When You're Afraid To Be Honest About What You Want and What You Can Do To Make It Happen

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A few weeks ago, my coach @rebekastowe asked me to grab her before my run. I’m apart of a program here in NYC called Project Moonshot which is a 12-week training program, run by Nike, for athletes chasing a moonshot marathon goal. We have everyone from runners working towards their first marathon to runners chasing Olympic Trial Qualifying times. 

That day, I had 2, 3-mile repeats at a little faster than threshold pace (If you’re like 'what does that mean?!', don’t worry about it. It’s a fast pace that you play with for longer distances.) It was a hard and intimidating workout but I was confident about how strong I was feeling. I wasn’t panicked. Just ready to work.

I went up to my coach Rebeka and she asked me what I thought about moving up a pace group and doing 1, 3-mile interval at a faster pace I wasn’t sure I could hold instead of 2, 3-mile repeats. 

I told her that I didn’t want to. No thank you. Too fast. Too scary. (Well, actually, I immediately folded over towards my feet and made myself small. I literally curled into a ball, groaned, and started sweating.) 

It was weird because inside my head, I was listening to myself say, “Say yes. Just try. See what happens. You owe it to yourself to just give it a shot.” But I wasn’t saying any of those things out loud. I was telling her no. I wanted to stick to the plan because it already felt really, really hard and intimidating. 

My coach started telling me why she wanted me to try, the science behind her reasoning, and why she believed I could do it. 

I said fine and joined the scary pace group.

We took off and about ¾ of a mile in, I got dropped. Which was fine. I was running very, very fast and I’m used to being dropped so it didn’t phase me. I just told myself to hold on and give it my all.

But I didn’t give it my all.

I held back. 

Long story short, I ran hard and I ran fast. I PR’ed my 5K BUT, I held back. I wouldn’t let myself go to that scary place where the pain is all-encompassing and it’s hard to catch your breath. I knew I was just far enough outside of my comfort zone to feel proud of the work I was doing but it wasn’t what Coach Stowe and I agreed that I’d try and do. I was too afraid to find that next gear.

After the workout, Stowe told me what she’s learned through her journey (Stowe is an incredible athlete and has a great story) and how important empathy is. How these days in training aren’t good or bad. It’s not black and white. They build on each other and help you discover whether you’re being honest with yourself or not. We ended up having this really meaningful talk about where I’m at, what I want, and how I can work to get there. 

And the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about whether or not I’m being honest with myself in a bunch of different aspects of my life.

Not just in running but in my professional life, personal life, and running life. Where am I holding myself back? Where am I making excuses to save myself the time or heartache of actually facing off with what I need to be doing to start to move towards what I want? What am I saying to myself (or not saying to myself) to ground myself and feel confident about what I’m doing and what I want? If I stop and take inventory of where I’m at, what is working and what isn’t working anymore?

In the last few weeks, more and more people have been asking me about my goal. Next week, I’m running the Chicago Marathon and I haven’t been very vocal about what goal I’m chasing. Which has been bumming me out because the gut reaction in me is to not tell people what I want because I don’t want to have to fall short of my goal and have to once again face the fact that I couldn’t do it.

But that run and talk that my Coach Stowe and I had a few weeks ago changed things for me. It helped me remember why I chase these huge, scary, impossible goals again.

My first marathon. Trying to survive.

When I first started running, I was doing it because I desperately needed something to be proud of. I needed a challenge and something to do besides watch reality TV after work and scroll through Facebook and see all my friends out there taking chances and living their lives. Running a half marathon and then a marathon gave me purpose and in turn, helped me find confidence and a sense of self-worth again. (Sidenote: Did you know that the Japanese word for purpose, ‘ikigai’, literally translates to ‘find joy in life through purpose’ or ‘that which I wake up for’? Beautiful, no?)  

