What Comes After The Finishing Line?

About eight weeks ago I entered the Heidelberg Half Marathon. Last week I ran it and felt brilliant. I’d spent seven weeks being really strict with myself about training hard, eating healthily and living well. They’d been no time for excuses because I had to get the distance and hill training in if I was going to survive. The extra piece of cake or glass of wine just was not worth it if it was going to make this already challenging period harder still. I was disciplined, motivated and felt pretty good about it too!

So, last Sunday, I was a bag of nerves and excitement. I’d bought new, sparkly shorts, painted my nails and stood in the Heidelberg Altstadt feeling ready for this and good about myself. I felt that, baring an absolute disaster, I was going to get around the 21 km even if I never ran again. And I did… and I was absolutely delighted about it.

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At around 8 km and the first big hill, I had a few doubts, but by the time I got to the downhill part, I felt like I was flying. For every horrible moment, steep incline and hateful twinge, there was a reward. Rewards come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it was simply the downhill after the up. Other times it was crowds cheering. The next corner it was a band playing. The best rewards, however, are familiar, and so every time I saw a friendly face cheering me, I felt pushed on through the next kilometre.

At 19 km, my husband appeared and cheered me around the last three, taking short cuts around the course to keep popping up. Five minutes after I finished, he appeared and swept my achy and sweaty self off my feet! I was glowing, grinning from ear to ear and, I’m not ashamed to admit it, feeling extremely proud of myself.

I’d set a tough goal and I’d completed it. People congratulated me. I could barely walk for three days and the reason was a great one. Celebration time had arrived.

Then it got to Wednesday. After three days without running, an indulgent diet and seeing the official grimacing photos taken on the course, I crashed. Guilt about being unhealthy, low mood and a heaviness descended. I came down with a big massive case of well, now what? Great, you’ve done this thing you set out to do, but what are you going to do next?

It’s obvious, I know, but having a clear goal with a result that will make you feel good is so unbelievably motivating that you don’t realise how easy it is to be demotivated without it. I’ve run a bit this week, but with less conviction. I’m more easily persuaded to have another biscuit or a few chips. My trainers seem to be baiting me, not calling me.

The only way forward seems to be a new goal. A new challenge and a source of motivation. The decision, though, is this: should my new goal be another race and the associated reward, or should it be the goal of staying fit and healthy for the reward of being fit and healthy? And is it a good or a bad thing to need the first goal and be less able to do the second? Or is it normal…?

One thing I’ve learnt for sure though is that the finishing line isn’t quite as welcome without a new start line lined up!

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