Head in Hands

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Numb. Numb and crushed. With a dash of accepted complacency.

A mere twenty miles around the lake on the trail was the seemingly pointless goal of the day. But fifteen in, I suddenly found myself at a crossroads:

My legs didn’t hurt.

My body wasn’t tired.

My mental game was strong.

There was nothing wrong.

I just didn’t want to run.

Not only did I not want to run, I didn’t want to run ever again. And if I was honest with myself, the lack of feeling was one I’d become all too familiar with.

I stood still–dead in my tracks–dropped my pack to the ground, fell down into the dirt, buried my face in my hands and sobbed uncontrollably.

…. Ashley… Again? Seriously. What’s your problem? Pick your sorry self up off the ground….

I wiped my drenched eyes with the back of my sleeve, and looked up into the giant blue sky. Waiting, searching, thinking, wondering.. and for what, I guess I didn’t know….I guess I’ll never know.

… God…Where’d my spark go?.. Why’d you take it away? I’m so freakin’ lost.

I dropped my head back down and let more tears stream down my face. I rubbed my cheek against my shoulder– clearing the temporary blindness– then stared blankly at my scuffed up shoes: worn, tired, and frayed from years of never ending abuse. I thought about all of the billion times I’ve triumphed over adversity. I waited for inspiration.

... Nothing.

I wanted nothing more in that moment than to have some massive realization, like maybe God Himself would part the clouds and say, “Hey you, girl with a wild heart, not tossed by the wind, here today and gone tomorrow….guess what? I get you. I know why you’re so messed up in life. Here’s the solution…. Now go my child, and continue on your epic trail run.”

….Nothing.

What have I done with my life? How did this day go from running a quick twenty to sitting in the dirt like a mad woman? I didn’t know, nor did I care.

So I just sat there and picked at a few blades of grass. No absolution. And perhaps even more disquieting, no resolution. I just sat…. for a long long time. I gazed back up into the clouds, shed a few more tears for the loss of my spark, then I picked myself up off the ground.

Strength is what you find when you can’t find it.

I tossed the pack over my shoulder, took a deep breath, and said Just Go.

So I went.

I put one dead foot in front of the other for the next five miles. Every step was pointless, numbing, and without purpose, yet I found a strange thankfulness in it.

Nothing was accomplished that day. Absolutely nothing but twenty miles.

I’m okay with that.

_______________

So, this is an old post I had written, capturing a feeling I’ve dealt with on and off for the greater part of the year… Ever just felt like NOT running any more? How did you overcome it? For me, I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other until my passion came back. Share with me! Leave your thoughts and comments below:).

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41 thoughts on “Head in Hands

  1. Oh, Ash, the words you write are exquisite. I believe you will never diminish your fiery spark in life. It is there bright even when you are down as in this post. You are a shining star.

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  2. I have been feeling this way so much during my workouts they feel so pointless to me! I try and stay focus on the positive and I get threw them more quickly. You now what to do! Keep pushing baby!

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  3. Ok good, I’m not the only one that feels this way. Sometimes we just burden ourselves with subconscious expectations. Many times I ask myself wtf is the point? I’m not fast, my endurance sucks, what’s the point?

    Then i have days where it all clicks. I Read posts like yours, and then it just all makes sense.

    Just keep on going, you’ve overcome so much and kicked so much ass. Remember these things next time you’re sitting on the ground ;)

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  4. Blissfully written by a beautiful gal! Incredible ;-) This will really help me while training for the ultras. I can’t wait to see you again to race/pace/hangout! Just let me know when your next race or even long run is going to be. My schedule is always clear for you :-) :-) :-)

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  5. I’ve been there. Then down the road, sometimes even way down, you see how it played out onto the path God has given. Push through the misery to celebrate in the light! Love your honesty in this post! Keep rockin’ it girlfriend!

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    • LOVE that you said “It’s okay to be vulnerable.” …I had written this awhile ago when I was going through OTS & adrenal fatigue. I eventually stopped running. I finally found my way back by only running when it actually feels good. I’m sure there are deeper problems—–there are always deeper problems with me, lol.

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  6. Thanks for sharing your challenges and raw emotions that accompany them. I have been there. I kept telling myself this will pass and when it didn’t, I was at a loss. It’s like your identity of who you are is wrapped up in it and when you are at a stand still, you start to question everything. In the moments that I have felt that way, I have to remind myself that this is only one of the many gifts God has given me and it’s His to take away. Hard to swallow, right? But yet, I have been able to find peace in that.Then I tell myself that I only have one body and there are people who would give anything to be able to run.

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    • That’s exactly what my husband told me!!!! He can take it away whenever he wants. I am okay with that, though it does rage a battle in my brain. I got through this- but I didnt enjoy running for a few months. I feel like I’m finding my way back. Just waiting patiently for my spark still. Thanks for commenting:)

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  7. Definitely have had that feeling. I have been running the majority of my life, almost 20 of my 28 years actually! Last year, after a long training cycle for Leadville 100 that ended up in a stress fracture and DNF at 71 miles, I lost my reason for running. It had been coming on before then but when I was laying on the cot in the aid station getting my leg checked out, I just smiled. I knew I didn’t have to keep running. I almost felt free. Like I had been running for the wrong reasons. So, after rehabbing and getting healthy again, I didn’t start training. I would run if I wanted but with now plan or schedule to follow. If I ever thought, “this isn’t fun today”, I’d stop and go home. My times are way down from where they were but I’m finally back to the point where running is fun for me again and I look forward to racing. My body and mind needed a break after so many years of dedication. Now I know I love running even more though!

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    • Your story reminds me SO much of what I’ve been through this year with running. I finally “let go” of caring so much about it too. Love the path I am on now. I am struggling with an interest in pushing myself for a race purpose now- do you still race? Thanks for commenting.

