Early this month, I undertook one of the most difficult tasks in my life; running a marathon.
I wasn’t sure if I had trained enough. I was uncertain if I was mentally ready. And I am sure you are wondering why I inflicted this on myself in the first place!
In the beginning
Let me take you back to late 2009. I was going through some tough challenges and lost the belief in myself in one particular area.
And we know one thing can snowball to another, as things magnified and affected other areas of my life.
It was time to put into practice all the personal development books I had read. We all know that exercise releases endorphins and I needed those by the buckets.
I started with bootcamp, which is an outdoor exercise session which stoked my stamina. The aches, pains and broken nails made me feel oddly alive again.
Three months into it, I decided to do something that I absolutely hated and had no confidence in embarking on – a 10km run and I had three months to prepare for it.
I needed to get my mojo back.
The journey so far
Over the years, I have taken part in close to 50 runs, mostly in the 10km range and sometimes the half-marathon. There was a year where I hardly ran because I injured myself and the interest waned a little.
I have seen the beauty of running though. As someone who runs gadgetless, namely no music, I have plenty of time to listen to my own breathing (panting) and to look around me and be in the moment.
I have run in the streets of Madrid, Barcelona, the Lake District, Dubai and Turkey. One of the highlights was running across the short bridge over the Bosphorus from Asia to Europe.
Up the ante
At the end of last year, I felt jaded and restless again. After running for so long, I have never felt the need to do the full marathon.
However, I needed an impetus. Something to help me believe in myself again.
I did all the silly things like declaring it out loud over the radio, posting it on Facebook, and I was terrified.
Psyching myself up, I asked myself if on my death bed I would regret not doing a marathon, and the answer would be yes. Better now than later.
There’s no need to wait until I’m 92! People say it’s a mind game. My swollen left ankle said otherwise.
Lessons learnt and still learning
So is it about the journey or the destination?
Preparing for a marathon is insane. Apart from being away for one weekend, every Saturday and most Sunday mornings had been dedicated to running since March.
It meant waking up at ungodly hours and no late nights for the weekend. Yes, there were sacrifices to be made but they were temporary. After all, isn’t anything worth pursuing worth the sacrifice?
Fortunately, I had a buddy who ran with me. It’s about accountability. Running on your own meant there were more reasons to stay in bed.
It was a lot easier to just turn to the other side and enjoy the comforts of bed in the cool morning when it was still dark or worse (or shall I say “better still”), drizzling.
One of the biggest challenges for me was to increase the mileage. I had heard runners preparing for the same race tapering their runs, and we hadn’t even reached our peak yet.
Yes, it meant going the extra mile literally to improve our run and just being on our feet for longer hours.
It meant being prepared just like the scouts. It meant getting the right shoes, buying the massage oils before and after, and visiting the osteopaths so that I was aligned just like a car.
I also did that so I could minimise injury. It also meant measuring myself every step of the way. Writing this article made me realise where I had fallen short and the only person you can’t cheat is yourself.
Prior to preparing for this race, I read this book by Tara Mohr called Playing Big. In her blog, she explains a lesson she learnt from a Rabbi and how in Hebrew, there are two words for fear.
“Pachad” is “projected or imagined fear”, the “fear whose objects are imagined”.
That, in contemporary terms, is what we might think of as overreactive, irrational, “lizard brain” fear: the fear of horrible rejection that will destroy us or the fear that we will simply combust if we step out of our comfort zones.
There is a second Hebrew word for fear, “yirah”. “Yirah” is “the fear that overcomes us when we suddenly find ourselves in possession of considerably more energy than we are used to, inhabiting a larger space than we are used to inhabiting. It is also the feeling we feel when we are on sacred ground.
If you’ve felt a calling in your heart, or uncovered an authentic dream for your life, or felt a mysterious sense of inner inspiration around a project or idea, you would recognise this description.
Let this be my “yirah”. In the meantime, continue to send good vibes and prayers in my direction, won’t you?
PS. Freda would like to add that she indeed completed the marathon. She believes that requires another story.
Freda Liu is a faculty trainer of Leaderonomics focusing on public relations and broadcasting. She is also a presenter/producer of Enterprise on BFM89.9. Follow her on Twitter @voiceguru. To engage Freda for organisational work in your organisation, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Thought Of The Week articles, click here.