Speed work and I don't mix. Hill training is not my friend. If I never do another wind sprint ever again, my heart won't break. Come to think of it, I am not fan of running workouts in general that push me out of my comfort zone. For me, running is supposed to be social and light. Running is what I do to escape the hard stuff life throws at me. Running is what I seek when I want to relax and take things out of gear. It is the medium through which I connect with some of my closest girlfriends on a leisurely weekend morning. In my world, running is the one thing that balances me when everything else judges me, disappoints me or leaves me feeling less than. My running lifts me up and keeps me hopeful in spite of anything that tries to tear me down.
Of course it has not always been this way. Early on, running was challenging by choice. I used to perform a solid variety of intense workouts mixed in with my long runs. Back during my independent single woman "pre-mommy" years, I had days when I would put in grueling cross training routines at the gym and then afterwards I'd hit the neighborhood roads for a few extra miles just because I could. Back then the focus was to strain and confuse my muscles so my body never got bored or complacent. Easy workouts did not exist for me because I was always pushing to the next level and the next challenge. Six days a week without fail, I pushed my physical limits and my body displayed the results of my efforts. Leaner and better nourished, I truly looked like an athlete back then. Those were my cocky glory days, when I rocked a 2-4 dress size but could cut down someone twice my stature with my mammoth brash attitude. Boy oh boy how things have changed over the years! The brash attitude is still in place, but the athleticism I once took pride in has taken a back seat for a very specific reason. I fell in love.
My heart unconditionally belongs to the three greatest loves of my life. My husband and my boys keep me in a constant state of delight and blessedness (and paranoia!) that is unsurpassed by any other aspect of my existence. Spending family time with these three guys has taken the place of those long hours in the gym or at the track. I still carve out running time of course, but it takes a little more creative planning than it used to. My schedule depends on my firm grip of these priorities and anything that shakes it up can bring havoc to my household. Unpredictability scares the hell out of me. Fear of change and spontaneity has kept me on a straight and cautious path for the sum of my days. My quintessential "good girl" status has remained intact only as a by-product of my insurmountable fear of the big bad unknown. I lean in favor of step-by-step instructions, partnered a with a money back guarantee and gold star promise that things will turn out okay. Cowardly, right? Sure, but it helps me sleep soundly at night and keeps my grey hair from multiplying.
Well, so much for calm predictability. The new year has launched my little clan into unfamiliar territory. We are faced with making some major decisions about our immediate future and none of our options bring much comfort. This fork in our road promises nothing of smooth travels or easy navigation. Decisions we make now will greatly affect our home, careers and finances. Initially my husband and I questioned and feared the possible outcomes separately, not knowing if the other felt the same reservations. There is no greater fear than assuming you stand alone in the face of a major dilemma. However once we began to talk things out openly and honestly, a few things were recalled.
As always I was able to make parallels between lessons learned from my life experience and my running experience. I remembered those glory days in my running past when I put in long hours of cross training and speed work at the track, preparing my body to function well in tough road races of the upcoming season. It never failed. When I put in the hard work in a practice setting, I almost always performed well at showtime. When I slacked off and skipped the hard parts, my body grew weaker as a result. When I think back on the events from this past year (see my blog entry A Year in Retrospect), I can see how that time was a test of sorts. We were stripped of our safety net and unceremoniously thrown out of our comfort zone. The entire year was hard and unpredictable as we moved from day to day with no guarantees of a happy ending. It also changed us, strengthening our resolve with every hurdle we cleared. The first time around the track was tough, but our stride became smoother the second and third time around as muscle memory took over and carried us. The parallels are clearer to me now. God did not make me a bull-headed stubborn chic without a plan. Now I just have to trust in my gut that all this "training" has been preparing me for something.
My prayers have always been consistent in asking for guidance. Childishly, I always ask that as I go through life, God will make my path littered with flashing neon signs telling me which way to turn. I want all opposing options to be so distinct that I sense immediately which direction I am supposed to follow when the critical time comes. This is where I find myself now. Terrifying as they appear, God has unveiled a couple of those flashing neon signs to me. Had we not gone through some of the turbulence of the past year, we might be more apprehensive right now. Those events were part of our base training and muscle building phase, and the next few upcoming months will be showtime. Although I don't know what is going to happen, I do know that I am stronger in mind and spirit today than this time a year ago. All that confusion and unpredictability was merely a strength building period that left me tougher and ready to tackle our current dilemma with maturity and focus. After all, we will never know what treasure awaits us unless we keep pushing forward to find it. With my faith as my guide, I know that treasure will be revealed soon, very soon.