It is no secret that I love running in fact I love ALL things running and the people that make up the running community are some of the best I’ve ever known. Although I haven’t always been a runner I was bit by the run bug nearly 17 years ago when I found myself sitting in a cancer center for the first time, wondering what had I ever really wanted to do just for myself. While there might have been a few other things that crossed my mind that day, running is what stuck and sparked an excitement that penetrated a deep part of my soul. I spent the entire course of treatment obsessing over running. I read everything I could get my hands on, researched shoes, races, training plans and techniques all before I had even taken one step out the door. While I didn’t really share my running plans with anyone the goal was to start training shortly after my last treatment and I did. Since then, I’ve often been quoted as saying, “Cancer may have changed my life, but it was running that saved it.” One thing running did for me was to foster a belief in myself that I had never acquired before and that was truly life changing.
Starting out walking, running and/or any combination is never easy and one thing I was in awe of was the mounds of motivation other people seemed to have. Somedays I’d think – what is wrong with me. I’m doing this thing but I don’t really want to do this thing and it doesn’t really feel good. But because I associated it with my well being, both physically and mentally, I kept moving.
It wasn’t long that I discovered around mile 8 was my sweet spot. At the time it was hard for me to describe, but in or around mile 8 something shifted either in me or for me and I loved the feeling. Yes, it was hard for me to get out the door and it was hard for me to get started each and everyday but on the days I made it to 8 miles – it was magic!
Soon after I met my husband Terry, he also decided to take up running. We are a great pair! He loves going to races and is a strong “starter” while I never want to start, I’m an exceptionally strong “finisher.” We’ve laughed many times about my attitude before a race, he will look at me and say, I don’t even know who you are. I wine, I mope and I complain. It’s too cold or man it’s hot. My knee hurts or I’m afraid I could have a stress fracture in my foot! Should I go to the bathroom again? I’m thirsty! Should I wear a vest or no vest? I don’t want to start out fast (or at all really) and truly just want to curl up with a second cup of coffee, my dog and a really good book. Thankfully, around mile 7 Terry’s enthusiasm starts to fade because for the first half of the race he has annoyed the hell out of me. However, just as my watch is chiming and turning to mile 8 I look back to him and say, come on man – let’s go! (Now he’s annoyed!).
The above story has been on repeat for years until this last one. In 2023, I found myself back at the Cancer Center. It became a year filled of medical tests and waiting, several different procedures and more waiting and finally surgery and even more waiting. Each step was followed by forced recovery time and by the end of 2023 I had ran the fewest miles of any year since I had started — 17 year ago. As the new year approached I wondered if I even wanted to make a come back. I wondered if I could ever get my milage back up and even if I did would the magic still be there.
The thing about relying on motivation, it’s based purely on feelings and my mile 8 feelings were long gone they had completely left the building. If you think of Motivation and Discipline as people, Motivation is the one in the room with big ideas and a big mouth to go with it – we all know the type. While Miss Motivation may have really really great ideas, her feet often wear out before they even hit the ground. She is all talk and no walk. Discipline however – that girl gets shit done. Day after day, discipline keeps you in the game and introduces you to parts of yourself you are proud to meet. Is motivation totally worthless? Absolutely not, we need her, she sparks the great ideas in the first place and makes them seem exciting but after that, we can’t rely on her for anything – especially not to get us across the finish line. What we need is a date with discipline. Self-discipline is the ability to regulate our behaviors and actions to achieve the goals we set. One reason we don’t have self-discipline is because it is human nature to run from hard and uncomfortable things. We would rather do the easy and familiar and so often times we remain stuck in a bad relationship waiting around on Miss Motivation to show up – blaming all of our failures on her. For those of you asking how to become more self-disciplined? Number one for me is to write it out – exactly what is my goal and get really specific about it. Number two, you have to prioritize what you want to accomplish and make a plan on how to get there. Thirdly, know your weaknesses. What behaviors could sabotage my goal and what is my backup plan if something unexpected happens.
As I wrote out my goals for the coming year, I knew in my heart I wasn’t ready to completely give up on running. I mean how could I? I’ve committed a huge portion of my life to it through Coastal Race Productions, RunCRP, She Moves, Run Clubs, Training Groups and on and on. Being totally honest though, I wasn’t 100% sure where I stood with it either. Somewhere along the line Miss Motivation encouraged me to make 2024, my 58th year, the most epic year of my life and I began registering for races across the country ready to revisit my quest for all 50 states. She quickly began to fail me and once again I needed to turn to and rely on self-discipline. It’s been an up and down battle as I’ve slowly begun to rebuild my milage, I’ve taken it slow and honestly, I’ve felt discouraged. A running friend that has recently re-entered my world reminded me this past week that discipline will take us places that motivation can’t.
I thought a lot about what Dawn said to me as the week went on and as I made plans for my long run, I knew I had to push up beyond my magic number and see what would happen. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it feel the same or would it be an 8 mile struggle and a heart wrenching let down at the end, one that might force me to decide my running days are over? I set my goal, my route and made my plan and early this morning with all the self-discipline I could muster I set out to see if the magic would come. I started slow and gradually picked up my pace and at the top of each mile I stopped to walk for 30 seconds and drink some water, doing everything I could to set myself up for success. At mile 6 I began to experience a lot of self doubt and questioned why I thought I was ready for this distance I mean I just started back at the new year and today is only February 3rd – what was I thinking. Yet, I had to know if I could and if I did how would it feel? Just before mile 7 I switched off the podcast I’d been listening to and changed over to one of my favorite playlists and that really helped! My pace grew stronger and I knew I’d be able to at least complete the distance and make it back home. Partway through mile 7 though just as I was rounding a curve, I glanced up to see the sun shining through the trees up ahead and much to my surprise there she was, gloriously rising up from the road to greet me like a dear old friend, almost embracing me to say I’ve missed you patting me softly on the back and whispering in my ear – you got this. It felt like a cleansing of sorts. My shoulders relaxed, my gait both softened and sped up as I settled into my stride. In that moment, I felt like I could go on forever and It Was Magic. As I turned on to my street embracing the high, I started fist punching the air in front of me like I’d just left the movie Rocky and almost ran right into my neighbor, he laughed and said if I didn’t know better I’d think you’d just won a fight. I smiled and said, I did.
Keep Moving Forward ~ JoJo