Tomorrow is my twelfth consecutive month of running 5ks. And when I say “run,” notice that I am not saying “race.” For me, it’s enough to put one foot in front of the other and to cross that finish line, to not be intimidated by so many people at this running event, and–as rudimental as this may sound–to take one more step in working towards a goal.
You see, I love running. It’s how I make sense of the world around me. Putting one foot in front of the other, whether I feel great or like crud, connects me to the world I live in in a very direct and intimate way. I exist in this world–to the town I live in, even!!!–because my feet have connected to the ground and have helped me get between one location that I have chosen to another location that I have also chosen. Unlike when I go from my apartment to work or from the gym to the grocery store, there is no sense of obligation behind my activity. I have chosen to run a specific path that I have chosen for myself. I determined when I go right and when I go left, simply because I want to. And in the progress that I make between start and finish, I have time to think through all the things that are happening in my life and in this crazy chaotic world. I don’t solve problems or answer questions per se, but I do come to a place of peace: the thoughts that run through my head can still be there, and while the chatter is running its course I can choose to run down one street, turn right, turn left, and reach a destination that I have mapped out for no other reason than I have chosen it.
What a beautiful thing. I learned this specific kind of joy and how to give myself this gift in 2011 when I began running. In two years’ time I went from not running to following methodical training plans and completing 6 half-marathons, one full marathon, and a handful of 5ks in the midwestern town in which I lived…
…and I got injured. A labral tear in my right hip sidelined me, and at a time where my life was changing drastically. A huge cocktail of therapies followed this injury, and just as running looked possible again and like I could possibly gain medical clearance, life changed again: a move from the midwest to the southeast, a change in jobs, and so much more.
And it happened like this: wash, rinse repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat. Life circumstances, new love, changing jobs, a serious relationship, moving, an arthritis diagnosis, and more. All of the circumstances of adult life.
It’s crazy, right? But it happens.
So last November I hatched a plan. I signed up for a Thanksgiving day 5k and a cutesy, fun Santa-themed 5K about 10 days later after the calendar turned to December. If I could complete those runs in a way that felt safe and that I could be proud of, then why couldn’t I set a goal of one 5K a month for 2018? I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions–I think they’re hogwash–but why couldn’t I set a goal for myself? Why couldn’t I give myself something that would require some consistency but that would be a bit low-stress?
So I ran on Thanksgiving. And I was so proud of myself. And I ran in December, with my amazing husband by my side. And as we treated ourselves to brunch at a new-to-us restaurant near our small home, I told him my goal for 2018. And ever since, he has supported me phenomenally.
And here we are: October, 2018. I have two more months ahead of me to finish my goal, but tomorrow I run my twelfth consecutive month of 5ks. It’s not the “year” of my goal, but it’s a “year”–a 12 month span–that somehow feels significant to me.
So how am I getting ready for this without trying to be a sappy mess?
Let me introduce you to Flat Stephanie:
This is my outfit for tomorrow. It matches. Usually, right before I go to bed the night before one of my runs, I pull out clean clothes that I feel like wearing. But for tomorrow, I have chosen an outfit of certain kinds of clothes that feel right, but I chose the specific item that matches. I created a little outfit for myself with some of my favorites. Specifically:
Laying out my clothes and creating a “flat Stephanie” of sorts (you can draw your own stick-figure of me if you want!) helped me make sure that I have everything I need (I will prepare my water bottle tonight, and my running watch and iPod shuffle are charging right now…) and helped me celebrate, in a silly but still somehow meaningful way, how good it feels to have come so far from feeling hopeless and being side-lined as life got in the way while also finding new energy to crush it not only tomorrow but in whatever races I run in November and December. Setting my clothes out also helped me visualize what I need to do for the rest of my day in order to be ready to put on my running clothes–eat a balanced meal without too much fiber, hydrate, make sure I unplug and wind down this evening so I can get to bed at a reasonable time, prepare my water bottle and my electrolyte drink for tomorrow morning, and spend some time focusing on how grateful I am to have come so far, and to be able to run tomorrow morning, instead of worrying about how I will do or how long it will take me to finish.
And to me, finding small ways to celebrate what I have already accomplished and how good I already feel and letting that carry me through the rest of my day is just exciting! It only adds to my excitement for what I am doing now, the goal I am crushing right now, instead of worrying about my running now vs. when I was able to run so many half-marathons. It makes me excited to put foot to pavement tomorrow and connect myself to yet another part of the town I live in at this moment, in this part of my life.
Are you a runner? What do you do that connects you to this earth?
What’s your favorite thing to eat the night before a big run?
What’s your favorite piece of athletic clothing?