Backward by Design

I am now working on my second graduate degree in education… and a concept in this field that we love to talk about is “starting with the end in mind.” Basically, if you can describe your desired outcome, then the process of lesson planning or program design follows in a logical, focused order to connect that distal point to the beginning by way of smaller milestones. As you can imagine, I think about starting with the end in mind a lot as a runner. In the literal sense, I typically register for a race and then start counting back weeks from that date to determine a training schedule. In the emotional sense, visualizing race day over and over again arms me with the strength and motivation to train. One of the best lessons I learned last summer was to author a mantra early on in the training process. Articulating my final outcome set me up to commit and achieve; planning backwards worked. Reflecting on this concept, I decided to write a few outcomes for the remainder of my summer training season.

On race day, I will be able to:

-Run at a consistent pace for 13 miles;

-Hydrate and fuel my body efficiently for two or more hours of running;

-Maintain positive imagery throughout the race;

-Listen to my body and heed any signs that I need to slow down, stretch, or ask for help;

-Offer authentic gratitude to volunteers, fellow racers, and bystanders encountered along the way.

Just writing those makes me feel even more excited for the race! I will continue to revisit these outcomes each week as I progress toward September…

In other news, I am keeping up with my training plan and completing a lot of shorter midweek runs. It’s been hot and dry (especially for the likes of a Pacific Northwest native), so last night I went to the gym and ran on the treadmill. I have to admit, I was really excited about not being in the sun for a change. Tonight I will probably go back and run a few more miles. This weekend, I would like to run eight miles (same distance as last weekend).

Farewell, July. August, I am ready.

50

Yesterday, I completed my goal of running 50 miles this month. I also turned in my last assignment and completed my first semester of doctoral coursework. I feel healthy and strong, both mentally and physically. My proximal goal is to sustain my energy and commitment for running. The half marathon is in two months, and I have never felt stronger or better prepared for a race. I feel more secure in my running practice than I did at this time last year when I was training for my first marathon. I am sure there are many reasons for this, including the benefit of hindsight, but I would say my practice is much more focused on depth than length this time around. The longer runs are not as long. The midweek runs do not seem as trivial. I am running 3-4 times a week–no exceptions. My joints and muscles are not in pain. On Sunday, when I ran eight miles (the longest training run so far this summer), it was joyful. I did not have to coach myself through it. In fact, I had to force myself to turn around four miles in and run back to my starting point, because I really could have kept going.

I am deeply grateful for all the lessons in my life that compliment the spiritual framework of my running practice. The trials and challenges that test my ability to endure and persist. The knowledge that fear or failure is only as big as we perceive it; that a new attitude can truly breathe energy into an environment or situation. In my deepest heart, to know that I can trust myself to muscle through to the finish, no matter the hills and terrain ahead.

Sustain. Sustain. Sustain.

Looking forward to August.

The Joy of Running

I regularly run with two other women who are building their skill as runners. We meet at least once a week and typically run a 5K though the neighborhood. Watching them develop more strength and confidence as runners over the past few months has been an awesome experience. Last night, one of the women shared that she went for a run alone and lamented that it was not fun. It got me thinking about how running can become enjoyable. A few thoughts came to mind.

1. People. Running with friends is a fantastic way to cream some miles. The peer support of getting through a route and to the finish is very encouraging, especially on the days that you are not likely to go running alone. Knowing you are expected to show up and meet somebody for a run gets you out the door. All parties leave with the satisfaction of adding another drop to their buckets. Win-Win.

2. Solitude. Some of us struggle with sitting meditation (I know I do). Running can present an alternative; a means to hear your own thoughts, clear them systematically, and enjoy the silence. Running can get lonely and boring when you are by yourself, but it can also be an opportunity to indulge in something that is beautiful and just your own. I get this feeling when I am by myself and I have the privilege of running through an exquisite stretch of scenery.Sometimes the chatter of social running takes away from that.

3. Ambition. Any goal, whether it is a faster 5K or running a first marathon, may add energy to the running practice. Races are celebratory awesome experiences. Preparing for one is difficult at times, but also exciting.

4. Consistency. A consistent running practice teaches the mind and body to appreciate running, anticipate the rewards (relaxation, endorphins, mental clarity), and incorporate the exercise into a regular routine. Running is much harder when performed sporadically and infrequently. Regular practice fuels joy by optimizing performance and benefits.

These are just a few of the factors that contribute to the enjoyment of running… there are many more, depending on whatever our individual journeys may be. For example, this morning I ran around the neighborhood pushing my daughter in the jogging stroller. She is three now, and narrating absolutely everything she experiences. There was something deeply grounding about hearing her chirpy little voice, so observant of the present, opening my own eyes to the world around us.

July, July

My blogging time has been a bit sparse thanks to a monster of a literature review, but I am happy to report that I am running regularly and feeling energetic and strong. My goal is to run 50 miles this month, and I’ve already accomplished 12. I am also using this month as an experiment in eating whole and unprocessed foods as much as possible. I ditched bagels for muesli with almond milk and cranberries, pizza for roasted vegetables, meat, quinoa salads, and crackers for fresh fruit. I will admit, the first day or so without junk food was tough. But I am really feeling good now! Much more energized and just the change in what I am eating for breakfast makes a HUGE difference in my morning. I used to feel like I had low blood sugar by about 10:00, but the power porridge I am making keeps me satisfied until noon. Of course, I still indulge in my two favorite health foods… dark chocolate and Pinot Noir.

Off to run by the water this sunny evening. Looking forward to another great week.