Giving Myself Grace

The miles have begun to dwindle down in my preparation for the Chicago Marathon. As I build up to important races, I like to hone in on certain words or mantras. In the past they’ve centered around being brave, fierce, and relentless- very much of the “I am woman, hear me roar” variety. This time, preceding Chicago, I’m taking a different approach.

I began this year with a healing cracked rib and a fresh start to training after some forced time off. While that hiatus wasn’t by choice, it gave me a chance to rest and rebuild myself from the ground up. I wanted to become the runner I’d always been striving to be- not just dreaming of it, but living it. My coach Greg and I came up with a plan that would center around consistency, something I lacked leading up to the Berlin Marathon last year. I worked on my everyday and race day nutrition with a health coach and took up regular yoga and continued with ballet training to be strong and athletic in other ways outside of running. I strove for perfection this year in a way I never had before by meeting my weekly mileage to a T and preparing meticulously for every race, particularly Chicago. Every workout has been laser focused, every marathon pace run I’ve been visualizing as the final miles of the race, every long run mimicking the flat Chicago course. Once I attempted running 18 miles at noon in ridiculous hot weather so I could practice in case it’s hot on race day (it didn’t go well… I wouldn’t recommend it). Prepare, prepare, prepare. Visualize. Study. Recover. Focus.

In the midst of all the preparation, I didn’t really think of how much pressure I’m putting on myself. In the past week or so I’ve felt as if I’ve been on the verge of breaking. Every day is “go, go, go” then I go to bed exhausted, only to have wild dreams about being in the midst of a terrifying attack on a school campus, to being stuck in Portland in a post-apocalyptic state with no water or power, to simply hitting the wall in the Chicago Marathon, looking at my watch and having it read two minutes per mile slower than my goal pace. One of those things is not like the other! I am making myself crazy.

It occurred to me yesterday that bravery and fierceness is not resonating with me. I think I need to be gentler on myself. The pressure I face is coming completely from within. I fear my instinct on race day will be to beat my legs into submission by running at an unimaginable pace, only to have the wheels come off and live out my “nightmare”. Considering all of the training and preparing, all I have left is to rest and carry out my race plan… and enjoy it! Rather than force magic, I hope to set myself up in a way that will allow it. This isn’t about having the perfect race, as much as I’ll try, but bringing everything I’ve learned and gained to the start line. I will be kind to myself. I will celebrate no matter what. I will give myself Grace.




3 responses to “Giving Myself Grace”

  1. Dave Avatar

    Finding the edge and riding it in is the secret I think. No one can tell you where that is, and you may not know if you’ve got it right until race day. To me, it sounds like you’re very close, so expect good things in Chicago.

  2. Leslie @ TriathleteTreats Avatar

    You have worked so hard this year!! I know Chicago is going to be great!!! It is such an amazing race! I know its hard to not put pressure on yourself but don’t get too carried away that you take the experience away! Think back about all the training you have done and let your body absorb it!! Less than 2 weeks so excited for you!!

  3. Sara Avatar

    I love this outlook and these thoughts! As runners I think it’s typically far harder to give ourselves grace than to try to beat our bodies into submission, but the latter never works out. I’ll be thinking about you on October 9!


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Who is Mercury?

Liz Derstine, trail name “Mercury”, is a distance runner, endurance hiker, writer, and musician residing in Boston, MA. She holds fastest known times for women on the Appalachian Trail (supported, northbound), Long Trail (self-supported), and Pinhoti Trail (self-supported).

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