Note: Started writing this shortly after 2014 began and find that my birthday this week is a more appropriate time for a reflective and somewhat autobiographical piece.
The beginning of a new year can produce the feeling of renewed hope for some as we’ve shed the tired coat of the waning year–at best no looking back, only forward. Although I normally reserve the right to keep my resolutions to the safety of my personal correspondence and journals, I feel comfortable sharing the following reflections, projections and reality of what I expect of 2014 and beyond.
Last Year’s Ending On the Road
Just over a month ago I ran competitively in a local road race after training for nearly 6 months straight. My goals for the race continued to change as the race start date came closer to pass. First I kept focusing on placing in the top three females overall. As I kept getting up around 4:50 am a few days every week to get the training done, my body and spirit awakened to the sacrifice I was purposely subjecting myself to–its effects were lacing my conversations with family and friends as a bitter brag. The daily routine with my children and immediate family were labored because I had already taxed myself before the day had begun.
As the exhaustion compounded I realized that my heart wasn’t into it so when I came across the story of an eastern European woman who once was a competitive runner and now represented the Race to Respond program with the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) I wanted to know more. After I contacted the IOCC and found out that this program was open to any and all athletes who wanted to participate and raise funds while running in a race. By chance that same week I got into a conversation with a colleague at my church and found out she was training for the same race–when I shared the info about this program she was very excited and we teamed up.
IOCC has been doing a lot of work in Syria with those displaced in the warfare ravaging the population there and most recently with relief efforts in the Philippines following that tragic super-typhoon in the fall. Running for this cause breathed new life into my discipline for what I needed to accomplish each time I practiced. The painfully early mornings were more manageable because the cause was much greater than my own ego or assumed goals.
At race start time, my colleague and I had raised over 1100K in just a few weeks and I felt part of a team again as I wore IOCC’s logo on my racing top. However, while running the race I was overwhelmed by the unexpected: I felt completely drained and light-headed. By mile 4 I had become dizzy and labored in my running form. When I passed through mile 8 and saw my family cheering me on there was a part of me that just wanted to stop right there and walk with them back to the cars and speed home. The other part of me was very frustrated and had resolved that I was finishing this race without collapsing because of the donations from others to IOCC on behalf our running in this race.
In short, I finished in the top 10 women, 2nd in my age-group and was simply devastated by one of my slowest times in the half-marathon.
New Year’s Fears and Frustrations
If you know me well personally, the last couple of paragraphs make sense to you–if you don’t know me, I don’t blame you for being impatient with my tone.
Of the many things I learned in 2013, it became clear to me that I really thrive on helping others and if I’m to push my body physically then I definitely need a cause to support beyond myself. Within weeks of the switch I made to run for charity I had also received a call that I was nominated to be part of the induction class for the 2014 Palm Beach Sports Commission Hall of Fame banquet in March. Cliche as it may seem, I felt like everything in my athletic life had come full circle.
There’s also my squirming emotion that revolts against the idea of being inducted into an athletic hall of fame: My will screams that I’m not done yet with my competitive days, the Olympic torch continuously burns in my heart for a chance to make the Games and I still dream of races both past and future like a soldier might be haunted by battles on the field.
What is more important to learn? Is it to rise up always and conquer? Or is it more complicated; can success also be found in being content to accept and forgive one’s self for not accomplishing the stereotypical dream story of a child growing up from a poor and abused background to achieve star athlete status on the worldwide stage?
Peace and Gratitude
Running in that race last month also helped me truly dissect what my running career was for me in my younger years: It was an escape from the daily burdens of personal life. It provided opportunities to have wonderful father figures and mentors like my coaches Harry Howell and JJ Clark. It was my prayer and my dance for my Creator. I loved running and meeting others who were like me–connecting with them even if we were so different in other aspects of our respective personalities. It provided me educational opportunities and the honor of wearing my University of Florida’s orange and blue colors in our uniforms in competition.
By accepting the honor to be included in the Hall of Fame for Palm Beach County’s Sports Commission I’m affirming that my running accolades are a testament to what discipline and dedication of others can yield. Looking back I also realize that there are countless people I wish to thank for their inspiration, support, prayers, unconditional love and overall belief that I was capable of setting and achieving various goals in my sport.
Being Here, Looking Ahead But Present Still
I’m a runner and always will be but it’s not the only thing I am and associate with in this life. For nearly 15 years in my childhood and early adulthood years it was second only to my academic career and so I suppressed other aspects of myself until I could expand in those areas later. What I strive for the most now is to truly live in the here and now–to engage in whatever moment I’m living whether as a mother, a wife, a lover, a sibling, a friend, a teacher, an artist, a gardener, a writer, a dancer and the list goes on ad nauseam.
What I hope you can take from this personal babble is that my philosophy is shaping to understand that it’s possible to peacefully dissuade regret and the “what-ifs” from the psyche. The truth is there is ‘what has been’ and may be ‘that which comes’ but the best we can all do is be here and thrive in the ‘now’. Then there isn’t a question as to whether you did all you could because you did–for the better or the worse doesn’t even matter because you respected the present by exercising your will to live.
“Let it Be” The Beatles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4zaofnVhps