Where do you find your strength?
I’ve spent the weekend catching up. I was frustrated last week because work was supremely busy, and I felt like I was behind in all areas of my life as a result. I used the weekend to catch up–first with Free, then with some girlfriends, then with my mother who was in town visiting my nieces and nephews, then with my running, then with house-cleaning and paperwork, and finally, with myself. (Newman just returned from a weekend away, so he’s next on the list!) Catching up has helped me find a little bit of the calm I’ve been searching for all week. Work will be just as busy in the week ahead, so I’m hoping to maintain this feeling of calm strength as I head into the next phase.
I had my last long training run today, and it’s a bittersweet thing to know I can finally start tapering. I’m so ready to dial it back, but I’m nervous to lose some of the strength I’ve built. I’ve proven to myself that I’m stronger than I imagined, and it has been nice to lean on that mentally when things are tough everywhere. I’m looking forward to the race and to celebrating this journey with my friends, but I’m also starting to wonder about what’s next or what the ongoing legacy of this training will be for me. I’m toying with the idea of setting some kind of fitness goal each fall, and that may be my answer to turning this into something long-term. In the meantime, I want to attend to the way this process has helped me identify my own strength.
I find strength in the training plan. For me, it’s in the way I set goals for myself and follow through. It’s in making a bet with myself that I can do something, say run 13.1 miles or exercise more frequently than I have been, and then rising to meet that challenge. It’s in making a plan and committing to it. It’s in stepping back and looking at the big picture of my life and how I choose to live it, then imagining ways to revise it for the better. It’s in knowing that there is a better way to do things, a better way to be, and figuring out how to move toward that, day by day.
I find strength in getting on with it, mile by mile by mile. Whether it’s getting from the car to the gym or the house to the road, it involves getting over resistance and inertia, and more times than not, I have done it. Every single time I do, I define myself as a stronger force, as someone who is not lazy or unmotivated. That doesn’t mean I beat myself up on the days I can’t do it; on the contrary, what I’ve learned is that taking those days sometimes allows me to be stronger on the next one. I have learned not to dwell on those days too much–I do allow them their due and then move past them as quietly and quickly as I can. Sometimes it takes longer to get past them, and that’s ok too. There’s a message in that, and I might need to revisit the training plan. I’ll know if that’s the case if I keep tuning in and the message remains the same. Generally speaking, though, the battle for strength is fought and won in the midweek and middle miles–the ones where we lose count or occasionally want to be somewhere else but keep moving anyway.
I find strength in the final kick. In the act of digging deep to tap inner reserves, I find I usually have more where I thought I was depleted. When I fight despite the burn and despite the fatigue, I know I am able, blessed, and powerful. My face might be contorted with the struggle, but I am defining myself–to myself–as strong when I continue to fight.
I also find strength in the cool-down walk and post-race stretch. I take a moment to feel my muscles ache and my breathing slow and nature around me come to life in a different way because my perspective on it has shifted. I notice myself as part of a greater system that accepts me no matter if I run, walk, or stop. The world around me is not indifferent to my presence; nor is it particularly interested. It is up to me to tune into its relationship to me and mine to it. We all need time to slow down, to appreciate the race or run and what went into it but also to reflect on our own needs and feelings as a result of having done it.