The Freedom of Not Caring

OK, folks, I’m writing drunk. Abstaining from alcohol for the month leading up to the marathon has made me a lighter-weight than I ever was, and tonight I had one glass of wine with my mom and ended up fairly schnockered. (Is that how you spell that word? Is that word even real?!)

Anyway, here’s what being quite tipsy is good for: it gives you perspective. Tonight, for the first time, I was able to really admit that I don’t care one jot what my time turns out to be when I run the Chicago Marathon next week. And it’s not because I’m lazy, and it’s not because I don’t push myself to succeed. It’s simply because for me, in this case, just doing the thing is enough.

I could go into it all fire and piss and vinegar and declare that if I don’t run it in under five hours, I’ll be disappointed. I could jump into the fray with my much more competitive in-laws and boast about who I plan to beat and fret about how my aching hip might slow me down… but the real truth – as I finally saw tonight – is that I. Just. Don’t. Care.

I never planned to run a marathon. And, having trained for this one, I know I’ll never do it again. Along the way, there were moments of glory. I pushed my body far beyond what I thought its limits were, and I got braver. I finally experienced a runner’s high, and felt blissful – as present yet peaceful as I’d ever been. I shared gross blisters and deep muscle aches with my husband, and we made each other laugh/cry as we used a foam roller to work out kinks in thighs and calves. I brought together $1,275 for the Red Cross; the first time I’ve fund raised of my own accord in my entire life. And hell – all those things? Those were what I wanted from the race.

As I got stronger than I’d ever been, I started raising my expectations. How fast/long/hard can I go? I’M AMAZING!! And I was. But then I completed my 20-mile long run – the apex of my training plan – and since that day, my hips have HURT and my knees have tweaked at every step. I’ve had to totally back off my training schedule just to loosen my muscles enough that I could fall asleep at night. And I fretted. I’d gained so much, only to lose it. What would people think of my inevitably slow time? What if it takes me six hours to run this race, what if all the senior citizens beat me, what if my in-laws say I didn’t take it seriously and prepare, when I know I did…

And now? Now, I just don’t care. I have nothing but admiration for runners who give everything to make themselves faster and stronger, and fight right through the pain for a better personal record. But me? I’ve already gotten everything I wanted, and have nothing to lose. I get to be there on October 13th, running with my family. I know new things about my body – and yes, corny though it may sound – about my mind and soul. I’ve been training almost as long as I’ve been writing this blog, and they’ve both been amazing journeys.

So on Sunday – knowing this is the only marathon I’ll ever run – I plan to enjoy it all. I won’t grump myself into an anxious ball, worried about my pace. If I need to walk, I’ll just walk for a bit. Instead of turning completely inward, I’ll listen to my story-telling pod casts, high five supporters with signs, and look for the faces of my loved ones at the finish line. The running? It’s gonna hurt. No doubt. I fully anticipate spending the week after limping and icing my parts. But the experience? It’s gonna be a touchstone of my life.

It’s going to be the time I just stopped caring, and not caring made me HAPPY.

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42 responses to “The Freedom of Not Caring

  1. I’ll be cheering you, my boss, and office manager on in spirit. Good luck, be careful and eat a lot of chocolate cakes afterwards.

    Eva

    • Thanks, Carrie! If my training has taught me anything, it’s that all marathoners are slightly insane. Don’t even get me started on those ultra distance runners… 🙂

  2. Best of luck! And once you’re done, treat yourself to a whole bottle of wine. Symbolically pour some out for me–but don’t really pour any out because spilling perfectly good wine is against the 11th commandment: Thou shalt not waste good alcohol.

  3. Exactly, running should be fun. If you run to meet a certain time you run stressed. The run is not fun and who wants to spend 5 hours stressed? Run, take in the sights, enjoy the day you’ve trained for, pat yourself on the back (several times / every new mile) that you are actually running a marathon. The only one you are racing is yourself. And think about all that you are going to eat and the fluids you will replenish when you have reached the end of the run. Good luck!

