Last fall, I ran my first marathon. 5 months prior to that, I was having a tough day and thought, “Well, I guess I should sign up for a marathon.”
I can’t explain why I thought that was the next step. I have been practicing trusting my instincts and staying curious in my life, which may have something to do with it. Staying committed to these concepts has transformed my life in tremendous ways, usually in retrospect.
And so I spent the hottest months of the year running longer and farther than I ever had. I was committed to foam rolling my legs everyday and doing strength workouts a few times a week. I was reading books about running, meditating about my race, fueling my body well, and journaling about my strategy.
It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always fun. I questioned why I was doing it, and chatted with my sister-in-law and coach about how to stay motivated. She kept reminding me to trust the process. I was hearing her words, but I didn’t know what she meant. I was in the middle of it and couldn’t see the big picture yet.
On race day, I was nervous and cold as I waited for the start. I was absolutely ready to start running. And then I was! I started tearing up as I realized that I was doing it….I was running a marathon! I checked my watch after the first mile and got nervous because I thought I was running too fast. Then, after the second mile, I was scared I was running too slow. After the third mile and another judgment about my pace, I decided I wouldn’t look at my watch anymore if it meant I was just going to stress about my effort for the next 23.2 miles. Could I let go of the story line I was creating? What if I stayed curious about another way to run this race?
I decided to try. Instead, I would run each mile, each STEP with integrity, paying attention to this particular moment only. I would run up a hill knowing I was doing my best on this hill, letting go of any expectation. I would run down a hill allowing myself to trust the strength of my legs in that moment. If I could look back at my race and know that I ran each step with integrity, the end result wouldn’t matter. The process of how I ran the race was more important.
That lesson felt epic and extremely powerful for months afterwards.
Soon enough, the stressors of life began to pile up. Between getting engaged, planning a wedding, working full time, and continuing my commitment to physical and mental health, I was overwhelmed. One day this Spring, it occurred to me that I could and should start applying the lessons I learned from my marathon to the rest of my life.
It felt daunting when I realized this was a practice I should do every minute of every day, not just something I tried for 4 ½ hours some day last October. What a tremendous amount of effort it takes, and how exhausting it can be to stay awake and pay attention to each step of your life.
I continue to practice finding my integrity. Sometimes I forget, it feels elusive, or I am confused about what integrity means to me in a particular situation. I try to pair it with being gentle with myself and knowing that everything comes together and then it falls apart again. The concept that my life is in a constant state of transition is a lesson I continue to learn. I also try to remember that I am not always able to see the big picture or fully understand the importance of this moment until much later.
Each day is rich with opportunity to show up with integrity, which creates fertile ground for a life that continues to transform in an astounding way. I feel free to walk (or run) my path – which is full of ups and downs, hairpin turns and potholes – but it is mine. And I have done it the best way I know how.
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