It only took two steps before a doorframe broke my fall. Two more steps before my legendary grace and poise were manifested in near disaster amidst a room full of strangers. Thankfully a set of bleachers intervened before I was fully parallel to the floor. I adjusted my center of gravity and delicately placed my weight back on the wheels I had inexplicably strapped to my feet. My earlier enthusiasm and bravery were long ago consumed by the sheer concentration it took not to fall on my face. Just as I found my balance, the color drained from the room. My gaze slid from the floor, tracking each new addition to the battalion swaggering around the rink. The thrum of skates against the arena was at once both entrancing and formidable. Beginners they said. No experience they said. That is not what I saw. What faced me was the most intimidating, humbling moment of my recent existence.
Monday was the day the universe tried to swallow me. It came in slyly – appearing first as the insulated silence of the middle distance. I could feel a great cacophony of sound and chaos building just outside my peripheral vision, but the lacuna had my rapt attention. The cursor blinked ceaselessly before me. Blink. Blink. Blink. Mesmerizing.
All at once, my throat caught and panic slipped across my mind. Reality crashed in around me. Just for a second. Then, focus. My eyes found the monitor in front of me and I was once again alone in a quiet office. The clock barely ticked past 7.30, and I knew it was only a matter of time before the panic I felt appeared in the form of coworkers and deadlines. One breath in, one breath out.
That was the same day I decided things needed to change.
When my coworkers ask me how my race went last weekend, I tell them it went well. I tell them I’m surprised I’m not more sore. I tell them the course was hard, and I didn’t quite make my time, but that’s okay. I tell them Yellowstone was beautiful. When I first sat down to write this blog post on Monday, I built such pretty structures to tell you how much I learned and how this race was a profound metaphor for my life. But in the end, the reality is far less appealing.
Today is the 102nd day of 2017. In that time, I’ve run a measly 113.47 miles. I’ve lost on average zero pounds and mostly just shifted my inches from one part of my body to another. Somehow, I’m slower than I was at the beginning of the year and feel like I’ve made no progress at all. I knew going into this year that running 1,000 miles was a lofty goal. I also knew that running my first half-marathon would take work. But I knew I was up for the challenge. And then the excuses started.
I make excuses in all parts of my life – not just when it comes to running. But that doesn’t make them any more valid. There are plenty of times when “I don’t want to” turns into “I can’t because…” That mental shift gives me leeway to skip a run or eat ice cream even when I know perfectly well I’m making a bad decision. Here are the top offenders:
The beginning of a story is essential. It’s where everything starts. In science, you can’t have Δx unless you have x. In literature, you can’t have a climax unless you have an exposition. You can’t have a chicken without an egg… but that’s a bit circular. Forget about the chicken. Without a beginning that is catchy or engaging, we’d never get far enough into a story to care about its end. This story is no different.
Realistically, the dramatic arc is very predictable. Either I will run 1,000 miles or I will not run 1,000 miles. Along the way, I will be disheartened and encounter difficulty. I will probably have some quirky experiences that provide lessons about life. I will have days of triumph and days of failure, and in 11 months and 21 days, I will know whether this story has a happy ending.
We all know happy endings are never that clear.