I only have a handful of calendar pages left to write about, but they are admittedly giving me some trouble. When I look them over they seem really concentrated somehow, and I'm not even exactly sure what I mean by that. There is sort of an intensity to them, and they are for sure directive. They really resonate with me, but they also harken back to the start of this fitness journey when these kinds of quotes felt so epic and compelling, and even a little mysterious.
I was staring at them this morning and realized the theme running through these remaining pages isn't so much about physical fitness but mental fitness. I didn't know it when I started, but mental fitness is really what I've been chasing this whole time. I had components of mental fitness--there was some grit in there, and some strength of mind--but it was the same as someone having fast twitch muscle fibers and a gift for running, but they never put their shoes on to go run. The capacity for running fitness is there, but it doesn't matter if you don't exercise it. The capacity for mental fitness has always been in me, but I needed to start running to pull all the pieces together.
The most exciting part about mental fitness for me is this: there truly are no limits. There is a naturally imposed governor on my running ability and, even though I still don't think I've found the limit on that, there is a limit. I get it that there is for even the most gifted runners, but you get my point. I wasn't ever going to be one of the most gifted runners. However! Not even the sky is the limit for my mental fitness capacity. And that is why these calendar pages like the one above are so captivating to me. My deep dive into running and what keeps me swimming in those waters are the endless opportunities to build my mental fitness. I have a love/hate relationship with running, I truly do--it hits on both of those extremes. I have, since the beginning, bucked against this idea that if you aren't having fun then why are you doing it? I could never answer that question, because I often wasn't having any fun. But I also did not want to be doing anything else. It's been a quiet and constant frustration for me that I struggle with so many aspects of running, but something deep inside of me tells me to keep at it anyway.
There is a race called the Bluff Run that I run in October that absolutely dogs me--it kicks my ass and I don't know why exactly. I've had some "success" in other races--I've placed in my age group on occasion which is really fun--but I come in last every time in this stupid race. Last. LAST. As in, there are no more runners behind me, just like junior year of cross country. The worst (best) part is, the people who run this race cross the finish line and then stay there, cheering on each runner coming through. Last year I was coming down off the bluff into the festival area and I could hear the cheering, and it took every single fiber of my being to put a smile on my face and behave graciously as I came across that finish line. In my head and in my heart I want to be a contender, but the reality is I'm a participant. I smiled and took my medal and ran straight to the car, where I proceeded to cry for a good half an hour. It's hard to come in last. At the risk of tooting my own horn, it takes fortitude to come in last. I'm not usually dead last, I'm kind of middle of the pack. But not in this race. This race is different. This race always has a big lesson. This race is the one my coach said afterwards "Diane, you need a f**king attitude adjustment." This is the race that tightens the screws on mental fitness. This is the race that shows me through my physical limitations that there are no other limitations. This race is sacred.
Running is my classroom and my teacher, and the lessons are always: how are you going choose to approach this, how are you going to choose to think about this in the moment, and how are you going to choose to react to the outcome? Can you choose to be grateful for your strong body and the opportunity to do this? Can you be the best student you can be? Can you stay open to all the learning possibilities? Can you stay in your own lane? Can you believe that you belong? Will you choose to connect this to your life as a whole?
Will you stay positive, work hard, and make it happen? Because not even the sky is the limit.