Life is certainly a marathon, not a sprint. I set out 4 years ago to run the ING New York City Marathon for one reason- to say,”I lived in NYC, did one of the hardest marathons in the world and joined a league of extreme athletes-marathoners!” But in those 4 years that I had to wait in order to fulfill this dream patience and life stepped in and changed some things. Once it ultimately came time to cross that infamous finish line my purpose was- to experience something that is difficult yet possible, wonderful yet painful and to have a memory of what it feels like to really have to fight for something you believe in. I know life is full of joy and pain, however despite it all I believe in my destiny. I will fight for it at any cost, and what happened for 26.2 miles on November 3, 2013 revealed more than I could ever imagine. Here is what running a marathon taught me about life.
#1 If You Know That You Know…Then Go
All of us have that thing that we “know that we know” is for us. Some call it your life’s calling, your purpose, your passion…I call it my destiny. I was raised by an angel that came to earth as both my mother and my best friend, and from a very young age she encouraged me, reminded me and required me to discover and fight for my destiny. My talents and faith were nurtured in ways that some people never experience in a lifetime. I recognized this as “grace and mercy,” and at a very young age discovered my destiny. It was and is very real to me. But truth be told, it is hard, it is amazing, but most importantly it is required. So at any cost, since “I know. I must go.” Or as my mother would say, I must “run toward my destiny.”
#2 Push Past Pain
When you want something bad enough pain doesn’t paralyze you. It may slow you down, it may tempt you to quit, it may hurt so bad that doubt and fear cloud your days, but if you push past your pain you WILL come out better and stronger. I know this sounds like lyrics to a new R&B song, but I promise you this is the truth. The pain is part of the process and all the glory resides in the process. When you can look back and say, “Yeah, this and this happened…but I am still here,” then you have “evidence” that will ultimately double as “possibility.” This fuels you. Unexpectedly losing my mother one month into training rocked my entire existence. The grief felt like a bad dream and to wake up from it was my only desire. Nothing else mattered. Without my #1 cheerleader by my side I felt paralyzed. Running the marathon became irrelevant and so did life. But thank God for grace and mercy. Moments of peace became seconds, minutes, hours, and eventually full on days. I found a strength I never knew I had and I began to hear her say the one thing she always said at the end of our conversations, emails and texts, “Run Toward Your Destiny.” I did on November 3rd, and I will continue to do so from this point on. It is hard, but to push past pain is not only necessary, it is worth it.
#3 Pass On Being Passive
This time last year I was officially accepted as one of the 147,000 runners selected to run the 2013 ING New York City Marathon. I was also told that what I thought was a minor injury was in fact worse than expected. Running a mile literally brought tears to my eyes. The physical pain of this injury quickly became excruciating. Low back pain affects so many other muscles in your body, and the imbalances that come as a result of it caused agonizing mental pain as well. I felt so weak- in both body and mind. I was disappointed in my body for not being strong enough and in myself for letting this injury get so out of hand. But I refused to believe that popping pain killers and seeing a physical therapist/chiropractor/massage therapist almost every week was the story of my athletic life. I did everything I was told to do by these professionals, yet listened to my body. I took the time off when needed and I strengthened my mind just a much as my muscles. And one year later, I am grateful to say I ran two half marathons (beat a personal record in one of them) and a marathon. Things don’t just happen to us. It’s how we handle things when they do happen that matters.
#4 You Are So Close
I remember many times in my 31 years of life when things felt unbearably hard. Quitting was every other thought and joy was very hard to find. I would complain to anyone who would listen and while some people would serve as encouragement, some would support my misery and encourage me to quit. However…my mom. Her response always stayed the same, “You are so close Robbie. You think this is a surprise to God? The reason why it is so tough is because you are so close.” Hello mile 22-26.2. These miles were by far the toughest, I was delirious, crying (the ugly cry yall), begging for it all to be over and literally on my last leg (both which were now wrapped in ace bandages). But then I thought about all the miles that were behind me and remembered “why” I was out there in the first place. I was so close to the finish line and while the pain was unbearable I had to make up in my mind to be unstoppable and cross over into my destiny. So no matter how tough it gets, don’t give up- you are sooooooo close.
#5 Don’t Let Your Past Become Your Present
There were several times during both my training and especially during the race that my injury acted up. Sometimes it was imagined and sometimes it was real (see “Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help” below). However, each time I had to recognize it for what it was. My past. I was injured last year. I am healed this year. When you focus on what happened to you in the past too much it can and will resurface in the present. Whenever my injury starts to act up today, 9 times out of 10 it is me babying it and/or over-thinking it. Let go and run in your newness. You are not that out of control teenager anymore. You are not worthless like that bully told you in grade school. Just because your last relationship didn’t work out doesn’t mean the one you are currently in will fail too. Yeah they laid you off, but your real passion may be staring you in the face if you just looked up at it. You are healed, so don’t let your past become your present.
