The first time I trained for a marathon, people warned me about hitting the wall. The feeling would be unlike anything I’d experience, they assured me. One friend who’d recently had a baby said that she knew she could make it through labor because she had broken through the wall in her marathon a few years prior. It was that intense. It was that mentally punishing. To beat it, they insisted, I would need a reason for finishing, some sort of intrinsic motivation, that transcended the physical pain and the emotional exhaustion of that moment. And naturally, because I was naive to what it would actually be to run the thing for the first time, I thought they were over exaggerating.
Then I did my first 20 mile training run.
I didn’t hit the wall on that run, but I experienced what I realized were the first notions of the mental demons I’d have to face at the moment where I would meet that ultimate barrier. About 18 miles into the run I was angry. I began imagining people (people who supported me mind you), telling me that I couldn’t do it. I had arguments with these people in my head. I was staying at my parents house at the time, and I imagined getting home to my mother telling me I didn’t look good, and trying to talk me out of running the race. My mom never tried to talk me out of my marathons. In fact, she’s the only person who can say that she was at both of my marathons. She flew my best friend to Chicago to see me cross the finish line at my first race. But in my head, while I ran, I argued with my mom about why I was doing what I was doing.
That’s when I first realized that what people said about having a reason…my own, unshakeable reason…would be true. If my mind would begin to sabotage itself, making me question even what I knew to be certain, then only something intrinsically rooted in who and what I was, would be enough to keep my feet moving forward.
I hit the real wall in my first marathon at mile 24. I can picture the street I was running down, a wide stretch of road on a slight decline, and the feeling of lead in my legs that had me convinced I would not be able to take another step. “Walk!” my brain shouted. I considered going over to the curb and sitting down. I was as exhausted as I have ever been, and my mind started slipping to that dark place in which I could fight with people I had no reason to fight with, and convince myself that things were far worse than they were. But that thing, my unshakeable reason, was clear and bright in my mind, and as promised, it kept me going.
The wall lasted half of a mile, and on the other side, the final mile of the race was clear and bright as well!
Very few things I’ve done in my life compare to running marathons, but there is something I learned from the process of beating the wall that has carried into many other projects, relationships, and goals. That is pursuing things with intention; having an unshakeable reason for engaging in the things that I take on. Not everything requires something rooted so deeply that it requires the ability to hold up against mental and physical exhaustion, but the things that are anchored in my perception of self, the things that I set my mind to with deeply rooted intentionality and a strong sense of personal purpose, are the relationships that flourish, the projects that thrive, and the goals that are achieved.
I can’t recommend that everyone run a marathon in his/her life. While I learned a lot about myself in the process and a lot about my limits and motivations, it’s not the kind of thing that has mass appeal. What I can recommend, it finding your intention. Finding your unshakeable reasons for being that person you are. If you learn to live your life with intention, if you learn to do the things you do through the lens of intentionality, you will find it takes far more than a bad day, far more than a single setback, and far more than a few sleepless nights to put you off. If you approach your relationships with intention, you will forgive more easily, love more deeply, and invest whole heartedly. Your unshakeable truths can be for no one but yourself, though living and loving through them can greatly impact the way you engage with others. You make yourself better. You make those around you better.
The last three weeks have been challenging in many ways, and this week might have been my tipping point, had I not had the piece of mind to reflect on my bigger intention, my bigger why. Intention puts things in perspective. The unshakeable truth has kept me going despite mounting odds and ongoing challenges. My Friday kudos this week go to all of those people who offered a kind word and a helping hand. Some of these people know they are instrumental in helping me keep nineteen balls in the air at once, others have no idea that they passed through the chaos. All of these people should know that they’ve re-centered me, re-focused me. And for that, I am grateful!
Wine for your weekend
I’ve had a bottle of Cupcake Pinot Grigio on the wine rack for a while now, and admittedly, this week was drawn to it not for any particular food pairing or purposeful reason at all. Instead, it was the wine mentioned on Tuesday’s episode of the “Off the Vine” podcast with Colton Underwood, and, having recently written about The Bachelor, it seemed both fitting and appealing. The Cupcake line of wines is widely distributed, inexpensive, and not particularly complex or polarizing when it comes to flavor profile. Not overly sweet, the fresh flavors of melon and apricot balance the natural acidity of the wine keeping it fresh and light without being dry. The Pinot Grigio is a good wine to keep on hand as a crowd pleaser and pairs well with a wide variety of dishes including chicken fettuccine, zesty salads, and baked fish.