I have run a marathon. It feels so exciting and wonderful to be able to say that I have done something that only a small number of people do in their lifetime! If you would’ve asked me five years ago if I would ever run a marathon I would’ve laughed and said something like, “I’m not a runner at all. Like- at ALL!” But one day the fire was lit. My family registered together for a 5k race- 3.1 miles. I wasn’t a “runner” but I still felt like it was no big deal. I was athletic enough to just get through it right? I had just had my first baby 7 months prior, and felt like I was in decent shape. So….race day came. It just so happened that every single member of my family- mother and father included- beat me to the finish line. I not only struggled- I STRUGGLED. With every bit of emphasis placed on that word! It was on that day that I decided things needed to change.
It required months of dedicated training, but six months after my second baby I ran my first half marathon. I cried tears of joy at this accomplishment! I was so proud! Many months more and 4 half marathons later, I was feeling the best I had physically, maybe ever! All of this building to one pinnacle moment when I would run 26.2 miles all at once. I knew I could do it! I believed in myself entirely. I changed my lifestyle, ate healthier than before, diligently ran…and as a result I felt more clear minded and confident than I ever had before. With each foot on the pavement, each new mile achieved, all the sweat and struggle….I learned something new about myself-something I didn’t know before. These insights started small. Something like, “Maybe I can do this!” would cross my mind at the finish of a run. But as the months and training progressed, and the miles increased, I started thinking “look what I have done!” as I finished my runs. Even more time training, and suddenly the thought became not so much “look at what I’ve done” but instead “look at what I am doing”. I found that I was capable of infinitely more than I ever thought possible for me! I saw great potential! I discovered that I could do hard things-anything that I put my mind to!
The day came for my marathon. I was so excited! And I was so prepared. I ran it well, start to finish- exactly as planned or better. As I crossed the finish line however, I expected to feel something far greater than I’d ever felt! Maybe empowerment, accomplishment, huge overwhelming success! But I crossed that line and….nothing. No tears, no thunder or lightning…..nothing. It was in that moment, that I realized the true joy and real accomplishments were found in the grueling day to day training.
Now why, you must wonder, am I talking about this at all? Well, it has been a year and a half since I ran that marathon, and I’ve had another baby. I started back into my running 4 weeks postpartum, and two months later ran a half marathon. Two months too soon. I wanted to keep running, to push myself and reach new fitness goals! I knew how great it made me feel about myself! But suddenly I had three kids. All of which were at home staring me in the face, swinging their cute little legs, waiting for me to give the signal that we may be leaving the house that day. (Well, maybe not so much the newborn as the others.) I was overwhelmed in an entirely new way! Suddenly there was even less time for my bathroom visits, showers, meal prep, and husband- let alone my running! Then my sweet baby at 5 months was diagnosed with a rare lung disease that would potentially require lung transplants. In and out of hospitals, doctor visits, and tied to my house and the length of his oxygen tubes. Discouragement slowly started to settle in.
I am now 8 months postpartum. I have all but put running on hold. With so much going on right now in my family’s little lives- I had to realize something, something very big. I’ve had to learn to be nice to me again! As discouraged as I felt not getting out for a run, it was even more discouraging to be critical of myself for it in my own head. Progressively, one negative self-thought spirals into another, then another, until it can be positively out of hand! Suddenly, you’re not only critical about not getting your exercise in for the day, you’re harsh over dishes undone, laundry unfolded, tasks unaccomplished. Next, you’re frustrated with your appearance, your lack of “togetherness”, your pinterest fails, and your second rate mom-hood. Suddenly you’re a failure! After a hefty few weeks of this, I realized it had to stop.
