In preparation for Nashville, I had two more really long runs scheduled before I begin to taper off. Today was one of them. In my typical fashion I procrastinated all day finding all sorts of things to be doing instead of just getting out there, but I am ok with that. I really DO like running in the evening. However part of my day was spent going back and forth between where to run my 9 miles at. I could go to Kensington Park where it is a very clear 8.5 mile path around the park…but it is constant rolling hills with a few really big ones thrown in for good measure. My other option was to go play a guessing game with mileage and run trails, which is my absolute favorite place to run. Hills and guaranteed mileage would be great training for Nashville, but trails make me oh so happy and are such fun!
I chose Kensington and the hills.
It was a fantastic choice. I forget sometimes the beauty that is to be beheld at Kensington. Not to mention, there are so many runners and cyclists and walkers out there, you can’t help but feel part of some sort of group even when running alone as you greet and encourage each other along the way. And I must say, it was nice this year to be ABLE to greet and encourage other runners. I remember last year not having enough breathe in me to even acknowledge there greeting to me!
As I ran, I had a plan in my head that to do my 9 I would run out 4.5 miles then turn around and come back. In my mind, by doing this I could do 2 things. 1. It might help me to avoid the “hill from hell” by turning around before reaching it. and 2. I wouldn’t have to fight the battle of passing my car to go an extra 1/4 mile and come back to make it an even 9. This was a perfectly acceptable plan. I mean, I am doing constant hills so who cares if I manage to skip the “hell from hell”, right?
Well, as I ran, I realized I have NEVER run completely around Kensington. Last year I ran here but the most I ran here was 6 miles. 3 out and 3 back. So I didn’t KNOW that the “hill from hell” came in at mile 3.5! There was no avoiding this hill. Ironically, just as I was climbing it the park ranger happened to come down the road and stopped to watch me get up it. I wonder what he was thinking. Was he concerned? Amused? I was determined to give him a show, so I kept running when I wanted to walk. I kept running when I thought I had no oxygen left in me. And after I got to the top, he waved and left.
So now I am thinking to myself, so why not go all the way around, Kim? You made it up the ONE hill you didn’t want to hit. Besides, once you hit mile 4.5 you are more than halfway around this place. Just keep going forward!
I found myself having an argument with myself. 1. That wasn’t the plan! I can’t just change the plan mid run! Or can I? 2. I found myself filled with anxiety because I know what lays behind me. I know the path I have just run and even if it meant climbing back up the “hill from hell” it is familiar territory to me. It is now my comfort zone and oh how I don’t like to be uncomfortable.
I realized, the only thing stopping me from moving forward was fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of an unknown path. What if there is ANOTHER “hill from hell” that I don’t know about? What if it gets dark, how will I know the path to get back?
I began to wonder how often I let fear of the unknown stop me in this journey. I know fear stops me all the time on the stairmaster. I wonder how fear is stopping me from achieving my goals. How often do I return to the familiar and the comfortable out of fear instead of pressing forward and gaining new ground. How much of this plateau is not really a plateau but my own fear and my own affinity towards comfort?
Well, this line of questioning just pissed me right off! And I decided, at LEAST for this run, fear would not stop me. So as I came upon the 4.5 mile mark and my previously planned turning point, I gave that marker the finger and said out loud, “Fuck being comfortable!” (Coach, you would be proud, it was such an appropriate use of a word I rarely use!)
I ran on past that marker and as I ran I did get a bit scared as I ran on paths unfamiliar. I ran up some big hills and some little ones. I ran along the lakes edge on one of the few flat stretches on this whole course. I ran in the dark and missed the 8 mile marker. And when I finally got to my car and the newly planned point of going past it to the 1/4 mile marker, I found the park ranger waiting for me so he could clear the lot. So I stopped running.
Despite fears, I ran 8.5 miles of hills straight without stopping to walk. I did stop to dig my shot blocks out of my bag and once to let some geese cross my path. But there was not one hill I walked up. I ran head first into unknown territory and I lived to blog about it.
What does this mean for the rest of my journey? I only hope that I will recognize when I am being stopped by fear and that I will have the courage to press on through the fear and anxiety to new territory, to new Beauty.