Trail running is a lot like real life…

This piece was inspired by my participation in the Happy Girls ½ Marathon in Sisters, OR this past weekend.   I ran the first mile with friends, and when they stopped off to use the bathroom, I decided to keep going.  At my own pace.  By myself.  

As running often does, it led to a lot of thinking, a lot of processing and a lot of stress relief.  I hope you enjoy! 

Xoxo Megan

Trail running is a lot life real life.

You can follow a course map,
....or just make your own path.

Sometimes the path is so clearly defined, and sometimes the path is vague.   For this race I was grateful the course was clearly marked 98% of the time. My goal was to finish today, not to explore.   The couple times the path seemed uncertain, I reminded myself of the direction I knew I was looking to go.  The first half of the race I ran uphill, the second half I knew I had to run downhill.  Knowing an overview of the course, helped me stay on track, even when the path was uncertain.

Like real life, sometimes the path is clearly marked out for you, and other times it is not.

It is important to know the direction you are wanting to go in life, the person you are working to become.  I often find we, as women,  are following a pre-marked path, trekking along a path that is right for others, or one that we feel we “should” be doing.  What if we took a moment to check-in to see if where we are is really is the path we want to be on?  We can ask ourselves, “Is this path leading me in the direction I am looking to go?”  

Sometimes the path is narrow,
....and sometimes it is wide.

Both take equal levels of concentration – the narrow path means you must pay attention to your footing, stay on course, while the wider path allows you to choose – do I run on the left side or right? Do I run straight or zig zag?

Like real life, sometimes we may feel more constrained to our daily tasks and obligations, other times we may feel the flexibility to change things a bit.

There is a fine line between having a structured plan and being able to go with the flow, adapting to what life sends our way.  Often times we get so tied down to what we think XYZ needs to look like, that we forget that there is only so much within our control.  We must try to find the medium sized path, one that provides us structure and routine and allows us to anticipate obstacles and adapt for unplanned circumstances as well. 

Sometimes the path is rocky.
Sometimes the path is smooth.

Yes, I prefer the smooth path, it is the past of least resistance.  It is more comfortable, it is known.  It takes less work, it is predictable.  The rocky path on the other hand, requires more mental energy.  There is more likelihood to fall or fail.  It isn’t always enjoyable, but I always feel a sense of success when I get through the rocky area.

Sometimes real life feels really rocky and uncertain, and sometimes it feels like we have everything under control.   

In my almost four decades on earth, I am learning to accept both.  The feelings of control and the feelings of uncertainty.   Like the rocky and smooth paths, sometimes we must oscillate between the two, sometimes with little warning.  Since we can only anticipate so much, we must not only work to have flexibility in our routines,  we must also work to shift our mindset around what success looks like.  I, like many other women, struggle with perfectionism and having an all-or-nothing mindset — I must work to shift my mindset, accepting new perspectives about what success is, and work to set realistic expectations.   

Sometimes you run solo.
Sometimes you run alongside others.
Sometimes there are cheerleaders.

I chose to run solo for most of today.  But rarely was I alone.  Sometimes others passed me.  Sometimes I passed others.  Sometimes I ran right alongside another woman and exchanged a few words.   At a handful of points there were aid stations and cheerleaders.  Their “You’ve got this!” and “Nice work” were welcomed reminders that yes, I AM AWESOME.  I CAN DO THIS. No matter how fast or how slow I’m moving, I AM ENOUGH.  They weren’t judging my place or speed, they were cheering me on for showing up.

Like real life, when we are confident in our own footing, in our own body, in our own being, we recognize the importance of and are more appreciative of others that are part of our journey.  

Different than trail running, in real life there may also be nay-sayers, let them go.  They have no space in your journey.  Surround yourself with people who are a bit ahead of you (that you can follow and learn from), those who are slightly behind you (who you can help guide and lead) and as many people as you can who are cheering you on no matter what and are the first to mention your name in a room full of opportunities.

Most of the time you look forward while running,
...and sometimes you glance over your shoulder.

In reality, you must stay present in the moment.
...(so you don’t trip!)

 I found myself reflecting on why I gazed over my shoulder during the race.  Sometimes I was glancing back to see if my friends were nearby.  Sometimes I heard footsteps and wanted to see how close the other runners were.  My reflection of my “shoulder gazes” reminded me, I do not need to spend energy comparing myself to where I am in relation to others or comparing myself to where I think I should be.  Rather, the sole reason to glance backwards, should be to measure my progress, and be reminded of how far I’ve come.  In which case, for safety sake, I should pause, and truly reflect, so I don’t trip.   Looking back is not to be used to compare to where I am in relation to others, including working to ditch the comparison between where I think I should be or comparing myself to where I’ve been in the past. 

Like real life, sometimes we reflect on our past.  Sometimes we spend a lot of energy looking ahead to where we want to be going.  And in reality, we must work to stay in the present as much as possible. 

