I ran my first marathon in my early 20’s without much training. I wasn’t training in much of a structured way, I just ran for fitness. I decided to enter the Auckland Half marathon, but after entering in training I ran a 20km distance. My thought process was if I can run that in a training run on a weekend by myself, it wasn't going to be much of a challenge to do a half marathon. So I did what any sane runner would do, I changed to a full marathon. I had fun while doing it, and after forgetting the pain of the event I quickly signed up for another full marathon happening in 6 months time.
Run Run Run
After this second marathon, I signed up for another marathon and then a 60km trail ultramarathon. This led to a string of other marathons, other ultramarathons, and one half-marathon. I worked up to an 85km trail ultra and dreamed of one day doing a 100-mile race (160km). From the outside, this all seemed normal since everyone is told that more exercise is better. But I was slowly running myself ragged.
I’d wake up in the middle of the night covered in sweat with my heart racing. I’d walk to the bus in the middle of the night thinking it was time to head to work. I used the running high to keep me going. I’d walk to work for an hour and then run home straight after work. I couldn't understand why I had an insatiable hunger for peanut butter, polishing off jars at my desk at the office.
In retrospect, it’s easy to see overtraining manifesting itself. Luckily I didn't end up injured, any niggles I had were seen to by my mum who works as a sports massage therapist. The classic signs of cortisol and adrenaline peaking at incorrect times, like the middle of the night. The hunger for high-calorie foods. Constant tiredness. I was either running or recovering. For many runners, this could be normal but my adrenals couldn't handle it anymore.
The climax was running a marathon, then the next day tripping running to catch the bus to work. I hurt my knee pretty badly, it swelled to a huge ball and I still have the scar to show where the chunk of skin got eaten by the pavement. I couldn't run but had a 60km mountain run in a month or so. I recovered from the knee injury in time for the race but hadn't done much prep. Then the day before flying to the destination mountain race I got a gastro bug, had diarrhoea and couldn't eat anything. I decided to run the race and see how I felt. Surprisingly during the entirety of the 60km race, I didn't poop my pants. But afterwards, I was up all night on the toilet and still couldn't eat anything. In a way, my body was fed up and telling me, no more!
I broke up with running.
Reading the signs I called a hiatus on running, which was a great decision for me at the time. Since then I have run a couple of half marathons but nothing longer, I now love rock climbing and lifting weights at the gym. I still have the propensity to extreme exercising. If I could exercise hard every day or even twice a day I probably would. My boyfriend said recently, stop punishing yourself in the gym. I never thought of it that way but maybe I am, for some reason, those words really stuck with me.
Even knowing my capacity for stress on my body may be lower than other people, and exercise is stress, I still try to push it. The results are usually my body run down or sick with a cold or gastro bug. I’m finally reading Dr. Wilson’s book on adrenal health to find better ways to support myself and that will need an entirely separate post. For now, I just need to remind myself that taking more rest days is totally necessary and I have to stay conscious of my stress levels lest I keep depleting my body.