M.

My first race: the struggles and lessons of being brave

Looking into the mirror these days, I honestly don’t know who the girl on the other side is anymore! 🙂 I would have never believed it if someone told me that I was to run an official race – and finish while at it. Sure, I’ve always had the intention of running. The idea sounded good. The gear looked cool. But I never really did it.

Don’t get me wrong, in my lifetime there have been instances were I would put my sneakers on and go out for a ‘run,’ but the reason was solely so I could feel better about the giant bag of chips and dip I had inhaled while watching T.V. (ah, mindless eating). After fifteen minutes of running, I could no longer do it. I would always talk myself out of it and tell myself that I was a wimp, that I was uncomfortable, that running wasn’t going to get me ‘skinny,’ and that I would never have a reason to wear those cool neon sneakers. Crazy, huh? I had to be skinny. I had to have the latest chips and dip out there. Those were all things that the media was telling me. Those were the reasons why I ran. But no one ever told me that I had to put myself first and feel good. No one ever told me that I should have a healthy mind. No wonder I would hate running; it would remind me of all the things that weren’t true to me. Nothing made sense. And it made it me hate the biggest thing of them all: myself.

I want to share with you what my thoughts and struggles were while running on Sunday, mile by mile. Because it wasn’t just a ‘perfect’ run:

Mile 1: At the start of the race, I was excited and nervous at the same time. I had been waiting for this day and it finally arrived. Smiling here, jumping there, I was a total kid! Being surrounded by so many amazing people who were also running was so motivational. I was so focused on my being. I was living in the present. And at the end of the first mile, I clapped and yelled out a loud “WOO-HOO!” I was in the zone and anxiety wasn’t even a thought!

Mile 2: It was here that I started to notice myself slowing down and realized that I was running on elevations. Ah! Elevations! I didn’t train on any! (I usually avoided them because they were uncomfortable and didn’t think I needed to run on them- serves me right to assume). So I started to reprimand myself and bring myself down. This negative way of thinking made me notice all of the people running with me again. Only this time, I was noticing that they were faster than me. I was starting to compare myself (red flag number one), which then proceeded with a pain on my left torso (red flag number two). At that point, my body was asking me to take a break. So I listened to it and took a thirty-second walk. It did help to catch my breath, but I started to get comfortable walking (this wasn’t a walk-a-thon!). I quickly searched for a motivational song on my phone and had to remind myself that I was not a quitter and that I was, indeed, brave (I was in this race, officially, after all! This wasn’t an accident!). So I got back into it and off I went running again.

Mile 3: As I was running, I started to think about how that short break may have affected my time and how maybe I was going to be seen as a ‘failure’ and a ‘slow poke’ in the eyes of others. It was here that I started to contemplate walking the rest of the mile and convince myself that no one would notice me. Yes, I was giving up. I stopped running and began to walk for thirty more seconds. I gave up. But then it hit me. Someone was noticing me. Me. And at that moment, it all seemed to have clicked. I was focusing on the wrong things since mile two. Just like running to burn calories from the chips and dip, at that moment I was running to be ‘better’ than everyone else. I wasn’t focusing on the real reason why I was doing this. I wasn’t focusing on all of the obstacles and accomplishments that I overcame to get here, mentally. But I had to focus. I had to focus and remember that I was doing this to be healthy. To be brave. To have a better life. I did train for this race. I have been training through yoga. For the past few months I’ve brought balance to my body, strength to my mind, and an openness to my soul. I wasn’t worried about the thousands of people running around me, nor how I felt claustrophobic. No, I felt free. And so, my healthy legs and heart reached my mind and told it to run. They told it to finish. They told it that I was beautiful and that I was going to finish. So I picked up the pace and kept running to that finish line.

Up to mile 4: Ah, I was so tired! But you know what? I thought about how strong I became throughout the first three miles that it gave me that extra push I needed to continue going and finish this thing! I didn’t train on elevations, but I conquered them. I didn’t run as fast as the others, but the mentality, I conquered it. And so, as I made that last left turn and headed towards the finish life, I let out a whimper, got chocked up, and shed a few tears. I was done. I crossed the finish line. I MADE IT!!

endhappy
I didn’t have to be in first place. I didn’t have to be perfect. I didn’t have to live up to any of those standards. The only ones I had to live up to were my own. And those were to finish the race and to be proud of myself. I wanted to show myself that I
could do it. And guess what? I did it. And I will continue to do it. I lived up to my own standards. And I was happy.

For many years, I had been running for the wrong reasons. And today, today I learned to run for all the right ones.

Loren.

m.

my heart will beat fast and I will be stronger than it

This morning I ran to ‘train’ for my 4-mile race in Central Park on April 6th.
And truth be told, I had tears coming down my cheeks during this shot of me below when I was running:

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Why would someone cry when they run?  Well, because today I was bigger than my anxiety.  I was brave.

Last summer I suffered a major anxiety attack (something I wish no one ever has to go through, yet sadly,  it affects so many Americans) and I was afraid of ever getting my heart to race again.  In case you have never had an anxiety attack before, let me quickly tell you how it goes down (at least, for me).  First, your mind starts to over-think things.  And then suddenly, you find yourself freaking out.  It could be about anything.  Your mind then gets stronger and takes over all of you.  For me, it starts to freeze up my fingers, contorting them to bend at different angles, and then stay that way.  It is usually accompanied by a painful pull at my forearms that I cannot bare.  I then start to scream “I cannot breathe!” and am literally gasping for air.  My heart is racing at a speed that I don’t ‘think’ I can control and becomes very uncomfortable.  It’s kind of like a suspense movie that is going on internally in your body, just about to climax, everything is coming to a boiling point, the music gets higher and higher in pitch, and then…. it never climaxes.  You are just stuck.  Scary situation, huh? It is.

The only way for it to go away is by relaxing, slowly breathing in and out, and bringing reality back to your mind.  You have to play mind games… with.your.own.self.  It’s a battle that s u c k s.  But it does happen and when it does, you have to control it.  Yoga helped me with controlling this (I’ll post about that another day).  But boy, oh boy, does anxiety stink.

So today I cried during my run.  Because today was the first time that I ran since last summer.  Today was the first time I accepted that my heart will beat fast.  Yes, I was afraid and I knew it was going to be uncomfortable.  But I did it.  And nothing.bad.happened.

NOTE: I am not a runner (by any means!  I even found that I wail around my legs and arms when I run!), but for many years I’ve always wanted to run a 5K (I know, crazy).  And recently, with this second wind, it made me realize that this is something that will fulfill me and my life.  This is something I always said I wanted to do and will prove to myself that I can do it.  I am willing to be uncomfortable to fulfill this thing inside me.  To be honest, I’m not quite sure where this will take me, but that’s the beauty of life.  And I am so happy that I am learning this now.  I was brave to sign up for a 4-mile race (eep!), but I am enlightened by what training for it will do for me and what it has, with one little run this morning, already done for me.

My heart will beat fast and I will be stronger than it.

Loren.