Sara Jean

Sara Jean

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True Life: Why I Almost Gave Up On Myself.

October 2016. 

I knew I needed a change. I knew my life was heading in a direction I wouldn't be proud of in the years to come. I'd suffered divorce. Foreclosure. Bankruptcy. Job loss. I'd lost friends. In all honesty, I'd lost myself. 

So somewhere, I got the half-crazy idea that I'd run a half marathon. And that by doing so, I'd find a better sense of direction in life.

I was six weeks out. And for that six weeks I put my all into training so I could cross that finish line after 13.1 miles. The thing about me is this - when I set my mind to something, I'm unstoppable. The only problem back then was that I didn't realize it. 

I ran that 13.1 miles. And I cried. A lot. Before the race. During the race. After the race. I hadn't felt what I was feeling in such a long time. That sense of pride. I did it. But now what?

What happened next verged on tragic. Coming off such a great accomplishment, sometimes one becomes even more lost. I had nothing else to strive for. Nothing else to look forward to. Nothing to be proud of. 

So I went back into the darkness and wallowed in my own self-pity once again.

Four months later I'd had enough. I remembered how impossible running that 13.1 miles had seemed. And I remembered how it felt to prove to myself I could do it. So if I could do that, if I could conquer such an unimaginable feat, why couldn't I do the same thing in my life? 

Once again I set my mind to something. And once again I was unstoppable. 

February 2017 I quit drinking. I quit wallowing. And I started running.

Obstacles abounded as I prepared for my second half marathon that May. My pup broke her leg, my grandmother passed away. But I crossed that finish line with a different sense of self. If I could cross that finish line after such a challenging few months, I could do anything. 

And for the next year, I did. Solo trips, skydiving, adventures beyond measure. And through all of it, I ran. I was chasing something, but as time rolled on I started to lose sight of what.

When I reached my year sobriety birthday in February 2018 I lost a bit of my sparkle. Another challenge had been conquered. I cried. A lot. I loved the way that sense of pride felt. I did it. But now what?

So I joined a gym. I joined a morning running club. I trained for my third and fourth half marathons. I set my mind to getting that PR

Once again I set my mind to something. And once again I was unstoppable.

But again, as had happened so many times before, when the challenge was conquered, I was left with a sense of emptiness. A lack of self-worth.

I kept adventuring. Kept running. Kept going to the gym. But that void kept growing. 

I was losing that sense of pride. That love for the girl in the mirror. 

Two years after making the decision to run that first half marathon I found myself in the same mental state, only this time with sober eyes. And with desperation to feel the way I felt that first time again, I signed up for the same half marathon I had two years prior. Six weeks out. I trained with every inch of my being. But rather than cheering myself on, I scolded myself. 

You're too slow.

You're too fat.

You're too old.

You're too lazy.

As each week passed and I got closer to that race I hated running more and more. I hated myself more and more. My negativity spread to all corners of my life. I was sleeping later and eating unhealthy. I was quitting things I loved and making excuses for my actions. I was acting like the old me. Which only created more frustration.

The night before my fifth half marathon I reluctantly drug myself away from my couch and whatever it was I was binge-watching and took myself to a yoga class and sound bath. Maybe I could find some zen there. The universe was watching. And she knew exactly what she needed to do.

A woman came and unrolled her yoga mat next to me. We cheerfully introduced ourselves and started talking as if we'd known each other for years. My first half marathon had been her 8th. She injured herself on mile seven and had struggled with running ever since. But she still ran. We shared stories of how hard we are on ourselves. How crossing the finish line was never enough anymore, we had to get that PR. And as we spoke I realized I was doing something the next day that she would have given anything to do. Nobody was holding me down and forcing me to run 13.1 miles for fun. I signed up for it. It was a privilege for me to be able to cross that finish line when so many other people only dreamed of doing so. When yoga nidra came to a close I turned for a moment to collect my things and turned back to find the woman was gone. It was almost as if she vanished. Just a figment of my imagination the whole time. Maybe she had been...

I woke up on race day refreshed and with a new mindset. I didn't need that PR. I didn't need to put any pressure on myself at all. What I needed was to be grateful for the opportunity I'd been given. To enjoy the fresh air, the fall leaves and the warmth of the sunshine on my glistening skin. I needed to feel the strength of my legs as they paced with my breath and brought me over that finish line. 

Eleven miles and I had barely slowed down. I had smiled the whole race. I had loved every second. Then there he was.

Divorce (a divorce that I was very much at fault for) had started my downward spiral so many years ago. And my running addiction had started with him. We joined the Flying Irish (an Irish drinking running club) so we could run and enjoy a few beers. I guess it was our way of making our drinking problem somewhat of a healthy one. He'd been my running partner for years, so I was sad and happy for him at the same time to see he'd continued his running with his new wife. 

I was even happier when I saw he'd signed up to race the same day - only he was doing the full marathon - 26.2 miles. 

And there he was. Of all the people racing that day, he ran up beside me on mile 11, his mile 24.

"This is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life."

"But you're DOING IT!" I exclaimed. "And I am SO EFFING PROUD OF YOU! Go get 'em, tiger!"

He gave a pained smile and ran past me. 

I paced with him for the next mile. He inspired me. I fought back tears as my running career came full circle. As everything started to make sense. We were both running for that same feeling. That sense of pride. 

One mile left. He stops and grabs his knee. 

"Don't you dare stop now, you're almost there! Don't you DARE stop!" I pleaded as I ran up behind him. 

He looked up at me and took off. I stayed back, knowing I didn't want to distract him. Or cross the finish line too close to him. This was his moment. And it was far more important than mine. When he slowed, I slowed more. And I watched him cross that finish line about thirty seconds before me.

And I came in thirty seconds shy of my PR...

Never have I ever been so happy. For him. For me. For how far I've come. It was back. That sense of pride. But the difference this time? It didn't fade away in the hours that came after the race. That void? Well, it's been filled. That love for running returned with a vengeance. 

So did my love for ME. 

I crossed more than just one finish line that day. 

And it definitely won't be my last. 



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