      • Ah, well isn’t that what your writing does for others? Make them smile? Repaying you. …oh and don’t forget to stretch real long! Especially afterwards ..or you may need a few glasses of wine to relax 🙂

  4. I used to be an athlete . . . now I am an old man, but I remember when . . . and now it is a joy just to sit on my porch and remember . . . you will too and it won’t matter how bad you got your ass kicked.

    I think it would be so cool to be able to see yourself running a marathon when your eighty. (even if that old senior citizen beat you to the finish line . . . 🙂

    • Yes – I feel like this way, I’ve got another one for the “once upon a time” collection. And I know you’re (very gently) picking on me, but I have a looong history of being trounced by senior citizens in sporting events! Running, for sure, but especially in swimming laps! It’s like you become a grandparent and are granted wings.

  5. Whooohooo!!!! When i ran my one, I attacked it in the same way, I just didnt care about times. Its not like I was ever going to win! The best moment was crossing the line hand in hand with my training buddy, we hadnt planned to run the race together and we parted company at mile 13 when my body decided to slump but we ran into each other again around mile 20 and she was suffering so i stayed with her, it wasnt so much a choice as a want. Plus had i run on id probably have been a whole one second faster! Anyway, I danced and sang to her, anything to keep her focused and we hit that line smiling, it was THE BEST thing ever, ever, ever. Enjoy the day, and savour those last few hundred miles, now thats runners high!!!!

    • I’m trying to figure out what I want to be doing when I cross the finish line. (Photo op!) Rock star makes me think air guitar, but it might not translate. Possible Taylor Swift-style heart raised above the head? Possible Gene Simmons moment with tongue out? The possibilities are endless…

  6. Jennie, “just” running a marathon is PLENTY! (It’s a freaking MARATHON, for goodness sake!) And learning about your body, and mind, and soul, is far from “corny”. Hon, training for a marathon is wildly impressive; but you already know that impressing people isn’t what it’s all about. So go, have fun, and totally rock the experience. 🙂 (And WALK after you finish the run – your legs will *so* appreciate you later in the day [and week].)

  7. You’ve done your hard work already. Soak up each mile. Marathons are spiritual experiences. I miss my training for those kinds of long distances! I am looking forward to hearing all about it!

    • Thanks for your encouragement! I am so excited to see the crowds, enjoy the downtown cityscape and the view across the lake, and I will try to “soak it up'” – perhaps literally, as the forecast predicts rain! 🙂

  8. What a lovely and inspirational piece of writing. As one who does not run (give me two wheels and I’m there!) I still see direct applications of your epiphany to many facets of life. When tackling a new project or goal or creative adventure, it’s Doing The Work that is often the most rewarding. Thanks for the reminder!

    I’ll be thinking of you and your amazing accomplishment on Sunday!

    • As such a lovely comment in return – thank you. I think you’re absolutely right, and I appreciate you deepening the meaning (or pulling it out) of what I wrote. Speaking of two wheels, in these last training weeks I have been doing some road biking to save my knees. It is SO much fun to pass everyone else, with a satisfied, “On your left!” I think I may be more of a biker than a runner by nature… as much as I love the sheer physicality of moving from place to place using just my body, there’s something truly intoxicating about the wind on your face as you coast down a hill…

  9. Ermergerd it’s almost here!! I’m so proud of you!!!!

    And I just have to ask – what finally produced the runner’s high? And is it anything akin to a cheese high?

    • ERMAGERD!!

      The runner’s high showed up around mile 16. For me, it would seem, I just have to run LONG ENOUGH. I got in this head space on my 20-mile long run where I was like, “This is awful. My hips and knees ache and I’m kinda bored, but on the other hand, I can still keep running and there’s nothing else I have to be doing.” Finally, it just melded into this zen where time flew by and I wasn’t stressed or focused on the mileage but just on how green the trees were. It was pretty darn nice.

      Closest thing to it would be how Ali feels at the end of her Hyperbole and a Half post on depression (http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html). She knows that not feelings emotions isn’t a good thing… but since she can’t feel them anyway, she goes ahead and revels in it!

      Am I making sense/ I may not be. I’ve been told all marathoners are insane.

  10. Hi Jennie, Thanks so much for commenting on my “Marathon Meanderings”! I read your comment to my boys, and they were glad they helped! Glad you had a great time!

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