For a long time, I have been a comfort zone kind of girl. I had my little bubble, I did a lot of things inside that bubble, things that I would call fun and things that I thought made me happy. But I’ve come to realize that being comfortable did not mean happy. Don’t get me wrong, even inside this zone, my life is pretty darn awesome. I am blessed in so many ways. However, I’ve always battled fears that kept me in one place, it kept me from true greatness. It meant the difference between having a good life and having an awesome life.
Fear is something we all deal with, whether we acknowledge it or not. We can call it keeping things calm, we can call it being cautious and safe. But the root of it is fear. Fear of failure, fear of pain, fear of rejection. I’ve always been afraid of things going wrong, so I stayed on the safe, well lit path, to avoid the things I was afraid of. This was my comfort zone. I was happy here, life was good. Things didn’t go wrong, I didn’t get hurt, my boat was sailing on calm seas. I wanted more though. It was last summer that I finally committed to having more. By more, I don’t mean more things. Not more money, not more possessions, but more life. With the age of 30 quickly creeping up on me, I was no longer content with settling on a calm, easy life. I needed to say hello to my fears, tell them I was over them, and see what else was out there. This is when I made the commitment to run the Princess Half Marathon. I hadn’t started training yet, and was very afraid of failing, or something going wrong and keeping me from going or completing the race, but I closed my eyes and hit enter on registration day. This was the first step.
For months, even with training, I still battled the fears that I wasn’t going to make it, that I needed every outside force to help me finish. I needed a good corral, for an earlier start, with lots of space between the sweepers and me. That fear of failure still nagged at me. The excuses still got in to my head and kept me from training. I see it in a lot of people. Life gets in the way. We have kids, homes to run, jobs, illnesses pop up, bad days happen. For some people, these excuses are enough to stop, or at least to keep them from really giving it their all. They did for me for months. In the weeks leading up to the race, I saw many people discuss how life got in the way and they “couldn’t” train. I learned that these excuses are simply mental barriers and they aren’t a matter of can’t. They were simply our brains telling us to stay in the comfort zone, not to try, and not trying means you can’t fail. Towards the end of the year, I stopped letting the excuses rule me. I have 3 children and a husband to attend to, I have a house to run, I have a job that I work at from home. We dealt with illnesses, we dealt with bad days, days where I just wanted to sit on the couch and numb my mind in front of the tv or my laptop after the kids went to bed, days where my kids had been up the night before and I had gotten little sleep. But I was never going to get to where I wanted to be if I let those days get to me. There are so many people who deal with kids, home, work, stress, illness, no sleep and more and still get out there and run. There are people who are missing limbs or dealing with terminal illnesses, yet they still get out there and train, to add to their lives. If they can do it, so could I. So can you. On the days when I really didn’t want to take the time and burn the little energy I had left I made it a point to hop on my treadmill or head outside and go.
Every time I heard someone say they were worried about not finishing the race because they missed weeks of training due to “life”, I wanted to scream at them. Some people deal with so much more and manage, many more deal with life and still manage. It was an excuse, plain and simple, and in the grand scheme of things, a pretty lame excuse. Nobody lives a perfect, stress free life. It’s simply a decision not to let that become a mental barrier that keeps you from being as great as you want to be.
This realization of how much I have faced my fears and broken out of my comfort zone has made me proud. I stopped thinking about all of the things that could go wrong and I did it. I have applied this to other areas of my life, doing things I normally wouldn’t do because I was afraid, and it’s enriching other areas of my life. It’s also made me aware that I still do sit in my comfort zone, even when it comes to running.
I can run. I’ve proven that, by running a half marathon. I can go the distance if I want to. But I get there rather slowly. I noticed, even during my half marathon, that when I run, I don’t give it my all. I push for distances, but I haven’t gotten a whole lot faster. I’m not breathing heavy, if it’s not hot I’m not sweating. My goal for PHM was just to finish. I wanted to finish in under 3 hours and I accomplished that. With the rough weather conditions and my injury, I couldn’t really exert myself, but I can now. During training runs, and during the race, I stayed at a comfortable pace, and it was rather easy. But I don’t want easy anymore. I want improvement. I recently talked about the 8k I ran this past weekend. I pushed myself for this race, I was breathing heavy, I was sweating, I felt ready to puke. It was spectacular. I knocked a few minutes off my comfortable pace. Pushing myself past the point of just being comfortable was worth it. I see now that it’s time to really start pushing myself. I want to finish my next half marathon in under 2:30. It will be a hilly course, so I’m going to have to break out of the comfort zone again and start pushing myself more, especially during training. It’s the only way I’ll see improvement.
Truly living life and achieving greatness is a constant motion. Evolution and improvement is ongoing, and if you have the desire, there is no stopping point, you just keep climbing. I want to keep climbing. I finished my half marathon, but there is more beyond that. This line of thinking doesn’t just apply to running either, so I will just keep swimming.