Sunday I ran a 10K, which in “American” is seven miles. It wasn’t just a run—it was the culmination of a long journey. So, do you want to know the secret to my completing the seven mile run? A single step. Seriously. The entire run was accomplished by taking “just one more step.” It is a noble lie that I tell myself each time I tell myself “I can’t”. I listen to the tired me who feels committed to the “I can’t” and I tell her that I understand. I might even muster my most compassionate therapist voice, “I hear your pain. I know that you think you can’t. You don’t have to; really, you don’t, you just have to take one more step.” I have this conversation with myself hundreds of times during a single run. I have had this conversation with myself thousands of times since my life began anew last March. And each time I tell myself “just one more step” I manage to accomplish more than I ever imagined and I accrue milage, both geographical and metaphorical, that astounds me.
Sunday was my first 10K ever. Sure I had run in the past—I ran for fitness at many different times in my life—but I had never been a runner. I think I have become one. You see, for the past nine months I have run not so much for fitness but rather because it is what I do to feel strong and free and good. There have been times in the last nine months( especially in March, April and May) when my time running was the only time I felt good. If you were here with me back then you will remember that I was feeling a bit like a shark, I was feeling like the way I could handle all the anxiety of my new life was to keep moving. I was a constant moving machine. When not sending our resumes or house hunting or doing a million other things to prove to myself that I could take care of myself and that I would be okay, I was working out. When slammed by the midnight monsters that came out from under the bed and out of the closet who delighted in telling me horrible stories about how I wasn’t going to be able to make it on my own and how I would be homeless and destitute and alone, I would deal with the haunting anxiety by jumping out of bed and onto an elliptical machine and moving as fast as I could. During those first few months it was nothing for me to spend two hours a day on the elliptical machine. As long as I was moving I could keep the anxiety at bay. Moving became a prayer for me.
When I moved into my Casa Azul in May I had no room for an elliptical machine. Actually in my darling little casita I barely have room for my shoes, so I needed to come up with some other space friendly prayer practice that would deliver me from anxiety without taking up any square footage. Running was the obvious choice. From the first time I took a run I felt a kind of strength and power and freedom that propelled me forward in my own life. Maybe just fifteen minutes before I had begun the run I had been feeling doubt and fear—but once I began to run I became a strong woman who may or may not be related to Zeus and Hera. I was, even when I fell, a Wonder Woman when I ran.
On Sunday when I ran the seven miles I didn’t listen to the carefully crafted music playlist that I had created to accompany me through the run, instead I spent the first six miles thinking about the last nine months and how far I had come and how incredibly proud I am of myself and how much I love the life I have created for myself. It, my friends, was a much better and more motivating soundtrack than anything on my iPod. However, on my sixth mile I kind of hit a wall. You see, I didn’t do a few things I should have done to make the run a little easier for myself: 1) I didn’t hydrate before the run. Four shots of espresso do not count as hydration. Water might have been a better choice; 2) I ate only a half a protein bar prior to the race. A banana might have been a good addition to my pre-race meal plan in terms of giving me some potassium to help fuel me through the “I can’t” phase of the run; 3) I forgot to put sunblock on my arms so I couldn’t take of my Lulelemon jacket and it was a warm and sunny SoCal morning that most certainly did not require a jacket. Having the jacket on only added to my sense of being overheated; 4) I forgot my gum( For some reason I find chewing gum to be incredibly helpful when I run. I can’t even explain why. I just know that it works for me). When I hit the wall and was going up what felt like a steep incline( even though it was more of a mole hill that my fatigue was turning into a mountain) I had to go into “just one more step” mode. I told myself almost every step of that mile that I just had to take one more. I dug deep. I turned on the Rocky song on my iPod. I thought of Hillman. I thought of the money I raised and the people who believed in me enough to donate on my behalf. I thought of what waited for me at the finish line: The sense of accomplishment, a bottle of ice cold water and my darling boyfriend( not necessarily in that order). And I kept going, step by step.
When I arrived at the finish line I was very happy to be there. I was happy to be done with the run. I was happy to see my boyfriend’s smiling face. I was delighted that soon there would be blueberry pancakes with butter and syrup—and no guilt. However once I crossed the finish line I forgot about all that it had taken me to get there and I suppose that is as it should be. I was enjoying the moment and the promise of pancakes. But now that I look back on the 10K and the last nine months, I see so many lessons that running has taught me. And I can see all that it took to get me through the marathon of the last nine months.
1) “I can’t” is usually a lie.
2) The pain of the moment does not last forever. If I keep moving the pain will change.
3) Pushing myself just to go a little bit further than I think I can will take me further than I can imagine.
4) I am strong. I can endure. A few falls can’t stop me.
5) I ALWAYS feel better after I have run. This is NEVER not true( sorry for the double negative). This parallels in my non-running life. I almost always feel better having done whatever I think is hard. Having done that hard thing almost always gives me a greater sense of freedom and relief and, on occasion, some endorphins.
I want to thank all of you who supported my run. Thanks to you I was able to raise $880 for The Hirshberg Foundation For Pancreatic Cancer Research. Thank you Anna, Audrey, Daphne, Deni, Keith, Kristin, LeShaune, Laura, Leah, Lynn, Mary, Mona, Pam, R, Rabia, Sharon, Sheila, Susan B., Susan T., Stacy, Tom and Wendy S. Thank you so much!!!!!!! Your support means so very much to me. My goal was $1000. I am only $120 away from achieving it.If you didn’t donate and you would like to, you will be happy to hear that it is not too late. My fundraising page is still up and happy to accept donations.