Courage: the Path to Thriving

I thought 2015 was my year to thrive. I thought my focus would be on thriving, on blooming, on flourishing. I feel myself thriving at work. I focus on thriving in my relationships at home. I desperately want to thrive in my running. But another word keeps finding its way to my heart: courage

The Shamrock Half Marathon is twenty-two days away. Every single time I re-engage with my training, a curve ball happens: snow, lack of sleep, higher intensity at work. A focused training plan constantly gets moved to the back-burner. At the end of each run, I look at my garmin to see my running pace. A pace in the mid-nines doesn’t feel like thriving. I want eight minute miles, but I can not possibly thrive in all the areas of my life right now if I have a strict focus on my running. It’s not the balance I want in my day-to-day. As the days get closer to race weekend, I’ve felt anxiety about my own ability to run.

I have a competitive spirit. I like to thrive. I like to do my best. I like to push myself. I like to feel like I’ve overcome my self doubts. I like for my spirit to win the battle when my head says I can’t. Will I be happy running a race in the mid-nines when I have much bigger (and faster) running dreams?

While I’ve been desperate to thrive in my running, a different word keeps finding me. In order to thrive, I need to have courage: courage to let go of the race clock, courage to not let my success be defined by a finish time, courage to show up and to push myself out of my comfort zone, courage to show up with an open heart, and courage to go in with all my heart no matter the outcome

“Courage, dear heart.” ~C.S. Lewis

Running is never about running for me. Running is about my heart.

Today I ran six miles before our town gets buried by more snow. I was joined on my run by only the sound of my feet as I navigated snow-covered paths, sandy trails, and shoreline. As I ran, I couldn’t get this quote out of my head.

“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering it’s a featherbed.” ~Terence McKenna

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I came to my blog to find it. I wanted to read my own words. I needed to see the story that belonged to this quote. When I found it, I smiled.

One year ago yesterday, I typed the same quote. One year ago yesterday, I was rejected by Operation Smile. I was told no when my heart was screaming yes. I thought my dream job had just slipped away. The lesson that I learned through that whole process is the one I try to live everyday. I will always show up with an open heart. I will always show up with my heart exposed. I will always give my whole heart to everything I do, because there isn’t anything that I want in my life that doesn’t deserve my whole heart.

I have to have courage to trust the process.

In twenty-two days when I show up at the start line, the only thing that matters is keeping my heart exposed. I will push myself. I will find the courage to trust my own strength and my own story. One year ago yesterday when I was told no, I knew without a doubt that I would never give up on my dreams. I refused to let it change my heart.

“There is one thing I won’t let today’s no stop me from doing. I refuse to stop dreaming. I know, without a doubt, that I will leave my finger print on our world. Maybe I’ll never see it. Maybe I’ll never have that dream job that reaches into the forgotten corners of our planet. Maybe I’ll never get the chance to nurture someone back to health. But maybe I will. Just maybe I will.” ~me

Neither my heart or my story care about the time on the race clock. My only goal is to cross the finish line feeling like I’m thriving. My only goal is to finish this race knowing that my running dreams can still come true.

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In the Process

I had no intention of running the Shamrock half marathon this year. I was planning to be on a work trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I thought I’d be in the heart of Africa working with patients doing something my heart loves. Plans changed. When my own personal safety came into question, the heart of my family became my priority. These very deserving patients will get treatment even if I’m not there, and my boys don’t have to worry about my safety.

There’s a saying floating around in this world that joy is found in the process not in the finish line. While I won’t be traveling to the DRC, a shift changed inside of me by working on this project. The story of these patients is so closely entwined with my heart. Who I am as a person and the beat of my heart directly connects me to their story. I rediscovered a passion inside of me over the past few months. I’ve found confidence in my own voice and in my own story. I’ve been using my voice to capture my story on paper. I’ve revisited places of shame and guilt that existed within me, and I conquered those doubts. I wanted more than anything to bring strength to these patients. I wanted to bring compassion and courage. In order to bring it to them, I had to find it for myself.

