My evolution in the areas of health, fitness, and personal development have taken time. It is very much a work in progress, with the focus being to promote positive change over extended periods, rather than striving for a short-term transformation.
I love running because it is so representative of life. It can't be rushed; you must build your ability-level through consistency and focused effort. You must be a student of the craft, and be willing to admit what you don't yet understand, with an aim to develop your areas of weakness.
Somedays, running hurts. You feel like you're lost and making no progress, despite the hours and miles that you invest. These days are hard, but they don't last. What does last is the person that running (or any other fitness endeavor) helps you to become. With each purposeful action, you become mentally and physically stronger. You are one step closer to becoming your best self.
This is why I run; and while I didn't always understand my intentions at this depth, I always felt pulled towards continuing to try. To consistently show up, each and everyday, for myself.
An old adage states, 'How you do anything is how you do everything'. We all have the same calling, it just takes many different forms from person to person... We must determine the person that we want to be, and become that person through our actions (words alone are never enough). Once you have begun acting in accordance with your vision, you must hold yourself to that standard in all that you do.
What follows is a brief overview of my journey towards personal development through physical pursuits. It is an adventure that is ongoing, and one that I would not change. My experiences past, present, and future are my guiding force, and they are what will deliver me to the starting line of my first Marathon on November 6th, ready to run.
Steps on Concrete:
It was a rainy April morning, and on an otherwise normal day, the streets of the University of Louisville campus would be quiet. Today, apparently, was no normal Saturday morning, as I awoke to the sounds of air horns and cheering from the streets outside my dorm room window. As I peered through the blinds, I saw people lining the streets from my college campus to Churchill Downs. The energy appeared high, as runners replaced what would normally be the domain of cars and public transportation buses. I looked on with interest, both equally happy to be in a dry space, while also feeling like I was missing out on something special.
The annual Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon & Mini-Marathon took ownership over the city of Louisville on that April morning. It was clear that this was a celebrated event, as are most running events, as I would come to find out. The energy is contagious, there’s a sense of comradery amongst the runners, as they set out on a mile-by-mile journey to achieve their goals. The crowd turns out, no matter the circumstances, to support all of the runners. It is in events like these that we see the best in humanity; we are able to celebrate the strength of the human spirit, and how this shared resilience binds us. It quickly becomes apparent that no one is alone throughout their 13.1 or 26.2 mile journey. And with each step, the runner’s inspire those around them, showing what it means to never settle for less than their best.
As I looked on from my bed, I quickly remembered the significance of the day. I had a few friends who had mentioned that they would be running, and I hoped for the best for them in their races. It also quickly became apparent that I wanted to be a part of the energy that I was witnessing. I wanted to run with such driven people, through a city that I proudly called home. One year later, I would join them, and a journey of my own would begin.
With fondness, I will always remember the build-up to my first road race in the following April of 2016. I can vividly recall many training runs, instances of hesitancy and self-doubt, contrasted with moments of celebration and excitement for what would come to be an amazing first half-marathon experience.
There’s a beauty to placing yourself in a position of complete amateurism. You know too little to overthink the details, yet you are gaining new knowledge every step of the way; becoming stronger through experience. Each lesson learned is more valuable than the previous, and each success is magnified to a point that you feel limitless. This naivety placed me on the starting line of my first Half-Marathon feeling unstoppable.
My game plan was simple: run fast, run hard, and when you feel fatigue setting in, run faster and harder. The beauty of my first race was that this irrational plan worked! I ran under my goal time, and crossed the finish line feeling that I had won. I had completed a 12-week training plan, completed 13.1 miles for only my second time (once in training), and finished feeling as though this was just the beginning.
Bridging the Gap:
In many ways, it was just the beginning. The 12-weeks that I spent training for this race represented my first true commitment to the development of my physical and mental fitness. I faced challenges head-on, and proved to myself that I have what it takes to break through barriers. While I wouldn’t top this level of commitment to running for another five years, and my finishing time on that day would still stand as my personal best, it would set the tone for the standard that I hold myself to, each and everyday.
