"By letting go it all gets done." Lao Tzu
The goal: June 1st - August 31st, 1,000 miles on foot, running & walking.
August 31st: 960 miles in the bank.
Just to clarify, that's not 1,000 miles.
Just to clarify, it all got done.
I set out to walk 1,000 miles in an attempt to set my mind right around running. The hope was that by putting in that kind of volume, that amount of time on feet, I might begin to believe again that I could go out and run--run without stopping, run without my mind attacking. 1,000 miles was a big goal. It was ridiculous, really, with the hope of a vague outcome that was hard to explain. My coach was clear when I presented this idea that he was 100% on board, but also clear that this was a monster experience I would be taking on. He sent me a follow up email to our conversation laying out how this was going to look:
- I wasn't going to get much else done all summer.
- I have taken on big challenges in the past and, although I always finish them, at some point during the challenge I procrastinate and then scramble to get it done. That was not going to work. I had to bank miles up front, because life was going to happen and getting behind a day or two on a goal of this size can sink it, so you've got to have miles in the bank for those days.
- This is going to hurt.
Yeah, yeah : )
Okay, I didn't say yeah, yeah! I totally believed him because he's always right about these things. He's been in this game a long time, and he knows what he's talking about. In fact, he still usually knows me better than I know myself in this realm. So maybe I was still naive enough, or stubborn enough, or the call was deep enough that I had to do it regardless of the reality check.
He was spot on about the procrastination, and I took that to heart. But what did he mean this is going to hurt? Everything I do hurts. How will it hurt more than that? Funny enough, what scared me the most was that I wasn't going to get much else done all summer. Holy s**t, really? That can't be true. Maybe that's true for the month of June while I'm getting into a routine, but by July I will have this in hand and I can sail through the rest of the summer kicking ass and taking names, because getting s**t done is what I do.
I'm sure it goes without saying that we all know my coach was right, x 100. I kicked no asses. I took no names. In fact, I had my ass handed to me on a daily basis. At the end of every day life would say "Here's your ass, Diane. Better take it to bed because morning is right around the corner and you have to get up and do it all over again. And tomorrow we'll add in blisters! Just three, you'll be fine. Oh, better take some Advil or that pounding in your leg will keep you up all night. And set your sunscreen out--we've got another 97 degree scorcher on tap. Yep, have a good cry and then you better drink some Gatorade. You can't afford to lose any salt, you're behind on mileage and you've got to go, go, go."
Yes, I know I signed up for this. Yes, I know I wasn't being forced to do this. And yes, I felt guilty about the time it cost to do it. There was seemingly no purpose to it. But I heard something deep inside of me lay out a clear plan for the summer: Walk and run 1,000 miles from June 1st - August 31st, and I knew that I had to do it. I knew that there was a purpose. I've been in my fitness world long enough now, and I've had enough little goals and big challenges to know that the target I'm aiming at is not usually what I'm really after, or what I get in the end. Even so, it's a leap of faith every time. I'm not a pro athlete; I work hard to be average. And I'm 54 years old. There is nothing logical about this. There are no concrete outcomes like money or a job that seem to be the main reason we greenlight experiences. I just look crazy, chasing these miles because something inside told me to. But I think that's what faith is. Sometimes your gut tells you to go a certain way, even though you can't explain it, even though it looks like there is no purpose, even though the outcome is unknown, even though it may out you about a secret you're holding, or even though it will shake the foundation, but you go because what's the alternative?
I spent one of the most miserable summers I can ever remember. Not every moment was miserable and, in fact, I was also happy. But in one word, it was relentless. It was hot and dry and mundane and relentless. My body hurt without relief the entire time. And everything in life fell off except for the basics and the pursuit of miles.
But something happened out there, and I didn't know it until it was over. In fact, up until the end I was limping through my miles thinking THIS. ISN'T. WORKING. Nothing has changed. I've wasted a summer chasing what? I wrote a whole post about coming close to throwing in the towel right at the end, then finding a little coffee mug sitting by itself on a shelf at the grocery store that said Don't You Dare Give Up. So I didn't. I didn't give up, in fact, I signed up for a 24 Ultra Race from 8am August 28th to 8am August 29th, just to put a button on the whole thing. I had my eye on that ultra most of the summer, but didn't pull the trigger until a week before the race. I knew I needed to do this. Again, a leap of faith. The irony was, if I signed up for this ultra, I risked not completing my miles. At this point, I was 10 days out from the end date of my challenge. If I didn't do the ultra I would likely make it. If I did do the ultra, I would have to do a little tapering before the race so that I wasn't putting in the volume I had been right up until race day. Then I would have to, have to, bank a certain number of miles during the 24 hours. Then I would have to hope like hell that I hold up during those 24 hours and actually get those miles, AND THEN--I would still have to get miles in for 3 days after doing a 24 hour race. It made no sense. If the goal is the 1,000 miles, it made no sense to do the ultra. So maybe it wasn't actually about the actual number of miles; but I still didn't know this...
So what happened during the summer? Nothing, and everything.
- I saw a lot of turtles.
- I spent all day, every day outside.
- I learned what surrender feels like, not just in your body but in your mind.
- I learned to run towards the pain and boredom instead of avoiding it. If you take all that energy that it requires to avoid and you just focus it on going in to those places, then you will come out the other side. And there is always, always something new on the other side.
- I figured out my new career. Actually I didn't figure out anything, it was just sittin' there on the side of the road one day. After I tired of the music and podcasts, after I had surrendered to the pain and boredom--I'm just walking along empty and available, and there it was plain as day, no bells and whistles, like a $20 bill on the ground: you see it, pick it up, and take it with you. You don't go out looking for a $20 bill, it finds you. And that's how I found my new career. No angst, no turning worry over in my mind, just the thought that I wanted a career I could be excited about that would support my writing. That thought, a musing actually, floating on a cloud of surrender in an uncharacteristically empty mind, and then ta-da--do this. By the next day I had found a training program, talked with an advisor, and was ready to go. Just like that. As easy as picking up a $20 bill off the ground.
Because of those miles, I can hear what my body is telling me, maybe for the first time ever. My mind was chastened and found it's proper place again. And my spirit? It's overseeing the whole shebang, as it should be. The miles mattered, but were never the point.
As the day ended on August 31st I added up my miles from the summer and my ultra weekend: 960. I felt emptied out, tired and fulfilled; filled with peace and soooo excited. The ship was righted and on course, and not by my manipulating outcomes but by shutting up, listening and following. Step after mysterious step, faithful to myself, I let go and it all got done. And it turns out it only took 960 miles.