#WomanUp2016 and Bravery

The fabulous Nicole Antoinette and Julia Hanlon have teamed up to create a monthly Real Talk podcast on Julia’s show Running On Om. This month, they gave listeners homework. Nicole’s asked listeners: “What is one thing you are doing to be brave this month?” This is me, trying to #WomanUp2016

One of the coolest parts about being a teacher is having your mind totally blown by the wisdom of your students. A 15-year-old student once told me that each day she tries to give 100% of what she has to give that day. Each day, she explained, the 100% will look differently. The key is show up and to honor and acknowledge whatever that 100% looks like that day.

At the time, this idea resonated with me and I tried to start practicing it in my own life; however, I didn’t fully understood what that actually looks like and feels like for me until now.

In my path into running over the past several years, I’ve always said that the “process” is my favorite part. “I love the training”, I’ve always said. I’m self-motivated enough to train without the golden carrot of a specific race or goal time getting me out the door. I love the process of training, I would say. That is true, and always has been true. I truly wake up wanting to run almost every day, and finding the motivation to lace-up has never been the challenge. I’ve realized, however, that I was a fair-weather subscriber to the process-oriented mindset.

It’s easy to love the process of training, when you are seeing weekly improvements in your running. It’s thrilling to love the process when you feel yourself getting stronger, faster and fitter everyday. The process is a freaking blast when all is going well.

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The “process” is way too easy when the views are like this.

And then things stopped going particularly well for me with my running. I kept thinking: “When can I just get back to the process of training?!?” And that’s when I started to understand—which sounds totally obvious now, and even did at the time, but I just couldn’t fully believe it—that the process isn’t just about when things are shiny and sparkly and magical. The process of becoming a better running isn’t all just about gritting your teeth and feeling your lungs burn on the track. Mental toughness isn’t just built by waking up early, gearing up, and heading out the door.

I’m committed to the long-term, life-long pursuit of running. This is the process. Every day is the process. Showing up when shit hits the fan, and for some random assemblage of reasons you develop intense, constant back pain is the process.  

When I decided to throw my hat in the ring to train for Boston with Children’s Hospital, I had my eyes singularly focused on a PR. A big, shiny PR. I felt it. I could taste it. I was ready to do the work. And then, just as I was “supposed” to start my standard 18-week marathon training buildup, my back decided it had other plans.

As the weeks ticked by, April 18 felt like it was racing towards me as I was sitting firmly still, unable to run. Somewhere along the way, I gave up the idea of a PR for Boston and decided that Boston would be a training run. “I’ll just run for fun!” I said. I started scoping out May and June marathons and thinking about how I could run Boston and then really and truly get my shiny PR later in the year.

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I floated this idea to my coach, Dan, and that’s when I realized I wasn’t being brave. At all. I was not even close to bringing my 100% to each day. “You could do that,” Dan said. “You could choose another marathon later and build towards that…but…why?” “My PR!!!” I kept thinking. “Boston is the best race in the world,” he said. “I don’t want you to get there and regret not racing it.”

That’s when I realized I was not really showing up every day. Racing it, to me, was only “worth it” if I was gunning for a PR. Even though as I write that, it sounds awful and not like whom I’ve always aspired to be, it was totally true. I had given my heart an out under the pretense of being “smart” and “letting myself fully recover from my injury.”

I realize it’s not all black and white. There was part of my logic that wasn’t totally wrong. I was trying to practice expectation management, and trying to run smart. I didn’t want to try to put myself on the path to a PR and run myself into the ground trying to hit paces I haven’t run in months. But isn’t there somewhere in between?

Right now, being brave looks like giving 100% of what I have to give to each step, each mile, each run and each day. Being brave means showing up for each workout and running it based on exactly where I am physically and mentally in that moment. Being brave means running easy paces that feel easy now, based on perceived effort, instead of what I think an easy pace should be in minutes per mile. Being brave means running fast paces as fast as I can, and finding immense joy in the fact that I’m running, without comparing my “fast” to someone else’s “easy”.

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I have no idea what my goal is for Boston, except to get there healthy and run my heart out. Trusting the process means feeling comfortable with—and actually relishing—the fact that I don’t know what I will be capable of on April 18. All I can do is show up everyday, give 100% of what I have to give, and trust that I’ll run the race I was meant to run that day.

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