As a new runner, I didn’t think I was going to become a runner. I just needed a way to get out of my head. When I ran my first marathon, I didn’t think I could do it every single step of the way. (I literally didn’t think I could do it until I actually crossed the finish line.) But that didn’t stop me from trying or telling people I was training to run a marathon.  I didn’t start my first blog Run, Selfie, Repeat thinking it would become my full-time job. I did it because I loved storytelling and not taking running as seriously as the rest of the world seemed to do. I didn't start this journey to try to qualify for Boston thinking I'd do it. It was honestly just a stunt and a fun way to change things up on my blog. 

Things changed once I thought I was close enough to actually make it happen. I stopped having fun because I stopped playing and exploring what I was capable of. I became almost paralyzed by a fear of failure. 

A goal isn’t something you should set because you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you can do it. Chasing a goal is about the journey. It’s about taking leap of faith after leap of faith outside of your comfort zone and seeing what happens on the way down. It’s about challenging what you think your limits actually are.  

And it’s about embracing the fact that you may not do what you set out to do. There's a huge chance you'll actually fail a bunch of times before you succeed. 

I don’t know how many times I have to learn and relearn this lesson that the only way you fail is if you fail to try but HERE WE ARE. 

I want to qualify for Boston. That is my goal. 

I shared this on my Instagram but I think I’ve gotten close to 100 emails in the past 2 weeks from ladies in the #BALG asking for advice on how to handle the panic they’re experiencing. Or how to feel anything other than terrified of the pain you experience when you run just about any distance. I’ve never been a runner who easily embraced pain or had a “bring it on” attitude. My instinct is to distract or run from it. Not embrace it or move through it. I know it’s going to hurt. I know I can push through hurt but just like so many of you, I still find myself afraid of how I’ll handle the pain in the moment. 

Which, let's be honest, the pain we experience when we run is really just doubt physically manifesting itself. It's the pain that makes us say, "Oh wait. I don't think I can do this. ABORT. ABORT. FIND SAFETY. NOW!" 

And in those moments, you have to stay present. You have to be brave enough to say, "OK. I don't know how long I can hold on. I have a plan, I did the work, let's see what happens. 5 more minutes." (Or 2 more minutes. Or 10 more minutes. Whatever it is to keep yourself holding on, do that and stay present.) 

But remember, every moment is a new opportunity to give your best effort regardless of what just happened. 

So much happens during a marathon. It’s hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities to endure, say yes to yourself, and challenge what you think you’re capable of. Sometimes you’ll push through. Sometimes you’ll pull back. But regardless of what you’re experiencing in any given moment or mile, there will always be an opportunity to let it go and embrace something new. 

I’ve been trying to remind myself that there’s no such thing as a perfect day or a pain-free marathon. That my personal best isn’t tied to a finishing time. 

It’s about how you feel when you know you gave it your all from the moment you registered to the moment you get to that finish line. 

I’m doing my best not to make myself small when I’m afraid of failure. Say your seemingly impossible goals out loud knowing you may not do it the first or fifth try. Challenge what you think you’re capable of. 

And if your goal is to cross a finish line or run what feels like a not so impressive distance, never qualify that accomplishment with the word “just”. One does not “just finish” a marathon or “just” runs 3 miles. Yes? 

This week, I encourage you to do two things:

  1. Take a second to pause and sit with yourself. Check back in with why you're chasing your goal, what you want, what’s working, and what isn’t working. Get honest. Set some actionable steps about how you can move forward and start to make your goal a reality.

  2. Commit to that goal that scares you, intimidates you, or even makes you sad because you want it so badly and you aren’t sure it will ever happen. Say it out loud. Start asking for help from people who can help you make it happen. Follow up and ask again when they say no, don’t respond, or if they say not right now. (Sometimes a no really means not right now.) Then pivot and get specific about what you can do to take one step closer to that goal. If it’s a running goal, I recommend starting to really visualize the day and seeing yourself doing exactly what you want to do. See it. Believe it. Become it.

Kick ass. Take names.