Confidence is built through experiences like these. In order to establish a healthy level of self-belief and assuredness, we must overcome the limits that we’ve set for ourselves. Big or small, these victories will set the stage for greater goals and accomplishments. And in the future, when times get hard and you feel that you are buried by your external circumstances, it will be the internal fortitude that you’ve built that will carry you to success.
As we become stronger, so do the problems that we face. Despite our perception, these problems are never too big for us; rather they demand that we recruit a greater level of ourselves to triumph. And so we must.
Over the next few years, my fitness would take many different forms. Hours spent running the roads quickly turned into daily visits to the gym. The aim shifted from distance to the ability to build my body stronger. This period of time provided a seemingly equal balance of success and frustration. While there were noticeable physical developments promoted through resistance training, it was accompanied by the challenges of strength gain. Minor injuries and a needed focus on form development would ultimately slow my perception of physical progress, but would make my mind stronger than ever.
Time focused on strength development has forced me to sweat the details; placing an increased focus on the variables that I can control. I have built habits, knowledge, and a passion towards development. I have become much more process-oriented, trusting that effort leads to progress, despite perceived struggle. What started out as a physical practice has in-turn strengthened my mindset and willingness to achieve at a high-level. Whether it be sets in the gym, laps in the pool, or miles on concrete, I know that fitness will remain central to my life. I’m better when I go all-in on myself.
Ready to Run:
November 6, 2021 I will run my first Marathon. 26.2 miles on the streets of Indianapolis, Indiana at the city’s annual Monumental Marathon. As I write this today, I am officially halfway through a 16-week training regime. The first eight weeks have been nothing short of amazing, enjoyable, and memorable. I have embraced the sport of running, seeked out new knowledge, and met some wonderful people who share a love for pursuing self-betterment through fitness.
I purposely paired my first Marathon training experience with Abby and I’s adventure to Colorado. We have built a home just outside of Boulder, and have discovered a community that loves health and fitness. The scenery is beautiful, and there is an endless array of options for daily training runs. This opportunity to explore new areas of our country, which I explain in more detail in a previous post, has certainly intensified the novelty of the build-up to a Marathon.
Additionally, I’ve been fortunate enough to get a part-time job at a local Colorado running store, where I get to help customers find great shoes and equipment to aid in the pursuit of their fitness goals. This job may seem small, but to me, it represents a belief in myself; to take a chance, leave my comfort zone, and explore the possibilities that accompany new beginnings.
When Abby and I decided to pursue this expedition into the unknown, I knew that it would provide me with a great opportunity. An opportunity that not everyone has; to invest in my passions and explore the ability to turn a hobby into a lifestyle. Through true passion, valuable experiences, and a willingness to invest time and effort, you can create the future that you desire for yourself.
Like my half-marathon training 5 years ago, there have already been moments of celebration and success, accompanied by frustration and unusuredness. With each of these emotions, I hold stronger in my conviction that I am exactly where I need to be, doing what I am meant to be doing.
I have goals for my first Marathon, none of which need to be stated here today. All that matters in this moment, 8 weeks out from 26.2, is that I am becoming stronger; in mind and body. That I am expressing my gratitude for this opportunity, my health, and the privilege that I have to make something so simple, like putting one foot in front of the other, a priority in my life.
In the final 8-weeks of my training, I will continue to build my fitness by embracing each workout as a key piece to the puzzle. I will try my best to hold equal value to the moments of success, and the moments of struggle. I will continue to embrace a community that has so quickly embraced me. And I will hold true to the mindset that the journey does matter, there will always be stories worth telling, and when told, it will become clear that it’s about more than the miles ran, and the time achieved, it’s about what got you there, and what will keep you working for more.
Something feels right; like this is the beginning of something larger than a race. If there is opportunity in the unknown, then I will run towards it, with belief and confidence that I will rise to the occasion.