I’m running my 6th half-marathon this Saturday.
(One of my future CGP brides pointed out that means I’ll have basically run 3 marathons; I’m not arguing that logic.)
Training this go-round has not gone well.
A busier-than-expected summer meant less available time to train, despite my recurring 5am wake-up calls. The miserable humidity was like breathing through a wet comforter, the undercurrent of stale heat causing my skin to sting. There were times after only 4-5 miles my muscles would shake and cramp so violently I was scared I couldn’t make it back. I’ve been attacked by bugs the size of kittens; there is a whole other dimension of disgusting when you blend deet and sweat, and I hope you all never have to experience it.
For the Type A, perfectionist, goal-oriented gal that I am, it’s been all too disheartening. The words “What’s the point?” glaring in the distance like a neon sign on a sad street corner.
Couple that with a summer full of business and personal screw-ups, “yes’s” that should’ve been “no’s,” things I had gotten excited about falling through, and LOTS of learning things the hard way, the Doubt Monster has been closing in on what confidence I had left. As his shadow grew bigger over my shoulder, I found myself feeling exhausted. Heavy. Irritable but ironically apathetic. His presence made me feel like I’ve been kidding myself all along; and worse, that maybe I fooled a few of you into believing I live in this magical rainbow-and-margarita-filled bubble of fortitude and goal-crushing.
Truth: I live in a small, messy-ish condo with paper and LaCroix cans scattered across my non-Instagram worthy desk; and any day I wash/fold/put-away laundry in the same day I feel like I deserve a freakin gold medal (can’t resist a timely Olympic reference).
I decided to get in one last conditioning 5-miler over the bridge this morning; at 5:30am, the weather was already 88 degrees with a 92% humidity. Remembering I’ll be in dreamy West Coast Canadian weather in a couple of days, I schlepped my groggy behind into the morning darkness to gruel it out.
Having my usual disparaging run over the bridge, I made the loop and headed back towards the bridge to go up and over the final time of the route. You see, the bridge is not an even bell-curve on both sides: on the way over the first half, it’s a long and slow incline with a sharp, steep drop on the way down. And – you guessed it – on the return half, it’s a beast of vertical hell to get back up. In the 10 months of running this route, even on my best runs, I’ve always had to stop or slow WAY down to climb it.
Approaching the bridge, I prepared for the usual gut-wrenches and shortened breath. I took a few more strides and then a few more; I suddenly realized I didn’t feel the need to slow down. As my music swirled between my ears, my breathing instead caught a fluid rhythm. Then, a weird pushing sensation, followed by a bizarre sense of weightlessness and surmounting momentum that stemmed from my gut. It’s like that feeling that you think you’re way behind and you look up to see you’re actually in the lead with the finish line finally within sight.
I was racing the ghosts of all my previous doubts.
I pushed and climbed and bellowed a throaty AAAGGGHH! all the way to the top.
The hill had been conquered.
And I got a lot of help from the graces I’ve always held from within, a little chorus of cheers echoing in that space between my head and heart.
And what lay before me was the long downhill stretch sending me into the final mile-and-a-half of the run, a light breeze quickly picking up off the marsh. With force of energy I had channelled from the uphill, I unleashed it on the way down. I flew. I expanded. I smiled and wailed in girlish delight like there was cake at the bottom of the hill.
For a brief moment, I had outrun my demons.
The Doubt Monster’s shadow grew smaller, right as the sun peaked through the cloudy morning sky.
In my hazy, sweaty cool-down walk through the condo parking lot, the neon sign’s words had changed to “patience,” “trust,” and the word that got lost in the shuffle of the last few months, “joy.”
The Doubt Monster; the Comparison Beast; the Voices of Reason, Caution, and Self-Degradation; the Furry of Fear; the Anxious Spirits and Gremlins of Apathy.
They’re all real. And loud. And scary. And will never be truly be vanquished. There is no emotional Ghost Busters team that can trap them in little boxes.
But, oh, how you are armed with an internal Marry Poppins bag of tools to help you navigate the scary journey to you. And the only way to find them is to find the quiet.
Whether it’s on your yoga mat in a peaceful studio, getting lost in the details of a creative project, or dragging your behind up a steep hill, that’s where they show up. The forces and experiences that make us feel less than ourselves are there to help us discover – or in some cases, rediscover – the things to overcome them. The moments of where we give ourselves the permission to feel and breath into them is truly a connection with the divine.
These abilities, graces, and tools are not bestowed on a select few. Each of us are endowed with a unique set.
But some of us will have to work a little harder to find them and sustain them.
Which is why the Universe gave us wine.
From there, that’s where the real journey begins: Figuring out how to share them with the World, bringing them to life and creating waves of goodness and magic.
So take the hill, friends. Take it slow, take it sweaty and huffing the whole way. Life is not a flat, clear horizon.
But there is an exhilarating, breezy downhill sprint into the sunrise waiting for you at the top.
It’s worth it. And so are you, Friend.
Hugs & High Fives,