A 17-Mile Lesson On Gratitude

All the travel over the past week left me feeling somewhat off kilter. Having taken 6 am flights in both directions, then adjusting to the two-hour time difference, I was left feeling really tired. I didn't sleep well the first night back, and was still feeling sleep deficient when I woke up this morning. I'm convinced that this played a factor in today's 17-mile run. After last weekends blissful 16-miler, I wanted so badly for today's run to go just as well. I mapped out the same route down the Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco, and added on an additional half mile up to (but not across) the Golden Gate Bridge.

However, today was much warmer than last weekend's foggy, rainy weather and I overdressed for it. Because of the warmer temps, I drank a lot more water (with Triberry Nuun) and had to make two stops to refill my water bottle. Also related, I had to stop twice for bathroom breaks.

My legs also didn't cooperate as well they did last week. They felt heavy, like bricks for the first 14 of the 17 miles. During this time I just could not find a flowing running rhythm. I was very physically uncomfortable which led to me mentally beat myself down for the first half of the run.

I was so upset that things weren't going as well as last week. In fact, I convinced that I couldn't cover the entire planned distance.

By Mile 7 I was so frustrated that I sat down on a bench in an attempt to clear my head. I had a conversation with myself debating if I should cut the run short and turn around then, or continue on for another mile and half to the planned turnaround spot. It was as if I had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.

Just when I thought the devil got the best of me, an older woman ran by. She appeared to have recently gone through cancer treatments, yet there she was -- running.

All of a sudden my attitude changed. I felt very grateful for my health and realized how silly it would be for me to quit early. Feeling uncomfortable wasn't a good enough excuse to quit early. So I continued on. It didn't feel any easier but I made the climb up to my turnaround point at the base of the GGB.

Things improved on the second half of the run. Although my legs still felt heavy, I felt a weight lifted from my mind.

For as long as I can recently remember I have felt like I have been fighting myself. I've felt like I've been fighting a fear that I didn't really understand, or could identify.

On the plane ride home, I finished reading "Running With the Mind of Meditation" by Sakyong Miphan. There are many, many things from this book that stood out to me. In fact, I probably have more highlighted passages than not. For the rest of the run I directed my thoughts to the ideas that he had written about, like...

Running With the Mind of Meditation, page 85.
Running With the Mind of Meditation, page 85.

The first time I read these words, I felt a piercing in my heart. It described what I had been struggling with, but yet had not been able to put into words.

As I focused on recalling thoughts and ideas from this book, the anger and frustration I felt during the first half of the run just melted away.

I noted how just nine years ago I could not do a push-up. I thought about the many ways I have progressed since then and realized that it was not an overnight process. I felt blessed for the ways that I've grown and excited for the opportunity to be able to continue to do so.

In my mind I began to list the reasons why I run, and what I enjoy about it. And realized that this run, this experience, was another part of my growth process. When I returned to my starting location I noted how much more enjoyable the run became when I stopped fighting myself and started feeling gratitude for what I am able to do.

{As I reread this post before publishing I realize how very cliche-ish it sounds. But its truly is what I felt today. I hope that by documenting this, the next time I struggle within myself I can recall this experience and be inspired by my potential for further.}