I used to think she was crazy. She’d talk about going on runs in the middle of a blazing summer day and loving the feeling of complete physical exhaustion that came from spending all her energy while the heat slowly pulled it away at the same time. She’d talk about being utterly spent at the end of a run and completely exhilarated despite (or perhaps, because of) that feeling.
Seven years I’ve known her, seven years I’ve thought this, and it wasn’t until today that I finally understood.
Today was a beautiful day, full of sunshine, heat, and humidity. It was the kind of day that you might sit outside for a few minutes to enjoy, and then retreat to the safety of air conditioning. At the end of my day, I decided to go on a six-mile trail run. The day had been fine, but I had been mentally working through some things that seem to keep popping up and I’ve been frustrated with my internal reaction to them.
I started my run with the goal of literally just running it all away. Not for the purpose of running away from it, but rather, to run through it. To show myself that I was stronger than it. That I was more than these reactions. That I could push through and come out on the other end.
My run today didn’t give me any of those things. I’d consider myself a fairly strong runner, but three miles into this run, I was already hoping that I was almost done. Trail running is much different than road running, mentally and especially physically. This particular path has a number of rolling hills, inclines that never seem to end, and the last mile is more uphill than anything else. It’s a tougher one on any day, let alone with temperatures in the mid-eighties.
My run today didn’t give me any of those things for which I was searching. Instead, it gave me the opportunity to earn them. As I wound my way around the roots, branches, and trees, running up and down and all around, I ran up yet another hill. With breath in short supply, I was faced with a choice: stop and walk, or push onward. And in every moment when I chose to forge ahead, I was reminding myself that I could do this. That I can do this. That I am doing this. That the struggle is only temporary, and the growth that comes from overcoming it lasts forever.
When we push ourselves in the physical realm beyond what we think we can handle, this mentality spills over into other aspects of our lives. In teaching ourselves that we can handle that physical hill, we learn that we can also tackle the hills in the other aspects of our lives. We learn who we are, and what we can do.
We learn that we are more than what our insecurities whisper to us.
We are stronger than our doubts would have us believe.
Who we are is not dependent on what we think, but on the way in which we choose to act upon those thoughts.
Strength comes in many forms – mental, emotional, spiritual, physical. Each one manifests itself differently, but at the end of the day, they are all branches of the same tree, and as such, are all related to each other. When we recognize this, we can draw upon one branch when another may bend under a heavier load.
I ended my run this evening more exhausted than I’ve been in a long time. I fought my way up that last mile and ended up at the top of the trail. I was exhausted. Completely spent. And strangely enough, more awake than I had felt all day. I still faced the same situations. Those same reactions will pop up when I’d rather that they didn’t. An hour run doesn’t change any of that.
But it does change me. It reminds me of who I am, and pushes me towards who I want to be – a woman of integrity, understanding, passion, and yes, you guessed it: strength.