INSPIRED! - Days 22 - 31
Don't run on slippery ground with worn down shoe treads. There are two wooden footbridges on my running route. When the ground is dry, I love running over them. They're built over a pretty little babbling brook with weeping willow tree branches brushing over their railings. Aside from the visual deliciousness, the sound of the running water alongside the sound of my feet landing on the hollow wood brings me joy.
Fast forward to the same footbridges after 2 days of rain. It only took one shoe landing on the wood to know that my fun little footbridge was now a wooden slip n' slide. So, although these bridges are my favorite stretch of the run under different conditions, I knew that attempting to run them today wasn't wise. The conditions have changed and they just aren't safe for the time being, especially since I'm running with nearly treadless shoes for the rest of the month.
Yet again, lessons in running apply to life. Sometimes you run the same route over and over, enjoying it. However, if the conditions change rendering it unsafe it's just not worth it to insist on running on it anyway just because that's my normal, favorite way. The cost of injury forcing you to stop running before your time is up is not only too great, it's just not necessary.
Something strange happened on my run today. At one point, up ahead of me stood a dad with a baby in a jogging stroller, a little girl who may have been about 3 and then his son who looked around six or seven. They had stopped so that the little girl could pick a branch from the giant honeysuckle bushes that had grown over half the path in that area. Between them and the overgrown bush, the path was blocked. As I approached, the little boy suddenly looked up and said Watch out for the RUNNER!. My immediate inner response was, Who in the world is this kid talking about. Surely, he's not talking about me. I'm not a runner. The thing is, to the little boy who simply observed me running, I am a runner. He didn't need to know how long I've been running or how far. He didn't care how fast I was going (#notfast). He didn't even care if my body looked like the stereotypical runner's body (nope). The boys only criteria in defining me as a runner was that I was, in fact, running.
I'm still not entirely sure what the criteria is for earning the right to call yourself a runner or who sets that criteria anyway. While we're at it, who sets the criteria for other identity labels. When are we a leader, a writer, a teacher, an artist? The little boy may have it right. Maybe we're a runner if we simply run, a leader if we in some way lead even just one person, a writer if we simply write words, a teacher if we simply share knowledge, an artist if we simply produce art in some form. Maybe the first step is owning those identities. If I identify as a runner, I'll be more inclined to continue to run and to run well. If I identify as a leader or a teacher, I'll be less likely to shy away from opportunities to lead or teach on larger scales. If I identify as a writer or an artist, I'll continue to write or create with confidence.
I'm now 24 days past the borders of my comfort zone. As such, I'm far from comfortable. A necessary google search has taught me what a sartorius muscle is, why runners (I guess that's me now?) often experience soreness there and how to stretch it out. I've become besties with kinesio tape and arnica gel. I've sweat 24,000 gallons. (Give or take). I have a blister the size of a quarter on the arch of my left foot.
If I leave it at that, I wouldn't blame anyone for wondering why it's even worth leaving my comfortable, kt tape free comfort zone, but here's the thing. Although it's uncomfortable out here on the daily, I really like the person I am when I'm out here. I'm stronger, willing to dream a little bigger in other aspects of life. (If I can now run 24 whole minutes without dying when I could barely run one minute just 24 days ago, it kinda seems like anything is possible) and every day I have at least one thing I can feel proud to have accomplished.
Ironically, the real truth of the matter is that as I look behind me I realize that although I am indeed 24 days past the borders of my original comfort zone, those borders have actually expanded! While the original borders stood tall at a 30 second run at the most, or moderate non-challenging exercise no more than 3 days a week, I now don't even look at my stop watch to see how close I am to the end until around the 15 minute mark. I'm pretty comfortable until then. The realization that as you run further and further away from your comfort zone, those borders also expand to keep up with you makes me wonder what else I could accomplish with a newly expanded comfort zone.
Pain is inevitable, struggle is a choice. This is a quote I heard the other day by Colin O-Brady, the athlete who originally inspired this little challenge of mine. Now that I've been running something more than 20 minutes for the past 5 days with a week left I'm getting to the point where most people have rest days in between runs. However, for the purpose of this challenge I'm asking my body to push through with only 24 hours or so in between each run. That means pain is inevitable. Despite that fact, I refuse to approach the next week struggling through each run. The good news is only some parts of my body hurt, not all of it. The worst offender is the bottom of my sartorius muscle-on the inside and right below my left knee. This is far from the worst pain I've experienced. Four kids- three with no pain medicine, thank you very much. Also, when I began this challenge, the things I thought would be most difficult or painful about running longer.aren't! I have near mastered the art of endurance breathing and don't feel out of breath anymore. My shins and upper quads feel absolutely fine and I haven't gotten even one side stitch the entire month. Instead, I am one tiny muscle pain from a pain free run. That one pain doesn't get to define the whole run experience.
Have you ever had one of those days where you set out to do something and then realize after it's too late that you are ill prepared? That was precisely my situation for today's run.
I knew going in that my bummed out sartorius muscle may decide to protest running very loudly. That was a given. Once I reached the beginning of the running trail and went to set my timer for 26 minutes and turn on my podcast, I realized way too late that my phone hadn't charged the night before, leaving it at just 7% battery. Since having my stopwatch is imperative, that meant no podcast or music for me. Lastly, about 8 or so minutes in I was reminded that I had forgotten to bandage up the huge blister on the bottom of my foot. Blister pain is something I can handle, sure, however I wouldn't choose it on purpose.
