Friday, September 17, 2010

Caught Up in the Numbers?

Just 43 days until our wedding and 30 days until my first marathon, I can't help but to be obsessed with counting, right? Over three months ago, I began the journey of training once again for my first marathon. So throughout my training, I am constantly counting and feeling a tad bit obsessed with numbers. I track my miles, pace, calories, carbs, protein, and fat and try to ensure that I am following my training schedule. How many miles did I run? What was my pace? What were my splits? How many days did I run this week? What was my carb, protein, and fat intake for the day? How many reps did I do for stretching and strengthening? I am constantly logging my miles in Dailymile and tracking all of my workouts. Numbers, numbers, numbers!!!

Also, during the last two months, my fiance and I made the decision to change our wedding date from June 25, 2011 to October 30, 2010. No, I am not pregnant and yes, we are a little crazy. The bottom line is that we are both beyond ready to say our "I do's." Next summer just seemed too far away. As I plan all of the wedding details, it's back to numbers. How many are on the guest list? How many have sent their RSVP? What's our budget? How much is that cake topper? How much are those flowers? How many tables will be in the reception hall? How many centerpieces do we need? What are the measurements for the sweetheart table? So, here we are in the midst of it all, fanatical about numbers and of course, I can't help but count down the days to two of the most epic events in my life.

As I've become obsessive compulsive with counting, I can't help but wonder if I am missing the bigger picture. Fixated on the details, am I forgetting to enjoy the moment?? Yes, I am thrilled that we are becoming husband and wife. I look forward to the day that we express our love and commitment among our family and friends and truly began our lives together. I also can not wait to cross the finish line of my first marathon, a lifelong goal of mine. I am beyond excited to reach this running milestone. Yes, let's be honest here, there are days that I simply want to fast forward to October 17th and October 30th because the anticipation is torturing me. However, shouldn't I be savoring each day?? Well, absolutely. It reminds me that life is a journey not a destination. It is essential to live in the present and cherish each and every moment. Time is not promised to anyone...

Over Labor Day weekend, we planned a trip home to visit my mother. We spent a few days at home helping my mother around the house and just enjoying our time together. As we plan for my bridal shower and the wedding, we have been going through old photos of when I was younger. As my mother was searching for photos, she found a bag of old pictures of my father when he was in the military and stationed in Vietnam. Some of the pictures were dated from 1966 and 1969. It was so nostalgic and sentimental to get a closer look at my father's life. These were pictures that neither my mother or I had ever seen before. It was an opportunity to not only learn more about my father's life but to also honor his life and legacy. His time on earth seemed to end so suddenly and I often wonder why I didn't treasure more of the time we shared together. We often think we simply have more time but so often we don't.

Within the past week, we lost a close friend of ours who was 34 years old and married with 3 children. She went in for a minor surgery and later suffered a seizure, went into a coma, and abruptly passed away. We were shocked and saddened by such a tragic loss. Once again, we realized that time waits for no one and tomorrow is never promised.

This past week, I spent a couple of days on the southeastern coast of NC for a work trip. I oddly enough brought two right shoes and decided not to join the barefoot running craze so I didn't run while in NC. I have to admit that I was angry about my oversight but it truly was a blessing in disguise. I spent two days with 3 fabulous ladies and spent my "running" time just walking on the beach enjoying conversations with women I came to appreciate and admire. While I did wear my Garmin to track our miles during our walk, I had to remind myself that it wasn't about numbers. I wasn't counting down to anything, I wasn't training, I wasn't racing. I was merely enjoying the moment as we watched the sun rise above the ocean. As I walked down the beach, I felt the sand in between my toes and the waves crash upon my feet. I smelled the salt water and collected a few seashells while taking pleasure in the companionship of some remarkable women. This is what life is all about...

With all of this rambling, what's my point you ask?

Well, I wholeheartedly believe that life is about setting and achieving our goals, believing in ourselves, and accomplishing our dreams. It's often about transitioning to the next phase of our lives. There is always something to get to...there are details each step of the way that we must tend to. However, when it is all said and done, life is about letting go of it all. Forget the numbers and merely take delight in this very moment...remembering the true meaning of it all.