It was one day, after receiving what felt like was the fiftieth piece of bad news, that I felt undone. I didn’t like where I was, and I didn’t like the way I felt. I grabbed a pile of laundry in my arms and walked it back to my bedroom to throw onto the bed with the previous three loads still waiting to be folded. With my older two kids at the park, and my baby asleep I was anxious to make something of myself that day. But despite this desire, the nagging voice inside my head killed my motivation stone dead. I walked into my bathroom to hang a towel and glanced in the mirror. My eyes darted away almost as quickly as I had seen myself. I stood there in the bathroom, my feet stuck to the floor, until I courageously looked back at myself in the mirror. It felt like forever since I really looked at myself this way! And in that moment, the most wonderful thing happened. I finally saw what others might see. A tired and worn out mama who was doing her darnedest to make sure that everyone’s bucket was full, and all the needs in her family were being met. I saw someone who was honestly at heart doing her very, very best. And can we be critical of anyone who simply does their best? So much love and appreciation and empathy washed over me. And I couldn’t believe I could feel those things for myself like I had before! When I was running and training, I saw myself as a courageous and strong woman- and I was good to her. I loved her! I didn’t get half way through the race only to tell myself, “you picked the wrong shoes, don’t run like that- check your form! Did you really think you could run a marathon??? You can’t. ” As a runner, negative thinking will ruin everything for you. Running actually drives those voices from your head entirely, allowing the optimistic and encouraging ones to conquer! Didn’t I deserve that still?
The point of all this is to say, yes. Yes I deserve that still. And so do we all! There is a time and a season for everything. I may not be physically running as I was and will again, but today I am living through a different kind of marathon. I’m trying to accomplish different goals and shape my character in a way that it hasn’t been shaped before. In the beginning that may feel frightening! We don’t know how to measure our success when we don’t have miles to cross off our training plan-so to speak! Suddenly, diapers, feeding routines, naps, preschool, and potty training don’t win you medals! (Though they probably should…) and we are thrown from our element- the things that we thought defined us are temporarily misplaced. We’re not using our majors, we left a job, maybe we don’t have any time to invest in our own hobbies or interests. Despite our confusion sometimes, of what we are making of ourselves, and wondering if we are in fact “winning”- we have to learn to see success in its small and maybe quiet ways in every facet of our lives and every bit of effort we make. We must appreciate ourselves in the grueling journey along the way. Each of us is enduring or running a marathon of some sort, and most likely it’s not the one we had in mind for ourselves. I realized that my negative thinking in this one was going to ruin everything and drop me to the ground mid-race. Life, in general, has to be lived with optimism and self-encouragement if it is going to feel successful. And hopefully, during our day to day we are all growing and offering ourselves the well deserved self love and appreciation we all need to make it!
We will all have days or moments when we doubt our abilities to accomplish all we hope to. It is a true feat in self mastery when we can set those feelings aside, smile, and recognize “all we are doing” rather than looking for “all we have done”.
Moral of my story: Be kind. Be understanding. Be forgiving. To yourself! Give your best, then give up the critical voices in your head! It’s important to remember that the moment of greatest joy may not be felt at the “finish line” like you hoped. In the end, you may realize it could have been joyful every step of the grueling, day to day training.
Keep running your marathons, whatever they may be, and pat yourself on the back for simply carrying on and doing all you are doing!
Education is important in Lindsey’s life, and she feels like she has gotten a lot of different aspects of it! Starting out, Lindsey studied vocal performance and musical theater. She loves music and the performing arts. Currently though, she is finishing a degree in Health Sciences, and loves to study nutrition and wellness. Her favorite class studied was human anatomy. She one day aspires to get a degree in nursing and continue on in her schooling to become a Midwife (CNM). She terms herself a “running enthusiast” and has run five half marathons and one full marathon. She has also begun new ventures to becoming strong in body, mind, and spirit and loves the opportunity for growth and improvement. Mostly, however, she loves being mom to her three kids and married to the love of her life. Currently residing in Southern California, she feels lucky to see the beach frequently and bask in the 70 degree year round weather. She is an optimist and believes it is most important to count your blessings before you number your misfortunes!
Lindsey’s son William is being evaluated for lung transplants and was born with a rare lung disease. She keeps a blog to record lessons learned from the experience and loves to write. You can follow this story at www.breatheforbabywill.wordpress.com