Trying to piece together my life over the past year, specifically in terms of who I am as a runner, is much harder than I imagined. Running, it seems, has played a large role in shaping the person I've become. It isn't something that fits into a "piece" of my life, but rather it "fills" my life with many character-forming influences.
I came to this conclusion as my mind drifted back to the former part of this year, when I took some time off from racing and training. I had intended to use the extra time on my hands to sit back and relax a little, but instead I found myself quickly filling that time with other things that kept me busy, and sometimes too busy. And yet, I'm almost certain that I wouldn't have had it any other way.
Why? Because quite honestly, I like being busy. I like having deadlines to meet and goals to achieve; they give me a sense of purpose and satisfaction. I've always thought that my "need to run" is really an inherent trait that has me programmed to not just literally run, but to also be in a state of constant movement. I can't help moving in some form or fashion, whether it's running or fast-walking, or moving from one project to another and back again. Even if the constant movement requires little time to rest and relax, I'm okay with that.
My husband, on the other hand, would tell you that I over-task myself and consequently feel overwhelmed. And he's right of course, but I've realized that my natural, or comfortable state of being, is one which involves non-stop forward-movement. There are times obviously when I need to slow down and force myself to take a break, but those moments of rest are usually short-lived. Sitting still, or being idle, is counter-productive to my must-do/must-move nature; even my mind has a hard time slowing down.
As I reflected on this a little more, I began to see more clearly why and how running has shaped me. Since my days are always busy, failure to get up early and run, usually results in no run at all. In that respect, running has become a discipline.
The discipline of doing something that sometimes feels difficult or uncomfortable, is a discipline that I've learned to embrace. There was a time, in my younger adult years, where I hesitated to do anything that took me out of my comfort zone, but strange as it may seem, running has taught me to be much bolder, less afraid.
I read a blog post recently by Rachel Toor, a published writer and sponsored Athleta runner. In her post she talked about running in her 50s, and how age has made her a slower and less motivated runner, yet she still continues to run and she still sometimes wins or places in her age-group at some of the smaller, local races. In many ways I can relate to her, and especially to her added comment about recognizing the achievement in getting to the starting line. "If you don't get yourself to the line," says Toor, "you have no chance of winning."
Isn't that how it is with everything in life? If you never try, can you ever succeed? Last year I applied for the same Athleta scholarship that Rachel Toor successfully applied for, and although my application made it to the second round of selection, that was as far as it got. This year, I tried again, and this time my application made it all the way to the final selection committee. Should I apply again next year and risk further disappointment? Absolutely.
You see, running appeals to me not just for the obvious reasons of keeping fit and healthy, but more because of it's inclination to keep me moving forward, even in the face of challenges that threaten to disappoint or intimidate me. I want those challenges! It's the challenges in my life that build the kind of tenacity and spirit that I strive for.
Let's face it, it's easier to shy away from anything that seems too hard, but where does that get you? It takes you down a path of unmet goals and missed opportunities, and where is the satisfaction in that? Isn't it better to taste the bitterness of failure, than the bitterness of never succeeding because you never tried?
If running helps me to be that person who is not afraid of embracing all of life's challenges, then being a runner is who I want to continue being.
Looking forward to another year of running!