Running with the Black Dog
I failed to finish a long training run recently. It shouldn't have mattered, but it did. It's the first time, other than due to injury, that I've had to stop either in a race or in a training run due to depression. It hurt, letting others down hurt more, but I couldn't deal with the issues in my mind and I knew going on would have made things worse. The reasons behind the bout of depression are fairly recent and so the memories are vivid.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a quitter. 15 years of being in the military teaches you not to give up and fight on regardless, but it doesn't teach you to walk away and let go. It equips you to go after a target using every technique available, but it doesn't help you erase memories or switch off thoughts that can haunt you from ugliness that you have seen or the information you have learnt.
Normally I distract myself on my long runs. I take in the scenery, talk to others, concentrate on the race, pace or just force the thoughts out. Sometimes it's not that easy. The mind plays horrid tricks at times and kicks memories into your face when you least expect them or want them. Not only do the thoughts disrupt your normal reasoning but they steal the enjoyment from the running, the natural endorphins don't kick in and, for me at least, it becomes a battle of wills that I can't always win.
The training run in question was a night run around the Imber Ultra course, a distance I normally run with ease. It was planned for the night to test endurance and emulate some of the tiredness of running through the night. But I was already very tired through lots of driving and I had not mentally had a great week. The hope was that organising and starting the run would push me through.
So I have to learn, to finish the TP100 I'll need to deal with these thoughts and push through regardless. I will be tired, I will be pushing against the clock to finish within the cut off time and I will need to focus on the course. There will be a crew with me on the race who know to watch out for signs and how to keep me on track, my hope is that it will not come to it.
I completed 14 miles that night and then forced myself out the next day to run an easy paced 7 miles, finishing the weekend with a solo 20 miles. Getting the running shoes back on was important to me, I knew if I'd left it I could lose more miles at this important point in the training. I will beat this, I've been bitten three times by the dog, time to bite back hard.
Black dog (depression), a term coined by Samuel Johnson and popularised by Sir Winston Churchill, referring to their major depressive disorders