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      • I think my problem was distance related. I love racing; always have, always will. I started getting into ultras and had a ton of fun in the 50 mile area but as soon as I got up to the 100s, I lost interest. So much time and prep for a race I didn’t even finish. It’s happened twice now even though I was totally ready. After being competitive and in the hunt at every other distance, I started questioning why I would embrace a race distance that I may only be mediocre at or not even finish! Sounds selfish for sure and it totally is! :P I’ve done a bunch of races recently since Leadville in 2011 and have had a blast. I love being able to finish a trail marathon or 50 and still be able to walk/run without problems and have my speed be a factor! It took that break for me to realize that racing was actually what I loved about running, just that it was a different direction than I was hoping to go because I loved the idea of the 100 mile genre!

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        • Crazy, I just had a similar conversation with Jen Vogel. I told her that I am 100 percent positive that my body is suited for sub 5k racing- I am SO good on a track! But my brain craves the unknown of a 100. I feel like I should give my talent in the shorter stuff a chance to shine instead of constantly squelching it with my long distance attempts. I agree with you completely on coming to terms with yourself.

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  8. Wow .. this is very familiar. All of it hits close to home for me. Maybe you didn’t get the answers you needed that day.. maybe you won’t get them any time soon, but they will come around at some time or another.. probably when you least expect it.

    A few weeks ago I had basically the exact same incident. I was on the side of the road here at home & I don’t know what happened.. I just broke. Like I was freakin’ 10 years old or something. Crying my eyes out as cars passed me by.. Dropped to my knees.. crying uncontrollably with my face in my hands. I wasn’t hurting or anything like that.. just emotional freak out I guess. Like a mid-30’s crisis or something. Like I’ve come so far when I doubted myself for so long, it’s like it just hit me all of a sudden that I am actually ‘doing’ what I set out to do.. ‘Run’. I thought for a moment.. wtf was I doing??.., wiped my nasty face & got up & kept going.

    I’m not a religious person, but I think things like this happen to us for a reason. Like it’s our inner demons telling us we can’t when we know damn well we can. I don’t know… but I appreciate your post. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. I can totally relate to that feeling Ashley! I just think sometimes you have to kind of take a step back and remember why you started running in the first place. The passion is there…hasn’t gone anywhere…just be patient with yourself and you will get that fire back! *Hugs* to you!!

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    • Thanks girl!!! You are right. I wrote this awhile ago, and just posted it as a reminder to myself that I stuck with it despite not having the interest. I am happy with how things are going now! I realized I love running simply because I LOVE being outdoors and in the woods. Thanks for your words of wisdom!!!:)

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  10. Great story and very relate-able… ended up feeling the same way during MCM… I didn’t even want to run it and was supposed to be running it with a friend for his wedding… but he backed out. Found the gumption to finish and set a PR but just wasn’t into it around mile 18… One positive not is we found ways to finish and in that there is a lesson. We Go Hard :)

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    • WE DO! LOL it’s true. I think the beauty in the run often for me is doing it even when there is absolutely nothing in it for me- simply because I have the freedom to do so. Way to go on your PR, Michael. You’re doing awesome!

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  11. As I’ve only ran (properly with passion) for 1 year I am unable to personally relate to the feelings that were going through your head at this point & really hope I never do. I’m really pleased that you overcame this as your posts are inspiring, powerful & helped me beat my 1st 50 mile ultra. I thought this was going to be my end goal but your blog has inspired me to up my game & enter a 24hr race, this is my new project, Project100. Thank you & keep up the great work.

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  12. This has happened a few times to me. Once I was training for an ultra, and 22 miles into a 25 mile run I just said “Nope, I’m done”…luckily for me I was able to get picked up rather than toughing out the rest. Most recently, after the Philadelphia half last year I took time off…and I still haven’t come back. But I’m working on fighting my way back to getting running as a part of my life again, and hoping that 2013 will bring great things!

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    • I’m hoping for you too!!!! Do you do other activities to fill the fitness void? I fell in love with mountain biking this year. I do that a few times a week- its def not the same satisfaction I used to get from running but I do enjoy it. I haven’t raced this year either really- do you have anything planned for the future? ie Races?

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      • Sadly the past 2 years have been taken up by a horrible commute (info on my blog), so fitness has dropped off. However, I’m starting a new job at the end of the month which should open up lots of time for me to get back on track!

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  13. Correct me if I am wrong. As a writer, I sense from the undertones that this post has little to do with running. It would seem to me, after following your blog entries for the past year, that you are very much in touch with your emotional analyst side. Could it be possible that maybe you are no longer feeling the urge to “run away” from life, and therefore your need to run is no longer a driving force?

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    • Ha. Good observation. To put in plainly, yes. But of course it isn’t that simple. I did reach a point in my life this year while despite going through intense financial strain, I said “I am completely happy and without need.”– I felt it, I recognized it, and I noticed my desire to push myself away from that feeling slip. I plan to write a whole other post on this entirely, but that’s for another day:). Thanks for reading & commenting.

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  14. So I have been reading your Blog since the start, so I guess I can offer some advice even though I’m a male. For me when I run, I run mostly without music. This is my time to listen to God and figure out everything that is going on in my life. I found God uses this time because there are no other distractions…..my question for you, what is God telling you? I know you have this ability to listen while you are running. It’s not that you should stop running, in your other blogs you’ve indicated running is your quiet time with God. This is a good thing, alot of people have a problem listening when the father speaks to us.

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    • Thanks so much for your comment, and for following my blog:):). Yeah youre right! Actually today I headed out for a couple hours on the trail specifically to pray. I needed that!! Usually when things are out of wack for me it means I need to focus more on my personal time alone with God.

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