Do the Hard Things

I ran approximately 14 miles. I have never before run that distance and prior to deciding I would, the farthest I’d run was about 7.5. To be honest even that was a while ago; once in the last 5 years I ran 5, and sort of by accident. In fact, I wouldn’t have called myself a runner, not in a long time anyway, my normal running experience was to pick up and do 1.5 to 2 miles about once or twice a month. This was mostly just to prove to myself that I still could. So why on Earth would a person who was basically just holding on to an old ability to put one foot in front of the other decide to run a half marathon, and then extend it a little longer than necessary? We’ll get to that, let’s start a little earlier.

My sister is pretty incredible. A few years ago she made life style changes and worked incredibly hard to transform her health. When I say she transformed I’m not only talking about the weight she lost and the muscle she gained or how she revolutionized her relationship with food. I’m talking about the personal relationships she built and fortified, the mental processing and boundaries she created, and more. On the flip side of everything that is wonderful about this hard earned transition, it also made her kind of annoying about running. She used running as a form of therapy and would talk to me about it’s wonders what seemed like endlessly. She would ask me to sign up for different races with her and pushed half marathons a lot. I would repeatedly tell her that that wasn’t what running was for me and I had 0 interest in running a half. Fast forward a few years and the two of us are still having vaguely the same conversation. The only difference is we found a 5 mile annual race near her birthday that she can run very fast and another friend and I can mix some walking and jogging to get back to her cheering for us at the finish line. This past year my friend decided not to do the walk/jog mix and so when I started running I just never quite stopped until we got back. My sister was still far ahead of me and waiting at the finish line when I got there but I had run5 miles, without trying, or even realizing I could.

My reaction could have been to be amazed in that ability but instead it was more annoyed than anything. If you can accidentally run 5 miles without trying you’re not trying enough. I would never accidently do more than I thought possible in other areas of my life because I’m consistently pushing the boundaries in them and working to develop. I couldn’t be surprised by the engagement of my team because I learn and implement all that I can to make that strong. I would never be shocked by my financials because I consistently align my decisions to achieve my goals in that area. I would never be shocked at the strength of my marriage because I spend time everyday making that relationship strong. That day I knew I needed to stop resting on my laurels and put in more of an effort toward what I can do physically.

A week or so after the 5 mile race my sister told me that a friend of hers had registered for the half but after the date had to be changed due to Covid, she could no longer do it. She asked if I wanted to take her spot and, because there seemed some divine intervention in the timing of it all, I said yes. Then I immediately did what I do with every single personal and physical goal I ever set. I procrastinated, I avoided any sort of research, and I found every excuse why I couldn’t actually work toward it (in this example meaning I did 0% more running than I normally would have). I had good excuses too. It was Covid (Which really is a trump card for anything you don’t want to do. You just say “pandemic” and no one expects anything.), I have a 3 kids, my body needs other types of exercise too, and best of all I was in the process of selling a house, moving, and building a new home in a neighboring town. I mean, come on, who would combine a big hard physical goal with selling/moving/building, and a pandemic? So I did nothing, nothing different anyway. I still walked every morning, I still did a little yoga, I still ran 1.5-2 miles every so often. By the time we got to about 8 weeks before the race I had thought that I actually needed to step things up so I ran 5 miles that day, and I didn’t die. The next week I ran 5 again. Then I took a full week off of running anything more than 2. The following week I ran 6 one day. I remember joking with my husband that this regiment, two weeks off then add a mile, would quite literally never get me there. I got up to 8 miles about 3 weeks before the race and thought, well I should look up a training program just to see if there is any sort of chance I can make this work. Though it did suggest I be more consistent, to my shock and awe I wasn’t that far off plan. Then I started asking my sister some questions about how to eat and drink a little something while running. Again, I was just doing the bare minimum to ensure I could finish, and not die.

The race did go virtual so now I had another challenge, where do I run? A lot of well meaning people offered solutions. The best one I could find though was to spend time complaining and make excuses on why I couldn’t run here or I couldn’t run there. All the while I knew full well there was again divine intervention, it is approximately 13 -14 miles from the old house to the new one with about a million memories in between. The only problem now was that there wouldn’t be anyone there. As in, no one would be watching me run.

If you’ve read prior posts you know that my fear of being judged while running is a strong motivator for me to continue to run. If there was no one out there on the roads with me, no one knowing my time, no one holding a funny sign, would I even bother to keep running on race day? So I put out a call on social media asking people to come out cheer me on. I was really just hoping that the people I knew along the route would come to the end of their driveways. At the very least I would have the fear that they could come out there to motivate me. The support I got on the day of the race surpassed all of my wildest expectations. There were signs at every mile marker, family from out of town, friends who joined others at their homes, a huge group of patrons at my favorite restaurant which is of course on the route. The best of it was as I came over the last hill I could see the drive way of my future home, which was now my finish line. There was a huge group of people standing there cheering and ringing cow bells. My sister used her medal to put around my neck and my husband had come home from out of town to organize a brat fry (yes it is all very Wisconsin) for everyone. It was better than I could have ever imagined.

This entire experience was really just a culmination of hard things. I didn’t want to run 14 miles, I didn’t even want to run 13 for a race. I didn’t want to train to be able to run that far either. Every single step in training for this was hard. I didn’t want to have to plan a route after the formal race went virtual. I didn’t want to have to ask friends and family for support. Each one one of these things truly more difficult than the one before it. I did want to push myself to know what I was capable of. If I was going to do it, I did want to do it well. I wanted my kids to see their mom looking strong and capable. While asking for help was truly probably the hardest thing about this, I knew that I couldn’t do it without a tribe around me. It was hard. It was all hard but it was worth it, every single thing. That value, that worth, was more important to me than avoiding the hard stuff.

Things I’m reminding myself of

Reflect on the areas of life and determine where you can push harder. I knew immediately when faced with my actual ability physically that while I push in so many areas I was neglecting this one. Regular reflection in this area, for continued progress, will help drive me in all areas of life.

Do the hard things. Even when you don’t want to, even when they aren’t pretty, even when you don’t do it right. Just do the things. I didn’t have to follow a specific diet or training plan to run. Could I have done it faster? Probably. Could I have trained better so I wasn’t sore after? Probably. Could I have chosen better fuel than my kids’ gummy bears? Probably. None of that matters though, what matters is that you do the thing.

People actually want to support you. I don’t know what is so broken in so many of our minds that we believe we’re a burden for asking for help, or expressing a need, or just to celebrate together but by goodness, people want to be there. Invite them in, let them know what you need, and they’ll be there to fill any gap they can.

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