I am currently training for the LA marathon. This means that three times a week I’m outside running, telling my body that all the pain and exhaustion will be worth it when we get that medal at the finish line—and the free banana shortly afterward.
This past Saturday I ran 17.5 miles, the second longest run in my entire training plan. (The longest being 20) For the first 13 miles or so, I was doing pretty well. My legs, while tired, still had some juice in them and I was determined to check this milestone off my list. But as I started those last four miles, it seemed like each step got harder and harder. My knees began to ache and my ankles threatened to quit on me. This was the longest I had ever run in my entire life, and to know that even when (or if) I finished, come marathon day I’d have to come up with the strength to run nine more miles—a marathon is 26.2 miles—my body was just about ready to call it.
Around mile 16 or so, my mind was really starting to get shaky and my legs were even worse. Continuing to run almost felt like punishment, but I knew quitting would feel far worse. That’s when I hit a red light and had to pace around the sidewalk—legs wobbly as ever—while I waited for my signal to continue. I put my hands on my head and took some deep breaths, hoping to relieve some of the stiffness in my back, and then I looked up. The sky was a piercing blue with big, beautiful, puffy clouds. I watched them swirl around above me, and it gave me a warm feeling in my stomach.
When the light turned green and I started running again, I focused on the clouds, and for a little while my knees didn’t ache as much and my feet didn’t sting; my back felt looser and my legs felt a tiny bit stronger.
By the time I made it back to my house however, I was sure my legs were going to fall right out from under me. I walked through the door like a baby giraffe and stumbled my way through a shower and the making of my usual after-run protein shake.
My body was spent.
But even as I limped around for the rest of that day and the next, I still thought about that patch of sky. While it hadn’t taken away the pain I was feeling, it reminded me that it wasn’t the only thing that day—that moment—had to offer.
There are many instances in which I’ve let a dark time or a difficult situation block out all the light around me. Sometimes it’s hard to remember there’s a blue sky up there. Especially when so many other days are grey, cloudy and rainy.
But alas, there are always good things. There is always something just out of your line of sight that is there to give you hope and inspiration. There is always something to push you that last mile.
In the next month, I’m sure I’ll spend more than a few days wondering, what the hell am I doing? Namely when I pass the 20-mile mark at the marathon and have to run SIX. MORE. MILES. But I’m going to take that patch of blue sky with me through the whole race and the days, months and years that follow. I’m going to look up, even when my head wants to hang down, and I’m going to look around, even when it seems safer to keep my eyes forward. Because as sure as there will be dark, there will also be light, and I’m going to try harder to find it. Even when it feels like my knees might spontaneously combust—or you know, the day to day life equivalent to that feeling.