Recently in yoga class, the instructor mentioned the ego, and how often it misguides us. (She also said something about it being deep in the belly, and well, that’s just gonna take some more research to comprehend.) That sparked quite a few moments of thought and reflection for me. For most of my life, I’ve called this “pride:” the stubborn driver in me that presses forward in faulty directions.
Unfortunately in 2011, when we ran our half-marathon in San Diego, I experienced the consequences of the disastrous intersection of ego and fear. Near the end of my training, I freaked out, thinking I had not done enough. So through the beautiful but hilly Bear Creek State Park, we ran an extra hard, long run too close to the race, which ended for me in severe pain in my right knee. Bummer. My fear and my ego drove me to do something risky…a risk that ended in a race of turmoil. I had trained so beautifully and faithfully only to suffer through 13.1 bloody (and I mean that in the London sense) miles of tears, sweat, and anger–the ugliest kind of anger, anger at myself for being so stupid. And worst, and here comes the ego, I was embarrassed. I was ashamed that I had to walk. I had just achieved an epic goal, and I was embarrassed! Hellllllllllllllo ego.
Since that dreaded day of overtraining, I have been plagued on and off with knee pain. I have managed a couple 0f 10milers, but the lingering knee pain has made for an illusive attempt at another half-marathon. But, it’s finally time…I hope. On March 15th, in Moab, UT, I hope to have a better 13.1 miles under my belt.
Which brings me back to my ego…what does “better” mean? Faster? Stronger? No walking? No pain? No freak-out-and-overtrain-moment? My ego wants to answer that with “no walking.” But the temperance in me says that might not be wisest. So for this round of training, I’ve been walking consistently. Not when I’m in pain or fatigue, but to prevent those very reactions. I’ve felt better than I have for a long time on long runs. And here’s the irony…I’m faster! Even with scheduled, intentional walk breaks, I’m still completing the miles in less time than my typical long run pace. Yes please!
But as I’ve written about balance before, there is something valuable about ego: the relentless drive. Last weekend we were buried beneath freezing temperatures and mounds of snow. I really, really wanted to just skip the long run…especially since it would have meant the blasted treadmill. But, my pride stirred, my ego called, and so to the gym we went. And on that very boring treadmill, I got my 7 miles in.
I have no idea how the half-marathon will turn out. But I guess that’s not the point. The finish line is the penultimate moment of the journey, but in the journey lies the meaning. And I have already learned so much about when to honor my ego and when to dismiss it.
And so onward I run.