This process has changed me. In some ways it’s been subtle. In other ways it’s been intrusive. Rearranging the components of your soul is messy. It’s chaotic. While some parts have emerged, others have left with a fight. There have been days I’ve felt emotionally unstable as I’ve struggled through this transition: old doubts and insecurities struggling to hold on while new-found strength and courage fought to take over.

Through all this change the one place I’ve been able to sort through all my thoughts is in my running shoes. I’ve worked through it all, celebrated it all, and finished every run feeling like a polished version of my self. Shamrock race weekend feels like the perfect place to shine. This year I’ll be running the Shamrock half marathon instead of traveling to Africa, but I’ll be carrying this entire process with me. The finish line isn’t the one I anticipated, but the process has been the same.

I’ll be running with these patients close to my heart. I’ll be running with the courage and determination I hoped to bring to them. The best way I can honor them and myself is to show up to my life with my heart exposed filled with strength and courage.

When I do board a plane this spring for a different mission site, my heart is going to have nothing to give but love that is rooted in my own strength. My foundation will be built on strength and courage.

 

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Alive

Thrive: Verb: 1. to prosper, be fortunate or successful 2. to grow or develop vigorously; flourish

Today I stuck to the main trail at First Landing State Park – a trail I haven’t run in nearly a year. As I ran the familiar trail, I ran through the memories of running down the Cape Henry Trail. Some of my biggest running dreams were dreamt on that trail. My confidence as a runner bloomed on this trail. It was on this trail that I realized what I’m capable of as a runner. The best I’ve ever felt on a long run happened on that trail resulting in speedy miles.

Somewhere in the middle of today’s miles, I came face to face with how guarded I’ve become with my running. It seems to happen often when I don’t meet my own expectations: I became complacent with my running goals. This summer I took a  break from training and goal driven runs. My heart needed a reset. While my heart is back in running, I’ve been holding onto the protection. I’ve been protecting myself from dreaming too big. Big dreams and big goals are scary, but running complacent isn’t what makes my heart sing.

Today, along a trail that held my running dreams, I decided it’s time to risk losing again because striving for the big goals is when I feel alive. I thrive when I’m pushing my own limits and when I’m reaching for growth.

“The issues of life present us with invitations to grow; which are wild by their very nature. Wildly arresting or wildly liberating. These moments are inevitable and impossible to avoid; but unequivocally for our edification. Yes, it may be difficult. Difficult, yet doable. Decide to thrive. Trust and transform.” ~ LaShaun Middlebrooks Collier

I find myself saying these words a lot lately, but I know that everything in my life has delivered me to this point. This is my year to thrive. It is my year to live with my heart. It is my year.

While I’m training for the Shamrock half marathon, I probably won’t be here for race weekend. Work travel is on the horizon. Life is presenting me so many opportunities to thrive – to prosper, to be fortunate, to be successful, to grow, and to flourish. I owe it to myself and everyone who is with me on this life journey to reach for the things that make me feel alive and to share that love with everyone I meet.

I’m holding on tightly to these dreams. Living any other way isn’t an option anymore.

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Race racap: Heart of Ghent 10k

Many months ago, in the middle of my running middle life crisis, my friend and running coach told me that I just need to show up to some races unplanned, unannounced, and have fun. I’m finally listening. It’s exactly what I did this weekend. As I’m slowly increasing mileage for two half marathons this fall, the idea of running a 10k as part of my training run sounded fun. Water stops. Entertainment. Supportive spectators. And the course is a walk down memory lane. So many of my heart whispers started here.

The Heart of Ghent 10k didn’t disappoint. It was the perfect neighborhood race. Wonderfully organized and supported. I loved the course (even if we missed a block this year).

Laura picked me up before the sun was up so we could run a few miles before the start of the race. Our early arrival made parking easy. We ran nearly 2.5 easy miles before the race started hoping we had left some racing ability in them for the race.

Warm up Miles: 2.47 @ 9:46 pace

As we started, I vowed to not look at my garmin. We were running and talking. The course is filled with lots of turns which I love mentally.

