lessons from 18
Yesterday, I ran 18 miles. The last stretch of four felt brutal. In my seventeenth mile, it was all I could do to keep taking a step after another. I almost felt tears build up from the pain, but was encouraged by my little sister, who was texting me jokes and support. How could I possibly make it to 26.2 if it hurts this much to get to 18? Afterwards, I felt the familiar satisfaction of checking off another long run, and thought, I’m single digits away from a marathon now.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the last day. First of all, I’ve spent the last two years being intimidated by a marathon - thinking about it, hovering over the sign up button on races, deciding to complete another half marathon instead. I’d cross the finish line at a 13.1 and think, “That was only half way to a marathon!” But when my sister approached me saying this year was finally the year, I felt brave enough to try. Let it be known that I still didn’t sign up until half way through training, choosing to commit myself only to the work first, some part of me in denial that I was really going to attempt this. In some ways, my emotions yesterday are progress. I’m on the path, fully experiencing the journey of making it to a marathon. I’m not scared anymore. I’m not saying, Someday. I’m doing it, and by doing it, I realized that I totally could’ve done it all along, and there was no need to spend so much time toying with the idea, letting it flow to the front of my mind and ebb away again.
But despite this, I’m still not being kind to myself. Instead of celebrating 18, I reveled in the difficulty of getting there as I closed in, letting the pain in my legs convince me I wasn’t doing enough. I framed the success of completing the run around the goal of running a 26.2, not the accomplishment itself. This mentality is a small snapshot of the thoughts that drive me. Nothing I do ever feels like it’s enough, and I’m constantly itching to do more. Even an achievement that seemed WILD at the beginning of the summer, running 18 miles (writing this, I remember and feel my old incredulity towards the idea of being able to run so far), feels disposable outside of the context of a marathon. Why?
It doesn’t take work to want more - that’s human nature. It takes work not to want more. I try to live my life in my stretch zone, fingers reaching, grasping for the next rung. What I struggle with is being present and keeping my feet anchored, appreciating each moment for what it is. Goals and purpose are important, and I strongly believe in their necessity for happiness. But equally as important is centering the understanding that each second of our lives is precious because there are no guarantees of another, and every part of our journey should be celebrated. Because when I cross that finish line (God willing), the euphoria of having done it won’t be about that day. It’ll be about every moment that lead up to it, all the work, the time invested, the sweat and struggle. And the time to appreciate that isn’t then. It’s now.
So as I write this, I’m committing to being more present. I’m proud of myself for completing 18 miles, not because it’s another step towards 26.2, but because I worked really damn hard to do it, and my body is literally restructuring itself to handle the intensity. That’s awesome! I woke up early on a Sunday to do something purely for the purpose of achieving a personal milestone, and I should honor that. Yesterday wasn’t about November 18th, it was about yesterday. Today isn’t about my exam next week or my job tomorrow, it’s about today. Let your life not be defined by its series of hills and valleys, but by the joy of traversing them, the rise and fall of each day’s miracles.
What’s your 18?