – something that is not sustainable for the next 10-kiometers at race pace. I tried to use mental toughness and think of all those hard runs and how I pushed through. Finally, I simply asked myself “is this worth it and is this preparing me for Sinister 7?” At that moment I had my answer. It wasn’t worth it in the grand scheme of life and it wasn’t going to help me next weekend, likely have the opposite impact. As I looked ahead to see the Emily Murphy hill, I knew it was now or at the finish line. I swore under my breath as I came to a halt but deep down knew I was making one of the smartest race day decisions I had ever made.

I stopped, stretched out my ankle and hips, took off my race bib and started walking to the finish line.

With that, I will admit that on this Canada Day I felt defeated. How was it that I could just give up and stop running – I never did that. I never did that when wanting to quit running during a long training run, when I didn’t want to do that last interval or when I saw 800 repeats on our program. Why today and why during a race? Truth be told, I could have finished the race but I made the conscious decision to avoid further injury and I knew I had my eye on running Sinister 7. I wasn’t going to risk that for a “fun run”.

I did still find time for a pity party. Several hours, if I am being honest. Then I realized this is not the first or the last time I will feel this way and that it is not the end of the world. In fact, it was a good lesson to remind me of two things.

First, my father told me to always reward myself for the good (runs), not punish myself for the bad. Staying home alone rather than attending a barbecue with friends won’t change my race result. Instead I should celebrate the fact that I have matured as a runner and rather than pushing myself to finish the race I held back to avoid furthering my injury.

Second, our bodies know what we need to perform more than our brains ever will. My body needed a break and with Sinister 7 just around the corner, I should have checked my ego and rested up. The last few months have be full of changes and new ventures – I knew my body would eventually tell me to go f-myself for not taking the time to catch up with my activities.

Sometimes we need to get out of bed and get that workout in, sometimes we need to roll back over and sleep. Only you know what your body really needs and if you continue to treat it poorly, it will do the same right back to you – usually at the most inopportune time, like a race.

I think it is equally important to share the tough and challenging experiences we face as individuals. Most of us have more hard and exhausting workouts than easy and strong ones on our goal-crushing journeys. We shouldn’t ignore the hard times, we should embrace them. It is what makes us human and keeps us humble.

Take it from me – we are not invincible (even if we like to pretend we are) and we will have shitty days.

I will spend the next week trying to embrace the fact that I have a DNF because it just made me a stronger runner and person.

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