While on the plane to Seattle I had more than a few moments to reflect on something that has been on my mind for a couple weeks now. Namely, I don’t think I have a marathon in me after all. I’d like to talk about what goes on in a persons head, well really mine I guess, when he decides to stop and readjust a set of goals.
I’ve been running for a little more than two years now. I suppose a case could be made that it’s been at once both literal and metaphorical. In that scope I’ve learned a great deal about myself during this time. Maybe I’m a little prone to infatuation. Maybe I’m a bit manic. Who knows? But I o tend to dive into one thing or another with a fierceness that should burn out quickly. But not always as seen with running. Sometimes it just tapers down to a sustainable burn. As I’ve been mixing in weight training slowly and doing more outdoor activities my goals have shifted by a couple degrees. Enough to find myself on a slightly adjusted path that is.
There was an online article which spoke to the moment a runner decides to drop out of a race because it was not for him at that time. I’ve tried to train for a marathon three times now and the goal continues to elude me. Bottom line is that I don’t run to compete for a time, I just run to be there, which makes me a little bit of a unique runner in some ways. Every mile is part of a larger set of memories now that bolster my mood and elevate my mind into a place of stillness that makes me think that it’s my time to bail on a goal.
So here’s the pivot after re learning how to be outdoors this summer in small measured steps. I’d rather dedicate the marathon energy into working with a personal trainer to get fit enough for progressively longer outdoor wilderness hikes in 2018. One of those week long trips where you drive out, throw the pack on and start walking until it’s time to set up camp under the stars. And while I intend to keep running for health I’m not entirely sure I need to enroll in races anymore either. There are some that I’m very fond of yes, and I love the community around race culture, but I am inclined to think my path holds other things for me.
As with meditation. I fought it for a long time and eventually gave in and adopted the practice. It’s been nothing less than a door opener for me as well. And yeah, I still suck at it but I have a better understanding of what it means to simply observe and not react. That alone is a personal eureka moment as I have a history of trying to command life and plot everything out along neat little-bulleted lists. I still do but I am better at catching myself now and then.
The same applies to bouts of depression I’ve had to deal with post heart attack. The thing that happens is that my motivation hits absolute zero and I don’t workout, beyond things like walking to work and getting a maintenance level of around 7000 to 8000 of steps in per day. My new way of thinking has been useful in not creating a self-defeating dialog in my head. I can look at those mini battles and choose to simply move forward. Go work out, put running shoes on, sign up for a yoga class or skip rope. I’ve had about three of these weeks this summer. A few in spring and a handful over winter. Enough to realize that it’s a pattern and something I need to learn more about as exercise is one of the key pillars in holding heart disease at bay. At least as much as anyone can anyway.
When I wrote my “Invincible Summer” post, all about my goal to run a marathon, I was full of fire and, arguably, denial. Two years in I have a better perspective on what health and life balance really means to me. I guess, to run that to the end, I’ve learned what it’s like to live day to day, week to week, month by month with an open heart and self-forgiveness in mind always. We are probably all our own worst critics. This is good. Self-critique functions in some ways like anxiety. But as my therapist taught me anxiety is actually a beneficial emotion. One that can help us to stay vigilant. Not fall off cliffs or eaten by bears. You get the idea. Self-critique is the same thing. We need to look in the mirror sometimes and check ourselves. But with both anxiety and self-criticism, we also need to know when enough is enough so we can live healthy balanced lives. For me, this came recently with my choice to drop the word “marathon” from my rotation. Sad yeah? Maybe not. It allowed me to add in the idea of longer hiking goals for 2018 as I mentioned earlier.
How do you know when it’s time to change course? I think it has something to do with how you feel inside about what you are doing. I know a lot of cross fitters. Those workouts are seriously intense to the point of making people vomit. Yet it’s the enthusiasm that the group provides to help the individual challenge her or himself and accomplish things that make them proud and grateful for the experience. On the other hand, there are times when we are faced with efforts that yield diminishing returns where we may find ourselves looking sideways at other paths. And I think that’s it right there. You will know when your path calls you from a different angle in the thick of things. The trick is to simply listen to yourself during the journey.
So it’s still a long way out but it’s the idea/goal that is the important thing. So I’m looking forward to some shorter runs in Seattle and Portland over the next week. Time with friends. Time spent thinking about a very sick very core friend back home who suffered a hemorrhagic stroke with a deep brain bleed which I’m not emotionally equipped to talk about yet. Missing Eddie and the cats but happy and grateful for the change of scenery and opportunity to see old friends and make new ones.
I guess I found the fork in my road after all and decided to drop off of one path while finding footing on a new one. Life is full of surprises, tragedy, miracles, sex, love, and fun. I think that is probably exactly what my lesson may embody after all.