At 10:30am on February 21, 2022 I walked out of the Team House. It was a sunny Monday morning in Austin, Texas, I had just said my goodbyes to my new friends from running camp, and I had the whole day ahead of me. I took a left and headed towards downtown, towards coffee. Coffee is my North Star in life: Need to get a project started? That begins with coffee. Need to get the morning started? That begins with coffee. Need a break? Coffee. Want to have a good chat? Coffee. Feeling unsettled? Make some coffee. Wanna get pumped for a run? Down some coffee. Want to get grounded? (ironically) Coffee. Not sure what just happened and how you can feel so emptied out and overflowing all at the same time? Better point myself towards the nearest coffee to try and make sense of it all.
There was no chatter in my mind, amazingly, as I walked down the street. The warm sun was shining down, and I felt clear and quiet...complete...satiated. Exactly right. I felt right. Not one bit of processing was going on, I was just carrying the experience along with me-- like I could feel it running through my body and finding places to settle in my bones and muscles and cells. "Running Camp Transfusion," I thought.
And then the tears started to flow--tears of release and relief, although I don't know what I was relieved about. Maybe that I had experienced belonging? We all need that, but what sweet relief to find it. For sure there were some tears of gratitude--I felt so lucky to have found this place, and grateful to have truly connected with many people. I can be a little slow to warm up, but not so much this time. So add to that some tears for feeling proud of myself for taking such a big leap, and for going in with an open mind.
It wasn't lost on me as I was walking down the street crying that camp had started 5 days earlier in exactly the same way--in tears. But those tears were different. So much was mixed up in it that I couldn't point to one thing as the cause, but maybe tears are often like that. The week prior to camp had some stressors, including a number of nights leading up to camp with little sleep. In addition, it had been an early morning travel day and, for a few reasons, not a smooth travel day. Then a taxi ride (because I couldn't figure out Lyft at the airport) to an airbnb that photographed really well but didn't quite deliver in reality, in safety or in comfort. So I stood in the airbnb and cried. I cried because I was tired. I cried because I was nervous. I cried because I was in a new city, about to do a new thing, and I felt exposed and out of place. Like a 10 year old being dropped off at camp I called my daughter and said I want to go home. And like a wise parent she instead found us a nice hotel downtown to move to. And then I cried because I was relieved. And I cried because she's such a good and kind grown up. And I cried because in that moment I didn't feel like a grown up. It's scary to be open and ask for help, and I was about to walk into a situation where I knew no one and if I was going to get the most out of it, I would need to be open. Why in the world did I think this was a good idea? I wanted to go home. Instead, we stood in the sketchy little alley with our suitcases and waited for the Lyft to take us downtown.
Between the bookends of tears, big magic happened at the Endeavorun 80/20 Endurance Running Camp. I walked in as a runner; I walked out as a RUNNER. A runner is someone who runs, but they may or may not proclaim that about themselves. Running is important to different runners in varying degrees, and they invest in it to varying degrees. They might keep it to themselves about how much they spend on gear, or they might make excuses about why they can't go out on Friday night when, in truth, they want to go to bed because they have a long run the next day. But RUNNERS are next level. There is nothing coy about their identity and it's okay if you don't understand why they are choosing bedtime over beers, or why they need 17 pairs of shoes. They are all in and they own it.
I knew I was a runner (lower case emphasis!) going in to camp; I guess you would have to know that to sign up for a running camp. It is central in my life, no bones about it. I read about it, I write about it, I listen to (maybe too many) podcasts about it, and I run 5 days a week. I strength train to be a stronger runner and I strategize time and income to figure out how I can have the extras to make me even a little bit better. And in between all of that, I think about it. I'm not sure how I even found out about this camp, and I have absolutely no idea where the audacity came from to apply for a scholarship. But I did apply, and on Christmas Eve before I went to bed I received an email saying I had gotten a scholarship and I was going to running camp. The next morning I got up early, poured my coffee, and sat by the Christmas tree and made myself a sign that simply said AUSTIN. I put it in my running log so that I would see it every day, I took it with me to the gym for every workout, and I taped it front and center when I ran on the treadmill to remind myself what I was pointing towards. I was not going to just show up, I was going to prepare as if it was an opportunity of a lifetime, and for a runner like me it was an opportunity of a lifetime.
Many, many good and helpful and meaningful things happened in those 5 days. We had incredible workshops about sports nutrition and prehab and rehab for runners. We sat in on a podcast taping and an Instagram live stream about philosophies in coaching. We went deep exploring our identity as a runner (or as a RUNNER) and dug even deeper to find why we put up roadblocks to our running and training success. We ate meals together and connected with one another and the coaches. A number of athletes and coaches ran the Austin Marathon, Half Marathon or 5K on Sunday morning, and the rest of us spread out along the course to cheer on our new teammates and friends. Afterwards one of the coaches examined the training and race results for two of the athletes to see how their training impacted their racing.
And of course, we ran.
But most impactful to me were the connections, and being taken seriously as a runner and as a writer. I was prepared for the running and hoped to have a writing conversation while I was there. Turns out, writing was the focal point for me, with a little running sprinkled in. It was completely reversed from my expectation of what would transpire, but the great big world or the running gods or fate or luck or good fortune--whatever it was--delivered something beyond what I could have hoped for. When I said goodbye on Monday morning I wasn't ready to go, but I had left it all out on the field at that point, and I didn't have anything else to say or any space to take anything more in.
We were asked to come with an open mind--if I'm remembering right it was even listed on the "What to Bring" list. We were asked again at our first team meeting to stay open to the experience. It may be obvious that this is important, but being explicit about it was well played. I reminded myself a number of times throughout those five days to stay open, and it was always at those moments when I was on the edge of discomfort, on the risky ledge of something new, and retreating was so inviting. But I didn't retreat. I called myself a runner and showed up at camp. I claimed myself as a writer, among WRITERS I admire, and they welcomed me in. And I took a left out of that Team House Monday morning and walked towards downtown as a RUNNER--renewed in body, mind and spirit and determined and energized to find out what can happen if I push a little harder against the conscious and unconscious limits I set.
I woke up in Austin the next morning at 4am. It was my 55th birthday, and we stood outside in the dark and the quiet and the warmth of the morning waiting for our Lyft to the airport. I stood there waiting and thinking, Look what I just did! What else can I do? How far can I run? How fast can I go? How much can I write?
I learned at camp that I can still make friends : ) I learned that when our common bond is running, we can learn from anyone, even if our abilities and experiences span a wide spectrum, and I learned that I might have something to offer them in return. I learned that I can talk about running for hours on end, and writing, too. I learned that staying open reaps big rewards. I experienced again how much I love to learn, and how cheering for people you care about, even if you just met them 3 days earlier, and watching them strive and struggle and succeed is just as exciting as running the race yourself.
I learned not to attach limits to my possibilities because of my age or my place in the pack. And I was reminded about what I already knew: that runners are good people.
Thank you Endeavorun & 80/20 Endurance and all of the coaches and other athletes for the experience of a lifetime. You turned me from a runner to a RUNNER, and I am so, so grateful.