As the New Year approaches, I am reminded that nothing in life is for certain. This time last year, my family and I were getting ready for my Dad’s surgery on January 2, 2015. While a piece of me felt unsure of what was to come, I celebrated with friends and family and watched the ball drop at midnight welcoming in 2015. Looking back on that now, I realize I was taking it all for granted. It’s not until life as you know it comes to a screeching halt that you really begin to understand the value of every moment we are given to live. As the horror of 2015 unfolded and my Dad grew sicker, I zeroed in on the one thing I could control. Running. My sanity only remained because I ran. I woke up every day not knowing what would come next, but I knew I would run. I knew for the 30 minutes, hour, or several hours that I ran, all of the horror surrounding me would melt away and I would feel free.
Not surprisingly, I ran 1,360 miles in 2015. By far more than I’ve run in years past. With every mile I logged, I learned more and more about myself. See, when you’re out there pounding the pavement, whether your alone or with your crew, you put yourself to the test. Only you can get your ass up that next big hill. Only you can tell the negative voices in your head to shove it. You’re the only one that can truly push yourself to the limit, or better yet beyond, and see what you’re really made of. It’s addicting. It’s rewarding. And I love it.
So although there were many ups and downs in 2015, I’m coming out on top and riding the high as I kick this year out the door, welcome in a new year, and most importantly, open the door to new opportunities, new goals, and more life lessons.
Here are the top five life lessons I learned through running in 2015.
Step out of your comfort zone. I signed up for the Catamount 25K Trail Run on a whim. I didn’t think twice about it. It was one of those rare moments in my life where I just said “O.K. I’m doing this.” Next thing I knew, I had paid the registration fee and added another race to my calendar. I was completely unprepared. I was and still am not really a trail runner. I never trained on trails leading up to the race, although I had big plans to. I had no idea what I was in for, but I was invigorated at the thought of something different. Running that trail race was one of the best things I ever did. I stepped out of my comfort zone and was reminded how amazing it feels to push fear aside and just go for it. I got out in the woods. I experienced nature in a new light. I got muddy. I choked for air running up the mountain. My ankles rolled running down. I laughed my ass off with a great friend. I remembered not to take life too seriously. I remembered how important it is to just have fun. My friend Crystal and I finished that race hand in hand with smiles on our faces. Even though it was one of the most challenging races I’ve ever run, it turned out to be one of the best ever.
Never give up. This past June, I broke my 5K PR from 2012. Yes, you’re doing the math right. It took me three years to do it. In that three years, I had two babies, changed careers, and well, life happened. I never stopped running. I never lost sight of that goal to beat my 5K PR. When I crossed the finish line of the Hollis Fast 5K, it was the high point of racing for me in 2015. I had literally been chasing down this goal for what felt like forever. I changed my approach to training. I implemented consistent speed work. I saw the results. I never gave up on myself. I finished the race with an official time of 23:09, a mere 20 seconds faster than my old PR. 20 seconds or 20 minutes…doesn’t matter. I did it!
There is no “I” in TEAM. An oldie but goodie… My husband and I committed to run Reach the Beach again this year with a group of awesome friends. If you’ve run RTB, you know that it is truly a team effort. Everyone has to pull their own weight, come together, and achieve as a team. Otherwise, picture it…cramped van, no sleep for 24 hours, living off of PB&J, stinky bags of sweaty clothes…let’s just say, it can get ugly quick. So when our sitter bailed on us one day before we were to head out for the race, we debated what to do. Does one of us go race and cover the others miles while the other stays back with the kids? Do we both not go? Do we have someone sort of random pick the kids up and cover the time on day two before we get home? No option was great, but in the end, we agreed that we couldn’t abandon the team. We couldn’t ask someone else to run our miles. It wasn’t about us or our situation. It was about our team as a whole that we committed to. So what did we do? After finishing our second legs of RTB, we jumped into our own car, drove back home, slept one hour, jumped out of bed, picked up the kids, circled back to run our third legs with our team, and then headed to the finish where we crossed the line WITH our team and a double stroller. We wouldn’t change a thing.
Be part of something bigger than you. It is truly unbelievable the things that can be achieved when people come together. I have experienced this before this past year, but not to the level that I have experienced it in 2015. I am part of the most amazing, supportive group of women I’ve ever come across as a member of Greater Manchester Moms Run This Town (GMMRTT). Some of us have met while many of us have not. We are over 1,000 members strong. We manage to support one another unconditionally, lend a listening ear, offer advice about running, race gear, and life in general. When motivation is lacking, it will be found by simply jumping onto our Facebook page and scrolling through the countless posts about other members achieving a new goal, going further than they imagined, or experiencing their first headlamp run. Together, we are unstoppable and together we can achieve the unthinkable.
Never, ever, ever forget your “why”. If you do, it’s over. Motivation is lost. You’re wasting your time and you’ll begin to feel that way. There is a reason we do most things. It’s that reason that pushes us to keep going when we want to stop. If there is no fire under our ass to keep us moving, wanting, doing, then why would we? For every single race or goal I committed to in 2015, there was a reason. While I came close, but did not achieve my goal of a sub 2 hour half marathon, I set that goal so that I would push myself beyond my limits in training. I set that goal because while I knew it would not be easy, I wanted to test myself. I’ll keep chasing it and never give up, just like with my 5K PR. When I set my goal to run two marathons in one year, I did it because I wanted to force myself to train smart, take care of my body, get adequate rest, so that I could actually do it. Yes, I am also slightly insane, but my driving force behind running two was about the underlying challenge on so many levels. That goal, I did achieve. When my husband and I signed up yet again for the Seacoast Series, we did so because it meant time together AND with our two kids. All but two of those races were run with the double stroller. We want our kids to see what being healthy is all about, how fantastic it is to have a community of positive people surrounding them, and how fun it is to hang with Mom & Dad.
When I decided to apply to run for Team Tufts in the Boston Marathon, I did so knowing that I would love to fundraise for such an amazing hospital and organization that gave so much to my family and so many others, not to mention that I would be making a dream come true by having the chance to run Boston, the mother of all marathons.
So as we welcome in 2016, don’t be afraid of the unknown. Step out of your comfort zone. Do it! Surprise yourself. Push negativity to the side and surround yourself with positivity. Look around for inspiration. Keep moving forward. Never give up on YOU. Remain loyal. Stay close to your “team”. Join forces with others. Set goals you didn’t think possible. Achieve them together. And never, ever, forget why you started.
Cheers to you and yours for a Happy New Year!