Mile 1: 9:14

Mile 2: 9:07

Mile 3: 8:51

At mile 3, I gave in and glanced at my watch. The 8 in the front of my pace shocked me. While my legs were starting to feel heavy, the effort felt easy. Maybe, just maybe, there is hope for some speedier miles this fall.

Laura started having cramping in her back at this point and encouraged me to leave her, but racing wasn’t my objective for this run. I was there to increase my mileage and enjoy time with friends. We walked a few blocks and ran many more.

Mile 4: 10:23

Mile 5: 10:45

Mile 6: 9:53

The finish line showed up just as my watch hit six miles. While the course ran short, my total mileage for the day is my longest run since spring. Confidence in my running is starting to creep back into my thinking. It’s funny how that happens as soon as I remember why I run.

I learned a lot on the road yesterday. Happy miles are what I need right now. Sharing miles with friends is what I need right now. This is the first run in a long time when my brain turned off, panic mode didn’t take over, and I simply ran.

Garmin Time: 6.00, 57:42, 9:37 pace

Race Time: 57:40, 9:17 pace

Almost 8.5 miles for the day! Heart of Ghent, I’ll be back next year. You have become my new favorite 10k.

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Chasing the Sunset

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” ~Rabindranath Tagore

As I pulled into my driveway after a busy day at work and a last-minute visit to the doctor (that trumped my plans to go to my first boot camp class), I could see the sun beginning to flirt with the tree line. The thought of seeing the sunset over the river is all it takes these days to get me out the door in my running shoes. Cole, home with a clean bill of health, had an art project to tackle. Christian was grilling. Chet and I decided to chase the sunset. I ran as fast as I could to catch the setting sun. The river is less than a mile from our front door, but leaving for a run with a two-year old never happens quickly. Running while pushing a two-year old never happens quickly. We made it to the river just as the gorgeous reds were leaving the sky.

My running buddy

My running buddy

We missed the sunset, but the river was still waiting. I always let Chet run with me for the few blocks along the river. We bird watch. We check out the crane that is building the new boat ramp. After some begging and pleading (and protesting), he returns to his stroller (or tractor or lawn mower or dinosaur – whatever his imagination determines each night) to take the long way home.

This is why I run. My reasons for why I run change with the seasons of my life. During this season, I run for the sunset and the sunrise. I run to see the world wake up and fall asleep. It refreshes my soul. It hits the reset button.

Running has become less about pace and personal bests and more about connecting with my body. It’s become my way to keep my body, my mind, and my spirit free. It has become a time to explore the wild imagination of a two-year old and to listen to the rambles of a ten-year old. It’s become my way to catch up on conversation with my husband. There are nights the whole family joins me on their bikes. My running can be selfish at times. I run for myself, but my evening hours at home are limited. My time with my boys is limited. So I selfishly bring them with on my runs. I don’t think they mind.

Everything in life has a season. Right now is my season to bask in the glow of sunshine. I want to take in as many sunrises and sunsets as I can. I want to celebrate the promise of new beginnings, and I want to celebrate what has been offered as each day ends. I’m excited about running again for no other reason than I love to run. It’s something I hope I never take for granted.

Fall race season is just around the corner. I won’t be trying to run my fastest times or to push myself to new levels. This season I want to carry sunshine with me on to the race course. I just want to run. I just want to shine.

Chasing the sunset

Chasing the sunset

Whole Hearted.

“I have come to believe that coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from.” — Lisa Bu

Over coffee last week, my running coach and I redefined my relationship with running. We chose a new lense for my view of my training plan. I want to run. I need to run. I love to run. But every time I have put on my running shoes lately, I wonder if my run will be a success. I cross my fingers and hope that it turns out to be a good run. Every time I put on my running shoes lately, I feel a little broken.

For the past two years, I have used running to repair the broken things in my life. After having Chet, I used running as a way to reclaim my identity. After I went back to a job I didn’t love, I used running as a way to fix a long work day. After my father-in-law and my aunt passed away, I used running to heal my broken heart. When marriage hits a rough spot, I use running to heal my frustration. When the boys become too much, I use running to fix my sanity. Running has always fixed my broken spots.

As my life heals itself, running has become the broken piece. It’s time to heal my relationship with running.

