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September 05, 2017

I Quit The Quitting

beth baker

At 26, I had a mid-20’s crisis… It’s a thing, really. I realized I wasn't good at anything. I skirted around hobbies and projects, trying things on and then ditching them in the gutter weeks later to chase something else shiny. I was a professional quitter, except I never got paid. I had never gotten the thrill of accomplishing something to completion on my own terms.

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So, I had an idea: to run a marathon. YES! That will be the answer to everything. I’ll train and run it, and then I will finish that f*cker and prove to myself and all those crappy bad brain voices who kept laughing at me that and stopped me from accomplishing anything. YES. Now, all I needed to do is start running.

The months that followed were a stop/start version of attempting to run, making mistakes, wearing the wrong bra and shoes, crying, cursing and eating everything in sight (‘cause I was almost a runner). After an entire year, I completed my very first 5k. Yes, a whole year of training for 3.1 glorious miles. I ran the whole thing and cried like a baby at the end. 3.1 miles. Yep.

So, now marathon training is in full force. I had one picked out in Southern California in 6 months, The Long Beach International Marathon. It just sounded flat and perfect for my debut as a marathoner. But in those 6 months, things happened. I went on a honeymoon, then got laid off from my job, I got a fun bout of depression and oh, right, I had to train for a marathon. I had no job, and the running was helping with the brain and depression. Every morning, I got out and ran with my yellow Walkman and backpack full of They Might Be Giants and The Breeders cassette tapes. This was before Gamins, so I ran with a calculator watch (which was so awesome) as my mile timer. And if you typed in 80085 it looked like BOOBS which was hysterical at 15 miles… I digress.

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A 17 miler was on the schedule and my head just was like, 'NOPE! F*ck this, let’s quit!! It’s so much easier than running 17 miles and you are SO much better at quitting.' So, I did. I quit for a whole week, and then the following week, went out and ran 17 miles. It was an unprecedented moment in my life. I went and did something that was hard, and for me, and I did it on purpose. I had done many hard things in my life, but this time it was for me, and I wanted to quit so, so badly. But here’s the funny thing; quitting stopped serving me. It had worn out its welcome and I officially bid it adieu. 17 miles was so hard, but then I realized, it’s just running. It’s just my legs, my heart and The Breeders were all going out for a 4 hour sweat party.

Then 9-11-01 fell upon the nation. As with the rest of the world, I was broken by it. It was just the May before I was spinning under those twin towers when we were on our honeymoon. My brain kicked in and was yelling. “Perfect!! You can quit now! It’s such a perfect OUT. You are too sad to run, it’s all too much.” I thanked my brain for sharing, put my headphones on and completed my training. I had to stop and sit on the sidewalk and bawl my eyes out when a sad song came on. All those people, that city, the fear, the new world, cry, keep running, rinse, repeat… for 20 miles.

When I showed up at the starting line of the marathon, there was a firefighter from New York there in full uniform, holding a huge flag. Yup, I am going to run a marathon, and that guy is going to run it with me with 2000 other people. And we did, together.

I didn’t cry at the end, but it was the first time I had the feeling of, “If I can do this, I can do anything.” Hard work and passion can move mountains and heal.

I have run 12 marathons since then and one ultra, for you see, it is just running. You just have to want to do it, and be open to the lessons down the road.

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Comments

Lucy | September 5, 2017 at 12:03pm

Such a heartfelt piece, Beth.

Such a heartfelt piece, Beth. Thank you for sharing this with us! Running has similarly saved me - from my own undercurrents of depression, from a sense of futility and stasis, even from simple boredom. Keep on running!

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