I was going through some old photos last night and came across some of my photos from the time I wrote a blog for the Great Limerick Run in 2013. I was writing daily updates on my training in order to help others as I was going to participate in my first half marathon. I posted up a photo of myself and Brent Pope (the famous Kiwi Rugby Commentator who I had met in Dublin on a night out). I remember going to the race and having such excitement that I was going to do this. I was so happy and at the same time I felt the utter dread that I was going to run 21km.
It came to the race and the atmosphere was electric. I loved it. I enjoyed every minute and as the people of Limerick stood out and gave free jellies on the way I was so happy with the warmth and friendliness of the city and surrounding suburbs. It was electric. My first half marathon and I loved it. I was hooked! I had been running since school and participated in a lot of sports events. On one of the school sports days I took home 3 gold medals and a bronze for running in different lengths but they were all mostly short and under 800m in length. I was on the hockey team and I did sports daily after school and on a Sunday morning there was also hockey training. I lived so close to the school that I always walked to and from training and never thought anything about it. I never expected people to be there. I never thought about inviting people. Parents would come and go from the hockey matches and I would gather my stuff and walk home. That was normal!
This was different though I had written a sports blog. I was living in Dublin. I came home to do it so that I could join family and friends at the finish line for that very purpose. It meant more to me than any other race and any school race. No one was at the finish line so I made my way home. I had asked them down to see if they would come and they said no. I went home and celebrated there - as you can see from the photo above. That was grand. That didn't bother me. What bothered me was the utter disappointment that I felt that no one was there to support me - that it meant so much and that I wanted someone at the finish line even if it was just to go for food afterwards. It was such mixed emotions, I felt such elation at finishing and yet disappointment that no one was there. It was lonely.
I repressed that feeling though, I undermined it and thought to myself - better look at the silver lining. I finished the race. I am happy that I finished it. I bundled up the negative emotions and stuffed them down deep because I didn't want to feel them. I wanted to be happy and knew I should be. I also felt guilty for feeling like I should be happy when I was mixed. I got home to a mixed reaction too. They weren't happy or not happy - they just were. I had the elation of the race, the adrenaline still pumping inside my veins and felt so mixed.
I showered and told myself to be happy and that I finished the race. I didn't express the anger and disappointment and let down that I felt that no one was there. I just decided to push it down and ignore it. I know now after burnout that this was also a lesson to never ignore your feelings. They are what they are even if they are painful. Explore those emotions, feel them and let them pass - if you are angry get a pillow and punch it out, get upset - it's good. Ignoring your emotions will only manifest in time to be a stronger emotion and erupt. You will overwhelm yourself if you don't express it. MAYBE A LEVEL-HEADED EXPRESSION OF HOW YOU ARE FEELING AT THE TIME WOULD HAVE BEEN SUFFICIENT! For instance, expressing that you are disappointed that they weren't there and that it meant a lot to you! This doesn't always happen if you are in survival mode so be compassionate towards yourself - we make mistakes, we are human, freezing happens! I didn't erupt in this instance but I did avoid asking anyone or telling any family members about races. I just did them by myself. The excitement I kept to myself and would not share. Appreciating them as they are will give you ease. You can respect their choices and respect yours and the life you want to live.
I eventually joined a club (Blackrock Athletic Club in Blackrock in Dublin - below is a photo of myself and the coach Patricia and also another Patricia in the club as well) and shared celebrations with people that understood me more and that running and sports were there thing too. I made teams of people that would be happy to run alongside with me. I found my people! I found the elation and joy without the disappointment. I also learnt that you need to find the people that like the same things as you do in order to find that joy. In 2016 I met Maeve at the end of the Dublin marathon and in 2017 myself and a small team entered the Berlin marathon, it was through the lottery entry system and got in. Build the community, join the club, make the connections that matter when it comes to the sport you love. If it means something to you and doesn't to someone who doesn't have an interest in sport, that's okay. It's a case of surrounding yourself with the right people with the same interests. You'll meet people along the way too and run a race with people. I met Andrea on the Rock and Roll half marathon and we had a great time. Celebrate with team members and enjoy, it'll be a joy and it was a joy! Never let anyone dull your sparkle!