Bend like bamboo. Flow like water.
I didn't always like to run, and I never really got it. In high school, our gym teacher used to time us and make us run the mile. We'd huff and we'd puff around that stupid track for what seemed like eternity, and it all felt so pointless. I wasn't very good at it, and I definitely didn't enjoy it. I just ran because I had to, and I almost can't remember what lightning bolt eventually struck to make me change my mind on all of this. But it did, and now here I am running by choice.
I said, "almost" right? I do remember what got me started with running. A period where I was burning the candle at both ends working at a super, fast-paced job and traveling a lot. A phase where I was trying to do it all and was "stuffing 10,000 pounds of stuff in a 10-pound bag" as my brother would say. A tough break-up. Fainting and hitting my head due to overwork, trying to complete an MBA and getting way too little sleep. Going through a major job transition. Losing my grandmother and hero. Vast amounts of change. And then Bam! The normal didn’t feel so normal anymore.
I felt pressure in my chest, I got headaches, and my inner voice was speaking to me faster than an auction man. I didn't like it, and had some tough choices to make. So, I started working on that that elusive 'work-life' balance thing, and couldn’t fully grasp it.
I had some fears about stagnating, and doubts about what specifically needed to change to feel free of the stress that sometimes plagued me. But still I worked hard on myself. Sometimes, this meant getting more space and digging deep. Other times, it meant exploring new curiosities, giving myself a break, and just getting real about the things that I wanted to do, rather than following what everyone else wanted. It helped a lot.
And then one day, we walked across the street with my partner’s nephew and niece to watch the finish of the Amsterdam marathon and it got me inspired. We arrived late so we didn’t see the elite runners. Instead, we saw 90-year olds, people with missing limbs, girls in banana suits, and a guy whose shoe fell off along the way but he kept on going. I saw the power of the human spirit in all forms. There was grit, determination and a whole lot of tears at the end. And I knew I wanted to do this myself one day.
So a few years later, when a friend asked me to do a run/walk version of a ‘couch to 5k’ program, I gave it a try, even if I was much better at the couch part. I quickly started noticing how great I felt at the end of every run. The pressure in my chest lifted, my mind cleared, I slept better, and felt free. So I kept at it, and here I am now with just 16 days left until my 4th marathon. It’s almost unreal.
Each time I train for these things, I get humbled by how hard it is. This time around, I’ve also had some hiccups in my training. I’ve had a bunch of runs in pouring rain and tough conditions. I currently have 2 black toenails, chafing and blisters. And it’s looking like I’ll need a miracle to finish the race within the time limit. So far, there hasn’t been one run that I’ve done at the speed needed. And whenever I get close, my body rebels and throws health issues my way. So I’m taking it as a sign to continue running at a level that’s keeps me in my healthy heartrate range to not risk it.
I read an article yesterday that gave me a new perspective that I’m going to take into the next 2 weeks. It's from the 'School of Life' and was about the Chinese concept of wu wei. This means doing nothing yet having nothing left undone. And it’s basically about focusing on enjoying the process with effortless action and letting go of the end result. I’ve decided that’s exactly what I need right now when it comes to this marathon. So it’s time to bend like bamboo, flow like water and just see what comes. And if that stupid sweeper van comes for me due to being too slow, I’ll let myself be disappointed for a moment. Then I’ll pick myself up, cheer on my friend, and eventually reach for the Spanish red wine and paella. Life’s just too short.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. I’ve shared all this because I think everyone can benefit from finding healthy outlets for stress and making well-being a priority.
And if you can afford to donate, please do. I’m at 37% of my fundraising goal, and one thing I’m sure of is that we can do HUGE things when we do them together.
No matter what happens with my own running performance on race day, the money you donate will have an impact. It's going to give Ukrainian refugees housing and shelter in a time of need. I can't imagine the stress families feel after being uprooted like that. Having a safe place to live is essential to our well being. So thank you joining me by donating whatever you can afford. I appreciate the support.