As I sit next to my younger sister laying in her hospital bed, I can’t help but reflect on the bigger meaning of this all. When NW Dirt Churners contacted me and asked me to write an article about positive running, I jumped at the opportunity to promote my business and my outlook on positive self-talk connected to running. I did not inform them that I was in the middle of a crisis and I was struggling to think of what to write and how to write it. Instead of ignoring this huge event occurring in my life, I decided I wanted to share the pieces of how running has helped me maintain balance during this painful and yet real situation.
On Sunday, my life changed. It sounds extreme and dramatic but I cannot think of a better way to describe the moments after receiving a call from my older sister. She told me my younger sister was in the Emergency Room and had a mass in her stomach. The doctors informed us it did not look good and we should come right away. I have never experienced shock such as this and my body literally wanted to stop working. In past challenging moments, running has always been an innate desire but today, fear paralyzed me and I literally sunk to the ground. Despite this and having no desire to run or leave the safety of my room, while throwing my stuff into a suitcase, I packed my running shoes. I arrived the next day and we took my 31-year-old sister to the oncologist for the next steps. They scheduled surgery and fit her in for the very next day. I want to spare sharing the specific details, as it is my sister’s story to share. Essentially, we are still in the waiting period of understanding what is happening and her prognosis is unclear. After the surgery, my family has lots of hope and that certainly beats what we felt at the beginning of the week.
So you may be thinking now, how the heck does this tie into running and racing? Well the day following arriving in DC, I slipped on my running shoes in the wee hours of the morning. Sleep eluded me and I needed something or some way to center myself. I had cried and talked until there were no words and no tears. Running isn’t the answer but it helped me reattach to the bigger meaning of the world and the universe. I found gratitude in being able to be with my family and some peace in a moment of complete and utter chaos. I thanked my body for knowing how to create this homeostasis for me and keep me connected to something greater than myself. Nature welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to just be.
And as we wait for the results, the importance of staying present in the moment rings truer now more than ever. During times of hardship (life or running), our brain so often automatically goes to that negative place of predicting the future or next mile. In those moments, we have the choice to stay present and focus on THIS moment, rather than the next. Since we can’t change how the universe swings, we can only change how we approach the next mile, the next decision or crisis. And why not allow ourselves to dream big? If we have no control over the field of runners that show up and/or certain life events, then what is the downside of allowing ourselves to conjure the best possible outcome?
In the blink of an eye, this experience vastly changed how I look at races and running. It is important to have goals and compete and yet, it is also important to recognize how fleeting these moments and opportunities are. Each day, we GET to make a decision to start a race and determine how we look at those challenges during the race. Not every race is going to be a wonderful experience, yet you are alive! And how amazing is that, that you get the opportunity to have bad races and try again. I have preached the importance of perspective within my practice and yet, even for me, this concept is truly hard to comprehend until you are in a position to witness death. This does not mean it is ‘silly’ to feel disappointed or frustrated when races or runs don’t go your way, I am simply encouraging you to check your perspective. Running can heal or harm us and we get to be the deciding factor on what ultimately comes from each race.
Let racing be your moment to celebrate yourself. We truly don’t know when it may be our last opportunity to surround ourselves with the people we love in the woods we call home. And perhaps even more importantly, if you are struggling with this or managing life, you are not alone. However, you have the power and ability to change and create happiness within your life. Even more important than wasting a race on “not feeling good enough” or “not placing/running like you should”, please, don’t waste your life or any precious moments on not allowing yourself to find some peace and joy.