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Step by step

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.

21 Responses to “Step by step”


  • Tracey, I am so proud of you. Congratulations!

  • Everything you said in this post is so true! When I started running it was all about getting fit, loosing weight at first. then it became so much more: a mental de-cluttering if you wish and an incredible sense of achievement. Not the kind you put in your resume or brag about at cocktail parties, but a profoundly personal accomplishment that changed everything: how I perceive myself, the world around me, my friends, my goals in life,…
    Congrats on making 10K!!! Haven’t been there yet. Someday I will.

  • Well done! You really are blooming in every way at the moment.

  • Wahoo!! Well done and congratulations

  • Congratulations…you rock!

  • Thanks! I needed to read this today like I needed the strong black coffee I am drinking. Inspiring as usual! L

  • So very happy for you and proud of you!!

    I admire your persistence in running…the physical activity area of my life is truly lacking. Your “one more step” advice is very helpful….xoxo

  • I have just been catching up on your news as I am a bit behind with my reading. You are really doing brilliantly now, you are a completely different person. I am so happy for you, long may it last.

  • Congratulations! You also look amazing!

    Leah

  • I’ve probably said this to you before, but I’ll say it again: you go, girl!! This is an amazing accomplishment, and I am so proud of you! Well done :)

  • Awesome!!!!! I’m so proud and happy for you! I feel the same about running, it was something that I could accomplish and feel stronger for doing that! There’s almost nothing that can’t be patched by the act/accomplishment of finishing a run!!! I’m ready for a marathon and it feels so good when you do it to raise money for such a worthy cause!

  • I am continually amazed at the way you are blossoming and awed at all your accomplishments. Congratulations! You Rock!

  • I need to print this post out and read it every day until I get my big fat butt out the door. I have dreamed of running a 5K (and my oldest was SHOCKED when I told her I used to be able to jog 3 miles!) I have absolutely no excuses…. None. And GIRL? You are my hero. Awesome….

  • hugs dear you! and super congratulations!! i just love the words you share here…

  • Yes, this is like my experience. I started training for a half marathon but by the time I got to 9 miles my feet were crippled. I pronate, and I got plantar fasciitis…still have it and it’s been almost a year since I cut back and eventually stopped running. It got to the point that I couldn’t walk normally…so I switched to biking! Now I commute to work 5 miles each way by bike. I love it. Most of my route is car free, and it is my time to think. I am completely addicted to it. Even when it’s dark, cold and rainy I’d rather be on my bike than most places…OK, except maybe at the spa…not gonna lie…(-:

  • Fantastic achievement Tracey, how good and healthy you look and I’m so pleased to see how much you’ve accomplished in these last months! Well done. My best friend died of pancreatic cancer last year laving two wonderful boys on their own, so helping to fight this horrible disease is a very honorable cause. All the best and hugs. Antonella.xx

  • Hi Tracey, I’ve been trying to make a donation on your fundraising page but they don’t accept because I leave outside the USA. Can you pls suggest me a different method? I can pay via paypal as well. Many thanks. Ciao. Antonella.x

  • AWESOME! GOOD JOB! :) Funny…I took up jogging this year too!
    <3
    CC

  • Congratulations! I could not run with a jacket on when I feel hot … so many “cons” were on your way but you made it through. You are definitely a runner!

  • I have read your blog for years and never commented, blah, blah. I love you, i love everything you share and your perspective, your courage, your writing, how you have mentored your relationship with your mom, worked through so much pain and shared your discovories and challenges with me. Yes, I think you are writing to me when I read your blog. :-)

    Best wishes to you on the next chapters of your life!! I am so happy for you to see how well things are working out and how the hard work you have done on yourself is flourishing into hundreds of lovely, fragrant lilies. I forget what your favorite flowers are but hopefully you like lilies due to your dogaughter’s name. Just sending you lots of sparkling, shining love and best wishes for the future.

  • Oh and I am a runner also who is kind of in the dumps lately so it’s great to be inspired by your running posts, yay!!!!

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About Me

My name is Tracey, aka La Belette Rouge. I am a psychotherapist and the author of Freudian Sip @ Psychology Today. I blog about psychology, my therapy, dreams, writing, meaning making, home, longing, loss, infertility and other things that delight or inspire me. I try to make deep and elusive psychodynamic concepts accessible and funny. For more information, click here .
These blog posts are informational only and not meant to replace individual psychotherapy, counseling or medical advice. If you are in need of help, reaching out to a professional may help you decide how to proceed or how to find the care you need. For a referral, contact

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