Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Do Something Hard

          Do something hard. Do something you don't think you could possibly do.  Go out, and do it.  One of my favorite motivators is my track coach from high school.  I joined the team not because I loved the sport, or had any desire to run.  I had friends on the team, the coach had a curious kindness, and being on a team meant I didn't have to go home after school.  In fact, the first season I showed up just long enough to get the jersey, then wore it on meet days so my parents thought I was still on the team.  I didn't have to go home after school, it was perfect.  I joined again the second year, this time I'd try out the field events, again so I didn't have to run.  Somewhere along the way, I grew to find a place there.  Running short distances during practice became tolerable.  Beating my own times became "fun".  All the while my dear track coach pushing me to do cross country. 
          Running long distances seemed impossible and I couldn't understand why anyone would desire to spend their time in such agony.  After graduation, I would run a mile a few times a week (that seemed to far!). One day, I woke up and decided to do a 5k.  In my mind I owed it to my track coach.  He did so much for me, so I was going to do this for him.  It took a very long time to work up to even 2 miles.  Years, really. I didn't put a timeline on my goal, so I took my time. I did the 5k, and that day it was the longest I had run. It felt like it took eternity to finish. I remember being exhausted all day afterwards, but feeling like I finally conquered distance running. 
          Skip ahead a few more years when I got this crazy idea to run a half marathon.  It's just a 5k with a 10 mile warm up, right? I felt like I had to do it, because it seemed so scary, and so impossible, that I had to get in it's face and do it.  Well, I will say a 5k started to seem like a warm up, and running that distance started to be part of the day, and not exhausting but exhilarating.  Some runs were really hard, even the short ones.  Some were tolerable.  Some were almost..."fun"?  I'm not sure a runners definition of "fun" is the same as the rest of the worlds, but when a run isn't agonizing I can see the runner using "fun" just because it's so exciting that they got through it without hating every step.  I ran when I was physically ill, physically hurt, emotionally flat, sad, having good days, having bad days, in the hot, in the cold, in the rain.  I ran under every circumstance, so I knew on race day no matter what was going on, I'd have done it before. 
          Race day came, and I was petrified.  My longest training run was just under 12 miles.  I had to stop my last run after 3 miles because of hip and knee pain.   I had over trained my calves weeks before, which changed my stride making my knee hurt.  I changed again because of my knee, so my hip hurt.  I hoped I had done what I needed to change my stride back.  I had no idea what was going to happen.  We started, and every step was a step forward.  Every step was a step closer to the finish.  I was nervous I wouldn't finish the whole time.  I was scared my knees would stop working, or my hip would give out.  Every step after the 12th mile was even more scary. I had never gone that far, can I keep going? I kept going.  I wasn't dying, my joints were working, I can't even remember if my feet hurt. I just remember hearing the announcer announcing names as they finished, then seeing the finish line .5 mile away and thinking, "I could walk there and I'd make it."  What a relief! It was a beautiful, sunny day. I ran the rest of the way around a pretty lake and crossed the finish 4 minutes under my "in a perfect world" goal time.  30-45 seconds faster per minute than I trained. It. Was. Awesome.
            In the days after, there were a few things that came up that I would have thought scary, and impossible.  They didn't seem as scary, or impossible anymore.  Nothing seemed impossible anymore.  Things that were hard, didn't seem like such a big deal.  Not only that, but, I used to not run because of every excuse.  Not because I was trying to be lazy, but because I didn't think it was possible.  Now, I know I'll get through it.  I can run hurt, tired, sick, scared, sad, overwhelmed.  Things that were paralyzing don't have to be.  Honestly, there were very few training runs that had perfect weather, and I felt good enough to have a great run.  Almost every time there was a good reason for me not to go.  It was a slow process, and I'm an impatient person so each day came with new challenges.  Goals don't happen over night, the bigger the goal, the longer and harder the fight...and the better the reward. 
         Of course, I have to liken this all to life.  Every day is a training run.  I have a lot of emotional stumbling blocks.  A lot of paralyzing thoughts and feelings.  Can I treat them like the physical stumbling blocks during all those runs? Instead of letting them stop me, can I acknowledge they are there, and change my stride so I can get to the finish without so much pain that I just can't go on? Physically growing my body to be able to finish that race wasn't easy. But it wasn't impossible.  And now, growing emotionally enough to conquer all these stumbling blocks in my brain seems a little more possible.  So, if you want something to seem a bit less scary, or make something impossible possible, go do something bigger, and harder.  Over reach.  Pick something so far away that touching it will mean every other mountain becomes a mole hill.  In the words of Nike, "Just Do It."

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