The task hadn't changed regardless of my lack of preparedness for it so I kind of shrugged my shoulders and ran on. As a result, 26 minutes were run. It's funny how many things we think we need in order to succeed at something. In the end, most of them are simply comfort measures and preferences. They aren't truly as essential to the goal as we've made them out to be in our mind after all.
If I had a recording of my inner voice on both Day 1 and today, the difference would be glaring. On Day 1 as I huffed and puffed through that 60 seconds my inner voice said things like, This is so incredibly pathetic. You're not even 40 and you can BARELY run for 60 tiny little seconds and Don't run on the street where lots of people can see you. One look and they'll wonder why you're running. You don't look like a runner. Best stick to the little path in the woods where there's a better chance that no one will see you..
Never, ever in a million years would I ever speak to another human soul the way I allow my inner voice to speak to me. That's not tough love. That's abuse. I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but slowly that abusive inner voice changed. I laughed out loud on my run today as I sort of became conscious of my now sometimes sicky-sweet inner voice. At some point, it has begun calling my body pet names like Honey and Sweet Friend. Example: Don't worry if you need to go a bit slower now, this hill is huge, sweet friend, or I know it burns but that'll go away when you're done and it just means you're gonna get stronger, honey.
The sad thing is, I never did anything in the past to deserve the crappy way I had become accustomed to speaking to myself internally. In fact, I'm lucky that despite that abuse, my body has continued to show up for me for 37 years and 1 month.
It occurred to me today that this is the only time in my entire life that I've ever exercised for any other reason just trying to lose weight or look better. Although those things may be an added side benefit to this whole thing, they are not now, nor have they ever been enough to cause me to maintain consistency with exercise, let alone actually enjoy it. Looking back, without realizing it I had defined exercise as a punishment necessary to endure because of or in order to avoid some negative body issue that I had. My brain said, yes this is necessary for health but that had never been my true motivation.
However, this month I've run consistently despite any benefit to my weight or looks. I've run because I wanted to feel stronger as a person, because if not now, when? I've run because of the profound similarities I've discovered that it has to life in general. I've run because at the beginning of the month I set a goal and I owe it to myself to see that through.
Each day after my run ends and I walk the rest of the way home, I stop and sit on one of the barnwood rockers on my front porch, rather than immediately going inside. I always set my water bottle out there before I leave so it's ready for me when I return.
The reason I do this very deliberately, is because the first 5 minutes of stillness that happens after having completed the day's run is so delicious, I'm not willing to miss it. If I go into the house right away, the whirlwind of kids, the dog and everything else sure to meet me at the door will drown out that quiet sacred moment.
For those five minutes I sit alone and still, in total contrast to the previous whatever-minutes. I feel the satisfaction of having used every resource I had available within my body for the moment. There's a feeling of completeness, strength, accomplishment. My senses all seem heightened. I take notice of the brush of the ceiling fan and the sun on my skin. The chirping of birds and the purr of the air conditioning unit ring clearer than usual. The promise of that time is worth the work of running to me.
It takes a lot of energy to fear heat. It's a beautiful, warm Saturday morning today. That being said, I made the slight mistake of waiting until close to 11:30 to do my run. Had I left just one hour earlier the temperature would have been about 72. However, in that hour it rose to a toasty 84 degrees, which I believe may be the warmest temperature I've run in all month. As I began to run, feeling the warm sun on my skin, I felt as though I was physically attempting to somehow avoid heating up as I ran. Whenever I would progress from a shady point to a sunny one it was though I was almost holding my breath, fearing the wall of heat about to slam into me. Needless to say, fearing that heat not only zapped my energy, but it was also just a miserable way to run. It finally occurred to me that if I could visualize the heat both running through but also immediately pouring out of my body as I ran, I could just run into it and let it go. The heat and I were like two beings running toward and then passing through each other constantly. I'm pretty sure every ounce of sweat in my body was left somewhere on my neighborhood running path.
Now, excuse me while I go refill my water bottle again.
Eight hours and twenty-six minutes. If I add all the minutes I ran this month, that's what it equals. Every single minute had an impact, from the one minute I ran gasping for breath on May 1st to the thirty-one I ran today breathing steadily and feeling confident all the way to the end, not one minute was wasted.
The truth is, this project and the article series in Charlotte Athlete that will come from it isn't about running, not once you peel back the first layer of the story. When I came back inside after my run today, I
said to my eight year old son, Hey, your mom can run 31 minutes without stopping now, isn't that cool? His response was, Yeah...but, why? The kid had a point. It's not the actual act of running for 31 minutes that truly matters. It's the WHY that makes the accomplishment worth it. It's the WHY that makes it a worthwhile story to publish.
Because I set a goal that seemed VERY scary in the beginning and that
I had big doubts about actually accomplishing.
My kids saw mom publicly set a goal that seemed completely out of her character and ability and actually accomplish it.
Because witnessing my body do what's necessary to carry me through this month has given me a new appreciation for it. Where I saw mostly short-comings, I now see so much cause for gratitude.
Because if not now, when? I will never look back and wish I had learned to run when I had the chance. This won't be on a list of missed opportunities.
Because I started a month as one person and ended it as a VERY different person, both physically and mentally. (I'm confident it's the most I've ever grown in such a short period of time).
I gained the courage to challenge my endurance. The need to do this will most likely come up again in my life. When it does, I can draw confidence from this experience that I may not have had before.