From folks who have known me over the past seven years or so I often hear an assumption of strength and courage associated with who I am. Often I feel conflicted by the magnitude in which others see me in this category. Especially when I think of folks like Erica Davis, the first paralyzed woman to climb mountain Kilimanjaro in a wheelchair; or the young kids I would watch from my own chemo chair decades ago. They sat for hours getting drugs pumped into bodies racked with leukemia; or how about the parents who sat with them all those hours keeping them entertained, distracted and calm? That’s courage like none other. More recently my contemplations fall on the young gals I meet each summer who come to the leadership and self empowerment program developed by the non-profit I helped form Catalyst Youth Leadership Project. They arrive with so many doubts about their potential in the world. They bring me back to the realization we all must start somewhere. We each have our own barometer of courage.
The root meaning of courage is associated with heart. I see this correlation firsthand often when I work with any one of my clients whether in physical training or while coaching them along their mental and emotional pathway. It takes courage to lift ourselves from the well-grooved mind patterns we have created, or to move past a temporary bodily pain.
Today I had one of those moments where I had my doubts in myself. Currently, the running part of my training consists of running two miles twice a week plus one two and a half mile outing. I usually workout after being up for several hours, it allows all my systems to warm up and my body to be fueled with at least one meal. My travel buddy wanted to go out with me today, but needed to go first thing so she could get back for some meetings.
I also knew today would be rough because it is colder here in Alaska and my lungs are not fond of the cold. Running with my buddy, Shannon, is a mental challenge in itself for me. She literally ran out of the womb of her mother and has never stopped. In high school she was the equivalent to the jocks I despised in my own, one of those kids who could run with what seemed like no effort at all. I hated being near them as I gasped and just wanted to stop and cry. This morning was like that all over again. It’s not her fault she can literally run circles around me. Mentally I know she has far more experience having done everything from expedition adventure races like Primal Quest to competed as a runner and a cyclist over the past forty years. Somehow how though in my mind I think my brand new running legs (compared to hers 40 vs. 2 years) should be able to keep up. It is a mental blood bath causing tears to sit on the edges of my eyes hidden behind my sunglasses. Eventually, I remind myself (after a bit of battering) how much courage it takes for me to get up and push my asthmatic lungs permanently scarred from radiation treatment to perform in suboptimal conditions for my body. Shannon keeps saying it will get easier. I believe it will I just want to know when. In the last two years since I started to run only a handful of times has my mind resoundingly said, “Got it!” The ease of moving my feet gracefully in rhythm with my breath feels so elusive and uncertain.
One of the things keeping me going is the lack of pain anywhere else. When I started running last year I started out the right way. I went and got my feet analyzed and fitted for a pair of good running shoes. However, within the first couple months my right knee started to feel off and achy. Then I read Born to Run and learned a lot about the physical mechanics of running. I also discovered the history behind running shoes. It made sense to me we need to develop the muscles of our feet to have proper over all leg function when running. So I got myself a pair of Five Fingers barefoot running shoes and have never looked back. Nor have I ever felt stronger from the tips of my toes to my gluttie-booty. If my talking about this prompts you to try them be sure to start slow and stretch after. One of stretchs I have found essential is what one of yoga teachers calls toe torture. Fold your legs under you with your toes tucked under and sit on your heels. You will feel the stretch from heel to tippy toe. Breath and work up to sitting for a full minute. There is a good article about beginning to run barefoot-ish in the latest issue of Women’s Adventure Magazine (free online).
So this is me today running on the coastal trail in Anchorage. I look at this and know I’ve got many more miles to go before my triathlon in September in Tahoe. I know there will be other days when I will be very discouraged, like today. Then I look at this picture again and I know there will be days when I will amaze myself. Remember I do this to continue to inspire myself and as my friend John Robinson said, “you need to let other people know what is possible.”
So right now for the rest of today I am focusing on creating more of the later.