It’s been just over 48 hours since I finished my first (though definitely not my last) half-marathon and, while I’m still processing everything about the experience, I wanted to take a few days to reflect particularly on the importance of pursuing our goals and feeding our passions, even when our emotions or mentality want us to do the exact opposite.
I’m still not sure whether I’ll write one long post about my experience or simply pull some insights for my weekly Monday posts these next few weeks, but the impact of acknowledging and allowing myself to follow my passion has really stuck with me today. Bear with me, because this post might not make as much sense as usual (if my normal posts even make sense?) since I’m still mentally worn from the weekend, but I’ll do my best!
As I stood in my designated pen behind the starting line on Sunday, a range of thoughts were whipping up a frenzy in my mind. I’ve always been nervous before races to the point where I can hardly eat, and this was no exception—I managed to choke down a quarter of a bagel and bottle of water, even though I knew that wouldn’t be enough to sustain me for 13.1 miles (just a quick sidenote to say thanks to the volunteers handing out gels throughout the race; you’re lifesavers!). In the midst of this whirlwind of emotion and thought, I had to find my focus and get into a good mental state before the starting gun.
Emotions are a pretty powerful thing, and when combined with uncertainty or negativity—what my dad fondly refers to as “stinkin’ thinking”—they can be near deadly. I’ve said it before, and for you all I’ll play the part of broken record: one of the best ways, in my opinion, to handle particularly powerful emotions is to let them wash over you like a wave or gust of wind. Fighting against them will do nothing but wear you down, and eventually you’ll become completely incapable of even letting them come across you. But when you’ve got these unbelievably strong feelings screaming at you to stop following what your heart wants, possibly equally powerful thoughts, how do you overcome it?
I had to dig pretty deep to remember why I was running this race, fundraising aside. I loved cross-country in high school and, while I was never spectacular at it, I held my own in a few varsity races. More importantly, I found something where I felt completely free and connected to myself. I find this connection in all kinds of fitness, but never quite so much as when I set off on a running path and just go. After my knee surgery (four years ago in June which seems a whole lifetime away!) I was hesitant to resume running such long distances; doctors’ and family members’ warnings of ruining my knees for life and whatnot always plagued the deepest corners of my mind and, once I’d hit the three or four mile mark, I would decide to err on the side of caution and call it a day-no matter how great or energised I still felt. So this race, the first of many half-marathons I plan to run now that I’m hooked, seemed like the perfect way to mute my negativity for good. And despite my stomach becoming a world-class gymnast in the minutes leading to the start, I’m so thankful I pushed myself to rediscover the full extent of my joy in running. Doing this half-marathon not only shut the negative thoughts and feelings down (seriously, try being upset after two hours’ worth of endorphins have unleashed themselves on you), it gave me a genuine sense of accomplishment in pursuing something simply for the love of it.
Will I keep having moments of self-doubt? Absolutely. There wasn’t a single race in high school, and clearly isn’t, where I didn’t step up to the starting line feeling like I could be ill all over the place. But this half-marathon has also, in a weirdly cosmic way, re-started my life. With the help of everyone who donated to my Crowdrise page I was able to give back to an organisation that, indirectly, saved my life four years back. But I was also able to go one step further and find that last piece of me that’s been missing-the fearless, carefree part that doesn’t care if I’m tired running on the promenade or if I’m stressed about my dissertation, because in that moment I’m just me. Running empties my mind and brings my world into razor sharp focus, a feat even my glasses can’t do some days, and looking back on Sunday it seems ridiculous that I ever considered letting my inner storm of emotions and negative thoughts bar me from pursuing something I know brings me true joy.
We’ll all face moments, hours, possibly days or longer caught in the midst of our own personal thundercloud. But allowing ourselves to pursue what truly wakes us up, what makes us feel alive with every electric pulse and humming cell in our body, can pull each and every one of us through. Give yourself permission to dance, run, sing, anything in your own storm and I promise what may seem like an unstoppable tempest will soon prove to be nothing more than a rain shower.