The only way to heal what is broken is to highlight and enhance all the aspects that I love.

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Last Thursday, my first run back after my stitches were removed, I joined two friends near and dear to my heart for an evening boardwalk run. We ran our favorite route – over the Rudee Inlet bridge straight into the crowd of tourists on the boardwalk. When our feet hit the boardwalk, it felt like the start of summer. We haven’t done this in two years! Three miles into the run, we made a happy hour pit stop for orange crushes and lots of girl talk. The run back to the car was filled with laughter and happiness.

On Sunday, I headed out for my long run. I headed to my favorite running route. I left my garmin at home. I just ran. I ran the Cape Henry Trail into our State Park to some of my favorite back trails. It’s been a while since my running shoes had real trails underneath them. I ran up and down sand dunes. I ran alongside water. I skipped over tree roots. I don’t know how far I ran or how fast, but when my feet finally hit pavement again I felt like I was flying.

As I ran down the trails, trails that have held so many of my tears and so much of my laughter, I felt myself picking up all the pieces I had left scattered over the years. I ran these trails, the day the world said goodbye to my aunt. In the middle of a winter storm advisor, I found my refuge in the tree-lined path. On these trails, I spent an entire summer running with my friend Heidi as we both tried to figure out how to be new moms again. Every time I ran with a broken heart down these trails, I left some of myself behind. Every time I ran filled with hope, I left some of myself behind.

Sunday’s run was a declaration. Sunday’s run put an end to broken running. Sunday’s run reclaimed my favorite place.

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There was no stop button to hit when I got back to my car so the run continued. My heart was filled to the brim, and it followed me home.

Last week’s run and all my runs going forward need to be a reflection of my life right now. I’m bring my heart, my whole heart, back to my running. Life is constantly changing. There will be more phases of heart ache, but right now, my whole heart needs a chance to shine. My whole heart needs a chance to run.

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Open

Round and round we ran: 800 repeats on Tuesday evening. It was my first speed workout in a month. My legs weren’t used to the request to go faster. My hips held on tight. Speed work felt foreign. The mental stubbornness to not give in didn’t come naturally. It was an exercise at quieting my brain instead of pushing my body.

This run would have never been a success if I was running solo. My brain’s natural response to pushing my limits on a hot summer night with humidity hanging in the air is to quit. My brain would have won if I wasn’t surrounded by friends who silenced my head. My support system held on for me. I chased them. Stay with them. Stay with them. Hold on.

It was during the fourth 800 that my friend Bridgette said to me, “Open up.” She was offering words of encouragement to help pull me forward. Her words were simple yet they spotlighted my struggle for the season. I had reverted back to old habits. I wasn’t trusting my body. I wasn’t opening my stride. I was timid. I was ridged. I was closed in and guarded. The tightness in my hips was a reflection of my lack of trust in my body. They are a reflection of my lack of trust in myself.

Timidness. Lack of trust. My protective barrier. It creeps in whenever I lose my awareness of myself.

The last month has been full of change. It’s capitulated me out of my comfort zone in the most amazing way.  Yet I’ve apprehensively approached the shift in my daily schedule with fear that it would negatively impact it my family. It hasn’t. I’ve worried that my boys would feel my absences in the one hour I’m now missing in the evening while losing sight that they gained that hour in the morning hours. My new job is stretching me. It’s allowing me to expand into my potential. This is what my boys will feel. At the end of the day, I am full. This is what I want my boys to witness. This is what I want them to learn.

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” ~Jane Austen

I know exactly what I need. Open Heart. Open Stride. These were the words that carried me through 26.2 miles last November. These are the words that carried through a hugely emotional time of my life. Those are the words I’m going to hold on to right now.

I’m bringing my awareness back to myself. I’m trusting the vulnerable spaces of new, the spaces of the unknown, the spaces out of my comfort zone. I’m opening back up. My heart, those tiny whispers I’ve learned to hear, know exactly where I belong. It’s running that allows me to hear them. It’s running that gives me the gift of knowing who I am. Now I have to learn to trust it and to grow into it.

Elizabeth River Run