Taking time to enjoy where we are currently at.  Observing what is currently serving us, and what is not.  Recognizing how we feel.   When we look back, when we may get caught up on the past (the trauma, comparing our current selves to our past selves, etc), when we spend too much time in the past, it will increase our chance of stumbling.  Remind yourself often where you are looking to go, keep your eyes ahead and be grateful for where you are currently at. 

Remind yourself what is within your control.

 Leading up to the race, I must have looked at the predicted weather over a dozen times.  With extreme wind and rain the night before, there was concern that the conditions on race day were going to be miserable.   At no point would me thinking about and agonizing about the weather change what the weather would actually do.  It was outside of my control.   (Lucky for me and the other runners, it ended up being a dry, beautiful day to run.)

Like real life, be aware of what is outside of your control.   

Recognize your surroundings and happenings, and anticipate obstacles, and also recognize, somethings do not deserve our energy.  We cannot control the weather.  We cannot control other people’s actions.  We can not control specific circumstances we find ourselves in or the future.  We can control our thoughts, how we fuel our body with foods and energy, who we choose to surround ourselves with, the boundaries we set, how we speak to ourselves.   

Some runners listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks while running. I do not.

There is something about the monotonous nature of running that is almost therapeutic.  Sometimes I count steps, sometimes I breath, sometimes I repeat quotes or mantras to myself, and sometimes I just let my thoughts come and go. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a good podcast or inspiring music (have you listened to P!nk’s new song yet – SO GOOD!) and once in a while I do put on my Pump Up Playlist, but more often than not, I do not.  I have recognized that running is one of the lone places where I am OK to sit with my own thoughts (Or I guess technically I’m running with them.. LOL)  

Like real life, sometimes we need and want outside stimulation, and sometimes we must reflect inward. 

A couple other "Running is Like Real Life" Thoughts....

Pace and PRs

For my non-runner friends out there, PR stands for Personal Record — i.e. trying to beat your best time. 

Often times runners talk about pace.  “How fast are you planning to run? Are you trying for a PR?”  We live in a world that celebrates doing more, being more, going faster….. what if we stopped trying to constantly achieve, stopped trying to reach for the next big goal and instead do what feels good?

Try not to compare ourselves to others. Try not to compare ourselves to our past self. Recognize the season we are in and what we actually need.  Maybe a few years ago aiming for the work promotion served you and fulfilled you, but in this season it does not.   

And… don’t go too fast.  You may miss a beautiful view.  

Goal Setting

 I’m sure I will write something about my shift in perspective on goal setting in the near future, but for now, this is what I’m taking away from how Running is Like Real Life:

  • Know the direction I am working towards
  • Take small steps daily to help me get there.
  • Reflect often.

Recognizing those small steps will lead us in the direction we are working towards. 

Different than a trail race, there may be no “finish line.”  The path may change, our goals may change, the pace of our steps may change.  That is OK.  Life is full of change, let’s keep our thoughts on your greater reasons behind wanting to move in a certain direction.    

Keep putting one foot in front of the other.  The the rocky path emerges, the path splits, someone or something tries to take us off course, continue to remind ourselves why we want and need to keep taking steps forward.   

It's all about the gratitude

Similar to my Boston Marathon experience, I felt extreme gratitude throughout my solo trail run.  Gratitude for my body and it’s ability.  Gratitude for the beautiful surroundings.  Gratitude for kind people on the course.  Gratitude for my family who allowed me to slip away for two days of “me” time.  I am grateful. 

Some further inspiration and words to leave you with...

Throughout the course, each mile marker had an inspirational quote.  Two that stuck out to me, especially as I share this comparison of how Trail Running is Like Real Life:

I am not afraid, I was born for this.  -Joan of Arc.

Remember – we already possess the power, strength and resilience to get through whatever obstacle comes our way.

If you obey all the rules, you’ll miss all the fun.

Like many of you, I am a recovering perfectionist.  We strive to do our best, be the best, please others.  If we constantly obey all the rules, succumb to the expectations and rules that OTHERS set for us, we will miss out on joy, fun.  Once and a while, step outside your comfort zone, step outside of the expectations that you or society has set for you, and do something that scares you a bit, something that makes you curious, or something you enjoy.  You deserve it.  We all do.

In conclusion..

Trail running is HARD. 

So is life. 

When I am running, and the running gets hard, and I want to give up, I take a moment to breath.  To slow down and walk. To pause.  To take a sip of water.  To find gratitude in the moment.

When LIFE feels hard, remember to:

  • Take a moment to breath.
  • Slow down.
  • Pause.
  • Take a sip of water.
  • Step outside your comfort zone.
  • Choose fun & curiosity.
  • Be grateful.

–>Which one of my “ah-ha’s” could you relate to most? 
–>Were there any that got you thinking? 

I’d love to hear below, please share. <3 

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