On October 17th, I hope to run my first marathon. While numbers are an essential part of training, on that day nothing matters more to me than crossing that finish line and accomplishing my goal. It will be a moment of strength, humility, gratefulness, honor, and pride. On October 30th, I hope to marry my best friend. On that day, it won't be about cupcakes, centerpieces, programs, flowers, and all of the crazy details that we get caught up with. That moment will be about our love, admiration, commitment, and partnership.

So as you contemplate the next chapter in your life, remember that life truly is a journey not a destination...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Definition of a Runner

After I finished the half-marathon, I knew it was just a matter of weeks before I would have to begin my official marathon training. I wanted a slight break from my training regime but I knew I needed to maintain my running base. Thus, I continued to run about 4 days a week but turned the mileage down a few notches. During these weeks, I assessed my most recent accomplishment, feeling proud and victorious while simultaneously anticipating my next running journey. As I begun to share with my family and friends that I was once again training for a marathon, some questioned my reasons for doing so. Quite frankly, I began to wonder as well. What is this relentless force that always drives me back to this goal? Why am I so compelled to run a marathon? What if I never run one? Does it really matter when it is all said and done?

For many years, I have defined myself as a runner; yet, underneath it all, I don't feel as though I can wholeheartedly claim that title. While I have been a "serious" runner for years, something has always felt like it was missing. I have tracked every single run for the past 8 years. I have increased my mileage over time and occasionally focused on speed work, challenging myself to go farther and faster. I've even ran some races (several 5ks, a 10k, and now a half-marathon.) However, no matter what running milestone I reach, there's always a craving for something more...

I often hear people designate themselves as runners while their running routine consists of merely a few miles every few months. There are even those people who might occasionally run a 5k or two for a good cause, but otherwise they allocate minimal time for running. They have not accrued enough miles to experience the ultimate highs and lows of a runner. So, are these folks truly runners? Well, who I am to judge? However, this does bring up the question of what is a runner. Is the title based upon quantity or even quality of miles? Is there a specific requirement to compete in races? Is there some type of running checklist that one should reference before placing "runner" in their biography on Twitter or Facebook? Or, is it simply based upon our own personal experiences and feelings as it relates to running? I don't know what the answer is. I like to think that this is based upon our own personal assessments and calculations but this is merely my opinion.

For me, I feel as though I am not worthy of this title until I run a marathon. Some may say this is complete nonsense and that might be the case. However, there's no denying that something is missing in my running memoirs. I truly believe that there is a certain level of satisfaction and delight derived from this accomplishment that one can not find elsewhere. Again, why am I yearning for such fulfillment? Maybe it's the perfectionist in me that is never quite happy with the status quo or that part of me that is always driven to do more. Let's be honest here, how many people can say that they successfully ran a marathon? So, I am just being narcissistic by wanting this triumph?

As I contemplated this next chapter of running, I couldn't help but ask myself, why must I run a marathon and will this be enough? Yes, I can not wait to cross the finish line and obtain that medal that verifies that I completed 26.2 miles and adds substance to my running chronicles. Although, the truth of the matter is that this goal of mine is bigger than any T-shirt, medal, title, or label.

This goal of mine brings invaluable lessons that have not only enlightened but redefined my existence. This goal of mine reminds me that life is way too short. We often live and ultimately die with so many regrets and tomorrow is never promised. Thus, we must truly seize each moment and follow our dreams.

This goal of mine reminds me that life is about pushing ourselves farther than we ever thought was possible. It is through these trials that fundamental self-discovery and analysis can occur. There have been moments in my training that I simply want to give up, but somehow I find the courage and the tenacity to carry on. This perseverance has also transferred into many other aspects of my life.

This goal of mine reminds me that optimal health is not always guaranteed. My father struggled with Prostate Cancer for nine years until his untimely death; my fiance has faced numerous health challenges that resulted in surgeries; my best friend has underwent two surgeries for back problems before the age of 30; all reminding me to be thankful and grateful for my health. Thus, I savor the fact that I can simply put two feet on the ground and run each morning.

This goal of mine strengthens that voice inside me that says "I can do this." Struggling with issues of insecurity, self-doubt, and lack of self-confidence for many years, this goal challenges me to believe in myself no matter what obstacle I might face. This goal reminds me of the importance of faith and believing in my ability to accomplish phenomenal things.

So as I venture into this marathon journey, I remind myself that this experience is greater than one might initially perceive. It is a chapter in my book that simply put, allows me to become a better and stronger person with each step that I take...