The adrenaline of leading the race, the excitement of the crowd cheering your name is suddenly ripped away. You drop place after place, slowing to what feels like a crawl. The pain overwhelms you. Tear after tear, stride after stride, the two become synchronous. Then there's the "pity clap" as you hobble toward the finish line, tears in your eyes and deep disappointment in your heart. Rather than taking a medal home, you bear the weight of doubt around your neck.
This sums up my junior year in cross country and track. Here I was, listed as one of the top seeds in most of my events because of my career times; but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get my body to respond and compete at that level. I began to doubt whether I could ever do it again -- to contend among the top runners in the state.
We thought we had the "answers" in the fall, when after numerous doctors visits, I had what was believed to be a confirmed diagnosis of severe acid reflux. But the medicine I was on didn't seem to help reduce the severe stomach pain and nausea when I would push my body in practice and races. The doctor made me feel as if it was "in my head" -- that it had to do with how I handled stress. But no matter how much I worked on this, I still struggled, and my times kept getting slower. Something wasn't right.
Then during the 1600m at Lake Highland Prep a couple weeks ago, something happened that really scared me. I attempted a surge going into lap 3, and I felt a burst -- like something popped -- in my stomach. I struggled to the finish, with stomach pain that was the worst I had ever felt.
Something wasn't right. The medicine wasn't working. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
That weekend, we came across an article on FLRunners about Kelly Fahey, where she shared about her experiences with dealing with an ovarian cyst. (http://fl.milesplit.com/articles/104132-fahey-fights-through-injury-puts-end-to-senior-season) What she described sounded so much like what I was going through that our family decided to get another opinion and ask the doctor about whether I was dealing with the same thing.
It turns out I was. The "pop" I felt the third lap of that 1600m race was an ovarian cyst that ruptured. I was diagnosed with bilateral ovarian cysts -- and that has been the cause of my stomach pain and nausea the whole time.
So, I had finally gotten the answer I was looking for. Yet one thing remained...doubt.
Although I am confident that with this diagnosis and the treatment plan I will eventually be back to running at full force, there still never seems to be a day that doubt does not take over my thoughts. Will I really be able to get back to running like myself again? Or will I just continue to struggle?
The thing about hardships is that, yes, they are hard, but it isn't the actual hardship that makes them difficult; it's the doubt that comes along with it -- the doubt of never fulfilling the goals you set as a young runner who used to dream about making it big as a runner. Hardships give doubt a home to cultivate in.
My prayer for myself and anyone else whose thoughts and goals have been attacked by doubt is that we would not let this disease of the mind infect us -- that we would go out into the world and fight for our goals, no matter the disbelief and skepticism we may face within ourselves.
Over the course of my running journey, my dad has shared this section of Og Mandino's "The Greatest Salesman in the World." I have memorized these words and have allowed them to be an anthem when I feel this cloud of doubt begin to enlarge in my mind.
"I will persist until I succeed.
I was not delivered unto this world in defeat,
nor does failure course in my veins. I am not a
sheep waiting to be prodded by my shepherd. I
am a lion and I refuse to talk, to walk, to sleep
with the sheep. I will hear not those who weep
and complain, for their disease is contagious. Let
them join the sheep. The slaughterhouse of failure
is not my destiny.
I will persist until I succeed.
The prizes of life are at the end of each journey,
not near the beginning; and it is not given to me to
know how many steps are necessary in order to
reach my goal. Failure I may still encounter at the
thousandth step, yet success hides behind the next
bend in the road. Never will I know how close it
lies unless I turn the corner.
Always will I take another step. If that is of no
avail I will take another, and yet another. In truth,
one step at a time is not too difficult.
I will persist until I succeed."
My prayer is that, if you are doubting yourself or your abilities in anything -- not just running -- you would remember that everything happens for a reason and that you are a champion. Do not let this disease of the mind infect you. Remember your successes and know that no matter the pain of today, you are one step closer to achieving your goals.
I wish you all the best track season! Run with your heart and always take another step toward your dream. Success is waiting for us at the finish line!