grief, half-marathons, writing

Only One Step

I’m trying to figure out why running another half-marathon in six weeks feels easier than working on my book. Why am I willing to put on my running shoes and go outside for a run, but picking up the edits to my chapters paralyzes me? 

For a week now I’ve been trying to answer all the questions swirling around in my brain: 
Why am I so sad? 
Why can’t I stop crying?
What is wrong with me?
Why can’t I just fix my chapters and move on? 
Why am I stuck?
What’s wrong with me?

While out on a run Wednesday evening, I had some thoughts. I often have a lot of thoughts while I run, especially when I’m outside. I haven’t chosen to run outside much this winter, which means many of those thoughts that would normally come tumbling out each time my foot hits the pavement have been stuck. Instead of jostling them with fresh air and sunlight, they’ve been trapped in dark, musty spaces in my head. 

Not good. Not good for my mental health. Not good for creativity. Just, not good. 

Thankfully it’s warmed up a little and the sun is setting later which means I once again have the opportunity to step outside for a run after work. 

So, here are some of those thoughts that found themselves with fresh air to breathe…

There was a day — many days, in fact — when I had never run a half marathon. For over half of my life I didn’t run. I never even thought about running. I had to run in gym class but that was a miserable experience that I never wanted to relive. I was not a runner

Until one day I decided to try running. I have no idea what spurred this desire to run, but I can remember putting on some shoes and heading outside to run through my neighborhood. I didn’t stick with it though. I think I got a stress fracture and took that as a sign from the Universe that I’m not a runner. End of story, or so I thought.

Fast forward a few years and there I was walking Denali several miles every morning before work. In the afternoon I took her to the dog park to run it out. It wasn’t enough. It was never enough! She had so much energy. I was warned about this but didn’t take it seriously. I should have taken it seriously.

Denali
only one step
Don’t be fooled – she was only tired momentarily!

I said “yes”

So, one morning I decided to just jog for part of our walk. She liked it and I didn’t die, so I thought that was a good start. I slowly started building up miles and we began running together regularly. 

Eventually a friend of mine asked if I wanted to run a half-marathon with her. That seemed ridiculous but we were going to raise money for her friend’s son and it would be in Disney World, so for some reason I said yes. I said yes to running a half-marathon. At that point I’d probably never run more than 3 or 4 miles at once. 

We trained. A lot. I had a plan and we ran. Denali ran all those training runs with me. She was a beast. She could run all day. Sometimes she did. Even 12 miles didn’t wear down that dog!

The day came and we ran a half-marathon through Disney World! (Poor Denali, she had done all the training but received none of the reward!). It was amazing. Hard, of course, but amazing.

Then, as we were walking around the hotel after the race, I noticed that my foot hurt. It really hurt. I was limping because it hurt so bad. I went to the doctor after I got home and learned I had a stress fracture. Again! However, this time I didn’t take it as a sign from the Universe that I wasn’t a runner. I took it to mean that I needed better shoes. Go figure. 

half marathon
only one step
Crossing over the finish line!

In six weeks I will run my 20th half-marathon. I’m having a party. You’re all invited! 🙂 

From the first time I went running in my neighborhood until this 20th half-marathon, 16 years have passed. From that first stress fracture to the second one to the new shoes to the next race and the next one… it’s been 16 years. 

I didn’t just walk out of my house one day and run 13.1 miles. I started with short runs here and there. I trained and complained. Before those first few races I fretted and worried over what to wear and what to eat. It’s only been in the last year or so that I don’t hold myself to a rigid training plan. 

It’s taken me 16 years to get to the point where I can casually say, “I’ll be back soon — I’m going out for a 10 miler.”

So, why in the ever living world did I think I’d just wake up one day and have a book written? It’s not even been a year since I started this process. It doesn’t happen quickly. This is a p  r o c e s s. And a long one at that. I guess if you count my blog as part of the process, I’ve been at it for three years (but blogging is much different from writing a book!). 

I needed a break

After that first race I was hurt. I had to take a break for awhile. I wasn’t even sure if I’d run another race again. 

When I got my chapter edits back last week I was hurt. I needed a break. I’m still not sure if I’ll write a book. 

I’ve been here before. Different circumstances, same response. 

When things get hard I want to quit. When I don’t know what step to take next I want to stop moving. When I’m scared I want to hide. 

This is hard and I don’t know the next steps and I’m scared.

I feel this way in every single race I run. At some point I wonder if I can even finish it. I’m embarrassed that I thought I could. Over and over I say, this is too hard, you don’t have to do this. But every time I finish the race. I’ve never walked off the course. I always finish. 

I’ve said the same thing to myself multiple times this week: this is too hard, you don’t have to do this. It is too hard. All of it. And, I don’t have to do it. That’s true.

Only one step

But not doing it feels hard too. 

I heard this quote on a recent Bear the Light podcast:
“And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin

I’m still not sure what the next right step is but so many friends have reached out their hands offering to help me take a step, even a very small one. I’m not sure how long this will take but, friends, I’m choosing to trust

Every single race I’ve run — all 19 — have required only one thing from me: put one foot in front of the other. Only one step. That’s it. 

So that’s what I’m going to do. One small step at a time.

peace.

only one step

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