#6 Recognize The Season You Are In
During the marathon every single mile was different. Some were flat and easy breezy, while some were hilly and super lonely. I noticed this right away and remember thinking, “Drop in to whatever is happening while it is happening. Stay in the moment.” This reminded me of life. There is a season for everything. At times you may be surrounded with love and support and feel like you can take over the world (P.S. That was me in Brooklyn…this borough was all the way live and I will never forget how that fueled me!), however there will be times when you feel like you are going through the trenches alone. The miles and the times in life where I felt this way were absolutely the worst. But guess what? In an INSTANT things can suddenly turn around. Running across the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan at mile 15/16 was pure hell. But the sea of cheers that met us at the end of the bridge was certainly the silver lining. So just drop in and recognize there is a season in life for everything. All you have to do is: keep moving forward.
#7 If You Want It. Prepare For It.
People think that since I am a professional FitGirl and former athlete that running a marathon is an easier defeat for someone like me. LIE. Anybody and any “body” can do what I just did. That is if they prepare for it. I officially trained for 6 months for this marathon, however truth be told, the real training has been taking place for 31 years. Running a marathon is physical yes, but it is also incredibly mental. The diligence it took to train directly affected my ability to perform on November 3rd. In 2003 I was entering my final year of college and a mile on the treadmill was a huffing and puffing sweaty 15 minutes. In 2005 I was living in Austin, TX and running more than 5 miles was crazy to me. By the way, 5 miles only happened the one time I got lost jogging Town Lake (can you say scary?!). In 2008 I was finally living in NYC and when I attempted to run in Central Park I realized that that place was only for running beast (soooo many hills). But in 2011, 2012 and 2013 I ran over a dozen races and countless training runs in that park, and on November 3, 2013 I ran this city and saw all five boroughs on foot. 26.2 miles didn’t come to me overnight. So if you want to be the CEO of the company, be a better employee. You want to be someone’s spouse, be a better friend. You want to be loved, love. If you want it, prepare for it.
#8 If You Have A Dream You Better Have A Team
Excuse me while I praise dance on this one. The most essential part of running toward and in your destiny is who you have on your team. I entered into my third decade determined to only do and roll with things and people who made me happy. This decision lead to one rude awakening after another. People and habits were dropping like flies and consequently incredible opportunities and people started to flow into my life. When you eliminate the negative the positive is magnified, and the joy this shift provides is indescribable. They don’t call it growing pains for nothing. It hurt to let those things and people go, but now that I am on the other side I can tell you it was totally worth it. Protect your energy and don’t let hate derail your fate. I was surrounded with love on November 3, 2013. Friends and family traveled from all over the United States to be with me during my “Destiny Run.” Someone yelled my name and cheered me on from the bottom of their heart each and every mile…and when it got unbelievably tough, many jumped on the course and ran miles alongside me. Without my team I would’ve never finished. Trust. Your destiny is too big and too important to try and pursue it alone. If you have a dream, you better have a team.
#9 Forget Your Timetable: Run Your Race
Every time I told someone I was running a marathon the first thing they said was: “What do you think your time will be?” I intentionally freed myself of this unnecessary pressure and told myself and them, my only goal was “to finish.” I have no idea what 26.2 has in store and the last thing I want to do is enter in with boundaries that might limit all it’s glory and purpose. But low and behold- around three weeks prior to the race I started thinking about time. I had training runs that proved I could most likely run a marathon in 4:30 or 4:45. I believed it, and when the gun went off I started mile one with this goal in mind. However around mile 14 when my physical and mental strength started to fade, I realized this ambitious time wasn’t going to happen. I was so mad at myself for letting people make me believe time mattered and even more upset at the fact that I let this pressure affect my performance. The same goes for life. Your friends and family think you should be married by now. You thought you would be further along in your career by now. Your back account doesn’t look like you imagined it would by now. Ask yourself this: Who’s timetable are you on? Run your race. “When” things happen has nothing to do with “if” they will happen. You will get married when it is time. Your career will blossom at the right moment. Money will come (and it will go). I promise, you will “finish” when you are meant to finish, and when you do, “time” will not matter. The key to finishing a marathon is to take it one mile at a time. The same goes for life- take it one moment at a time.
#10 Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Contrary to your several degrees and what your ego tells you- You do not know it all! I’ve learned this lesson the hard way in both life and while running 26.2 miles. Around mile four I felt my left achilles swelling. At mile 11 I was hobbling. At mile 14 I could’ve crawled faster than I was running. At mile 15 I told my ego to shut up and went to the medical tent (and even went again at mile 19). I had to let the medical volunteers do their job so I could finish mine. And if that wasn’t an ah ha moment in itself, when I felt like they were wrapping my ankle too tight or when they kept asking me over and over again if I wanted to drop out of the race, I had to encourage them in a moment when I needed encouragement. Talk about transformative. Asking for help takes a whole lot of humility and transparency. Being vulnerable is necessary when it comes to being victorious, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
That’s my top 10 yall. Grateful to be a marathoner and to have 26.2 miles forever in my heart! I am changed, elated, and unstoppable! XOXO Robbie