Cue the emojis and bust out the highlighters, ladies and gentleman. I proudly present the First Goal of the New Year can now be checked off that list! Done done done DONE!
One hot day in August of last year, as I sat pen and paper in hand dreaming all the dreams, I wrote down a goal that was not very “Rachel” of me.
Written boldly in pretty marker on the lined paper titled BIG GOALS. Sandwiched between “Get Published” and “Begin Newsletter.” This goal read…
PR in half-marathon at 2:05
Not “Rachel” of me…what does that mean exactly? Let’s just say in the crosstic poem of my life, here are the words you will NOT find written down the construction paper in magic marker for her class project. Runner, Athlete, Competitive, Hustle, Excel, Lead. Nope. Not this Rachel. This Rachel is a Reader, Artist, Creative, Host who Excites and Listens. Heart doodles and smiley faces around the letters and The End.
You see, if there is anything I am proud of it is my consistent turtle pace. Turtles don’t set PR goals. Turtles just walk up to the starting line and start moving. This has served me well. Just Move is my favorite exercise mentality. Sportsy goals with words like “PR” and numbers written after it just don’t fit with my Turtle Brand Strategy.
But sometime in that Just Move method last spring, I surprised myself, probably a little bit like the Turtle surprising the Hare. While training following the same schedule and the same routine listening to the same music, suddenly, I found myself reaching the finish just a little bit faster than I expected. And before I knew it, I had completed my third half marathon 10 minutes faster than my first.
Huh. Me. Kinda sorta doing a race just a hair faster (hehe, punny) than a turtle might go? Who knew?
And so there it was. A little taste of what it feels like to catch the fever of competition. Not with my fellow runners because lawd have mercy those folks can FLY. But a slight edge to my own running abilities starting to take shape in my head. And it was kind of exhilarating.
Then I wondered, gosh, if I could surprise myself like this, if I could push myself a little harder than I could have imagined, then maybe just maybe I could push myself a little more?
So I wrote it down. Picked a pace that sounded doable, did the math, and wrote down the number.
That part was easy. The next step was where it got a little rocky.
I started day one of training as I always do with a plan in place, a playlist curated, and the new shoes to get me there. The first day is always exciting but this training felt different. The numbers haunted me. I approached every run with a specific goal, to hit the ideal pace every time that would get me across that finish line.
In case you know anything about running, you will tell me this method was wrong. I wish you had. I wish you had been there to tell me that a tortoise cannot be a hare overnight, and if they do they will be sore, and tired and angry. I wish you had told me that running skills are built gradually and I should stop to listen to my body every now and again.
Maybe I was getting old. Maybe I wasn’t refueling my body. Maybe my broken foot was getting in the way. Maybe the weather was crappy.
Maybe I was fooling myself. Maybe I can’t do this.
Each and every time these doubts took up way too much space in my head. Running is a mental game and my mind was kicking my behind.
But while I was complaining and limping and feeling grumpy about the training process, I was missing a really important part of the story.
I was doing it.
It was incredibly hard and my mind and body were over it, but they weren’t giving in. I still hit each mileage goal. I still met every pace goal. And in very tiny stumbling increments, my body was getting stronger. My mind just hadn’t caught up to it yet.
You see, there is a very different story when you are suddenly writing the plot line. Being surprised by a great race when you thought you were taking it easy, or being asked to write an article for a magazine when you never dreamed of being published, or when offered a dream job, when you were never looking in the first place, or when you meet the right guy on the day you didn’t shower, those are all really exciting play twists. But they aren’t what writes the story. It’s the buildup, the storytelling, the character development, that’s what makes the story rich. But those parts that take the most struggle? Those parts are hard.
Running was hard. And I don’t do hard. I’m a no hustle, no competition, just move turtle who found herself pushing towards a hare type goal.
But the climax of the story is the goal was met. It was a tough race day with 40 mph gust of wind that helped no one. I felt every achy mile. And (cover your eyes if you don’t like TMI) I peed all the way to the finish line. But cross it I did 2:05:50. It’s a happy ending, folks. The End.
Or is it? Because y’all know I can’t help myself but to learn from the struggle. In the last couple of weeks, as my body healed, and my heart and head along with it, here’s where I landed:
My grumpy attitude made running hard for me. I choose running as my preferred cardio because it leaves me feeling capable, accomplished, and so happy. Running hard was stealing that joy from me. But crossing that finish line having successfully completed that goal, the joy came flooding right back. I surprised myself again. This body that I think I didn’t quite believe in taught me it wasn’t giving in to hard. I didn’t have to like it, but it was going to help me meet my goals. And I did. That accomplishment changed my grumpiness into joy and pride.
I’m the first to say you MUST stop pushing yourself to do something if it is just not working for you. It is not giving up if a goal is not right. It is not failure if the path you took must change or what was right for her is not right for you. Grace. Grace. Grace. We MUST remember to give ourselves so much GRACE.
But maybe leave just a tiny bit of room for hard. Maybe trust yourself and your heart that while it is hard today, yesterday, even tomorrow still, if you kinda still want that part written in your story, then give yourself room to try hard just once. Is it a creative endeavor that just keeps getting rejected? Is it a self-care goal you just can’t seem to find space for? Is it stepping outside your personality type to make the phone call to the senators when you LOATHE talking on the phone (I think this needs to be my next hard goal.) Give it a try. You might be surprised by the plot twist.
I’m going back to slow running. I’m pulling out the double stroller, I’m listening to podcasts instead of Beyonce, and I’m going to tap back into my inner turtle. I did the hard goal. It’s time to go back to easy and fun. But as I glance at the other looming goals on either side of that very “Not Rachel” goal, I’m going to remember that one time my body believed in me and helped me do something hard for the sake of writing a good story.