Saturday, April 16, 2011

20 miles, reaching goals, changing me

SUPERFICIAL UPDATE: I finished my biggest week of training successfully! It was a great week. I was able to get in all of my runs, I had a fantastic 10 miler, and the 20 mile run was much better than I anticipated. I spent it mostly listening to my special long run playlist full of my favorite tunes. I also spent the time thinking about life, which I often do while running, which is one of the reasons why I like running.

A LITTLE BIT DEEPER UPDATE: I realized during my 20 mile run that only a year ago I was just beginning my masters program, felt torn between two worlds with culture shock and the adjustment back into the United States, and wasn't running or exercising much at all. A year ago I still felt new in my job and felt like I had FOREVER left to go in meeting my next goal of getting a teaching certificate...which was frustrating because I felt like I was trapped until I completed it.

Now I am almost done with my masters/teaching certificate. I have two more classes over the summer, then student teaching, then I am "free". (I don't necessarily feel so trapped anymore, but it will be nice not to be in school anymore). I have gone from being unsure if I am a runner, unsure if I can be worthy of that name anymore, unsure if I can handle running at feeling like a runner and living like a runner. I don't even know what definition I place behind that word anymore, but today I would say that I am a runner, and I am proud of that again.

However, these accomplishments over the last year, none of which have a tangible end yet, are signs of a deeper change as well. I'm not married, I don't have kids, I don't have a full time job, and I have spent my adult life doing things that I feel passionate about and led to do. I have done a lot of experiencing, but I never felt like I had done a lot of "growing up." While I still haven't taken on those large responsibilities of raising a family, (although I have taken on the large responsibility of student loans ;-), I do feel like I have come into my own a little bit more this past year and a half. I'm starting to feel like I have a better understanding of what I am capable of, and I feel like I fit into my own skin a little bit better. I don't know quite how to describe it, but as I ran 20 miles on Thursday, striving to accomplish something I've never done before, nor never thought I could do, I realized that I am stronger than I knew.

I also realized that this potential lies in everyone. While I do believe that most anyone COULD run or walk a marathon, that's not exactly what I am talking about. I mean that you have the potential to be things you only dreamed about, to do things you wanted to but never thought you could. You have this potential. So what stops us? While I do see so many people who dream their dreams, work super hard to accomplish them, and then enjoy that success, the reality is that I also encounter many people who don't believe that THEY could ever do this.

"That's good for you, but I could never do that," I have heard said.

No? Do you mean that you could never run a marathon, or you could never dream something, work really hard, make the mental switch somewhere along the way, and realize that you in fact had that potential the whole time?

I spoke to a man today who had been trying to lose weight for years, and now he needs to because he is super close to being diagnosed with diabetes. He is opting not to have stomach surgery, because he is going to try some more to do it the natural way, even though he has failed day after day in this goal.

And you know what? With my entire being I believe that he can do it. It isn't an impossible goal. The fact that he has failed to lose weight in the past does NOT mean that he cannot lose weight in the future. Meeting his goal will require committment and perseverance and a mental switch. There is a switch that takes place, when, after eating healthier foods for a period of time, greasy or fattening foods start sounding less and less appetizing. There is a switch that happens when you stop having that soda/chocolate/snack/etc every day, you stop needing it every day, and then you even stop wanting it every day. There is a switch that happens after you start a training schedule and every day you have to make the difficult choice to do today's task to the day when you just know that on these days you do this exercise, and you can do it and your body feels better when you do it and you actually end up liking it.

That switch does happen. But it takes time and you must make a lot of little choices toward your goal before that switch happens. (You have to continue making the little choices after the switch, too, but there is a different motivation behind them.)

Meeting a goal is not about one giant leap, one life-changing moment in time, getting to that impossible-to-reach light at the end of the tunnel.

Meeting goals is about the sum of many tiny choices. Goals are accomplished by making one small change, and then another, and then another, until that change becomes a habit, a lifestyle. The change becomes a little bit easier, a lit less daunting.

So yes, I ran 20 miles on Thursday. And yes, I asked myself if I had it in me to add 6.2 more miles onto that in three weeks at the marathon. (Yes, I do have it in me.) Yes, I have completed the longest long run of my training, and now I begin to taper back on mileage as I wait for the marathon.

But this run and this training have been about so much more than the race itself. My end goal of running a marathon, a lifelong dream, has kind of paled as I realized what a blessing the journey has been. I have rediscovered myself as a runner. I have reinvented myself as a person who actually can set goals, commit to them, work hard, and reach them. I have seen myself slowly turning into an adult. And I have realized that within me I house a whole bunch of potential to accomplish any dream I decide to pursue. I will not write things off as impossible anymore.

And THAT journey has been worth it.


Terry said...

Bethany - you are such an inspiration. I always enjoy reading your blogs. What is the next step for you when you have your certificate?? Where would you like to teach? By the way - I have a great guy for you if you decide you want to get married and raise a family.

Emily said...

I found myself getting that super inspired/excited/you-can-conquer-the-world feeling reading your post. Congrats on the 20 miles! And I love your insights on how you've changed over this last year. I'm still so shocked every time I recognize a change in myself - I used to (foolishly) think we were pretty much done changing after college. I'm so glad I was WAY off on that one! Can't wait to hear how the marathon goes!