Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tapping into your reserves

Let me chronicle how a many of my runs typically go for you.  I'm going to use a five mile run in this example, because well, it's the farthest I've managed since running the half (please refer to previous post re: elliptical and trashy magazines). 

Mile 1: This feels nice.  Moving feels good.  Let's enjoy this.
Mile 2: Whoa.  Look at my pace!  This is great.  Running is a breeze.  Pheobe be damned, I am a runner.  A real runner!!
Mile 2.5: Time to turn around.  Halfway there and doing great.  I'd pat myself on the back, but running takes every ounce of my concentration and I'd probably trip and fall.
Mile 3: Hmmm...this isn't feeling so fun now.  Look at all those real runners flying by.  Damn six pack abs and chisled legs. 
Mile 3.5: Are you freaking kidding me?  What kind of an idiot thought I could run 5 miles?!?  I can't run one more minute.  I am no runner.  I should just stick to the indoor gym equipment where it's nice and air conditioned and I can rest my water bottle and towel right next to me and watch E! News.  What are Brad and Angelina up to anyway?  THIS SUCKS I CAN'T DO IT.  I WANT TO QUIT!!!  --Now this ususally where I start negotiating with myself and saying things like, "okay, you can stop at four miles, it's close enough to five.  What does that last mile matter?  Who's going to know you didn't finish what you started?  Only me and I what do I know?  I'm the one that thought you could do five.  Obviously my opinion isn't to be trusted." And, by then I've usually hit mile four. 
Mile 4:  One more mile to go, I'm going to try this.  --Right here is where the magic happens people.  At mile four.  On that last dreaded hard mile it just happens and it happens out of nowhere, I suddenly start running again.  Really running.  Yes, it's hard and it hurts, but I'm doing it.  The end is in sight and my body is headed home.  My pace improves, time starts to quicken and there I am suddenly running again. And I've made it all five miles.

This is exactly how it went for me when running my first (and only) full marathon back in 2011.  I started so strong.  I thought it was going to be the race of my life.  I was flying.  And then WHAM.  Mile 15 hit and I was struggling.  Mile 15!!  It was way too early for the dreaded wall.  I hadn't even planned to start struggling until well into the 20+ mile mark.  I was in a bad place mentally and physically.  26.2 (yeah, that .2 matters) was looking flat out impossible. The only will I could muster was to keep moving.  And the moving was not pretty.  My feet were moving one foot in front of the other, but that was about it.  It went on like this for miles and miles.  What had I gotten myself into?  I wasn't just being passed by real runners, I was being passed by everyone.  But, I kept going and going and going.  And before I knew it (no, that's not true at all.  I knew and felt every miserable tenth of a mile, but there's not really a good phrase for, "after suffering through five agonizing, embarrassing, humbling, and torturous miles"), I was approaching that final mile.  By this time, my big toe had burst through my sock, I'd stepped in water so one entire shoe was soaking wet and slushy with water, my cute marathon hat and been thrown down somewhere long gone, and I was a mess. But there I was suddenly running, really running!  I was watching my trusty Garmen as the pace quickened, and quickened, until finally I was sprinting.  I was being carried on by I don't know what, but it was happening and I finished all 26.2 miles.

Here's the thing that I found that day:  Deep down inside of us, in a place that we can't even find for ourselves, is a huge reserve of strength, power, determination, and endurance just waiting for when we need it most.  We are capable of so much more than we can even imagine.  But getting there isn't always easy.  There will be plenty of times, especially in that last long mile, when you are just barely limping along and not sure you can make it one more step, when that reserve will kick in and carry you through.

There are times and circumstances in my personal life when it all just gets too exhausting, too hard, too scary, too sad, too overwhelming, and frankly, just too much.  During these times, I've had so many wonderful people say wonderful things to me like, "You are such a saint, "I don't know how you do it," and "You are so strong." I know these people have the best of intentions and their kind words are always appreciated, but the fact is that they are all flat wrong.  The only thing of any note that I've ever done to get through the too much times, is to wake up the next day and keep going.  What really gets me through is nothing I do, it's what's been done for me.  It's what God/Life created in me for when I need it, it's the unending reserve that gets me through. 

So, here is the best part of today's long run lesson:  You don't have to DO anything.  You don't have store away extra courage, strength, endurance, etc. in easy times for when you might need it.  You don't have to cultivate a reserve for the hard days.  You just have to trust that the reserve is already there and all you have to do is decide you will keep going that last mile and the reserve will carry you through.  I can't promise it will be pretty, but I can promise that your reserve will get you through to the finish line.

And when you get there, if you're really lucky like I was at the end of that last mile, Pandora will smile on you and play you a little Ice Cube circa 1993,"Today was a Good Day."  Yeah, Ice Cube, it was.

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