Recently I ran a full marathon.
It was an experience that I will never forget. The fact that I completed a marathon could be the headline of this post, but it’s actually not the point. It’s more of the exclamation point. What I really want to share is how I followed my intuition from the moment I chose to sign up for the marathon to the second I crossed the finish line.
“What made you decide to run a marathon?”
This has been one of my most frequently asked questions over the past six months. So many possible reasons why this choice was made – so many really good stories that could be created to make it sound like a much more exciting decision than it was. “I have always dreamed of running a marathon!” – nope. “It was a natural transition since I’ve mastered half marathons and my pace is on point” – not even close. The truth is far less sparkly and yet, still quite profound. The real reason I chose to run this marathon was because my intuition nudged me to say “yes” when I was asked to join a friend in this endeavor.
I’ve learned over the years what it feels like in my body when my intuition is guiding me to make a decision. When I heard myself say “yes,” I paused in my mind and thought “really? I’m really going to run a marathon?” The choice didn’t come from thinking about it or even meditating on it. The answer came right through me and I knew in that moment that I needed to listen, even if I didn’t know why.
Do I always listen to my intuition?
I wish the answer to that question was yes. Honestly though, the way I’ve learned to listen has been to not listen. And not listen often. Know what I mean? I bet you’ve had times that you have had a feeling or a gut reaction but didn’t follow it. After the fact, you probably thought, “damn I wish I had followed my gut!” Yep, I know that feeling too. The good news is that once you recognize this cycle, you can have better awareness of it down the road. And life will give you an unlimited amount of opportunities to practice!
Taking on this marathon was a big leap of faith for me. Since I moved last year, I’ve been without a consistent running partner. Looking at the training plan, I knew that I was going to be logging a lot of miles, likely alone. And yet, even so, I knew that this was the “right NOW” path for me. (Not sure what I mean by the “right NOW” path? Read about it HERE.) I also knew that this would mean showing up for myself in ways that I hadn’t been really good about doing in the past. It’s easy for me to get up early and meet a friend waiting to join for a run. It felt like it was going to be much more difficult taking those same steps when I alone would be heading out for most of my runs.
The first week of scheduled marathon training, I ended up with a lung infection.
I knew that if I was going to have any chance of getting on track with my training, I needed to take extra care of my body. I hit up all my favorite homeopathies and herbs. I put myself to bed early. I ordered my favorite spicy ramen soup. And I put myself on a restrictive “thought-diet” free from self-abuse and criticism. I was very aware that when things like this happened in the past, beating myself up was one of my go-to reactions. My intuition guided me down a path of gentleness and trust. I wanted to take good care of myself regardless of the marathon training. This was a huge turning point for me. This self-care regime allowed me to heal and only miss the first week of training. And it helped me to extend this self-care practice through the entirety of my training.
The four months leading up to the marathon were filled with a significant amount of doubt.
I doubted that I could finish the marathon. Some training runs were awful. I hurt. I got scared. “If I cannot easily finish 7 miles, how on earth am I going to finish 26.2?” I frequently wondered. At times, these thoughts were very loud and often almost all encompassing. Each time, a smaller softer voice would follow not far behind. “You can do this,” it said. “One step at a time.”
I had a choice. I could listen to the loud voice, that inner critic who was always so quick to shoot down my best attempts at a challenge or a goal. This critic would often remind me of those times I tried and failed. Or would bring up the embarrassment and shame I would feel when I finished something but not at the level I expected.
I could also choose to listen to the quiet, still voice that encouraged me to tackle this adventure in the first place. The one behind the scenes cheering me on, believing in me. My intuition was gently guiding me along this path but I had to really listen to hear it’s coaching.
Days before the marathon, I started to visualize each mile of the race.
I imagined how I felt and the way my whole body was working in concert. I had an amazing half marathon experience just weeks before and I used this as the basis for my visualizing. I saw myself running each and every mile. I allowed myself to really ground into the process. I still had fear but I met it face to face. I invited the fear to have a seat at my table; to be part of the process instead of trying to fight with it or make it go away.
The morning of the marathon, I felt a combination of excited and terrified. My mantra became “this is just another long run.” I spent a few minutes at the start line once again visualizing the race but this time I invited all parts of me – the fear, the critic, the young girl afraid to make an embarrassment out of herself and my physical body – to join me in seeing not only the crossing of the finish line but each step, each mile in between. “We” were as ready as we were going to be.
At 7:00 am, the race gun went off and I joined 10,000 of my “closest running friends” on a journey of a lifetime.
The race itself was challenging. Everything went really well for me up until Mile 14. That’s when I ended up with a burst blister on my foot, which set off a secondary, more painful knee injury around Mile 16. Panic set in on and off for several miles because I really wasn’t sure my body was going to hold up for the final ten miles of the race.
Along the course, there were several angels that showed up just when I needed them most; a running friend with Band-Aids, another runner with BioFreeze. I was grateful I listened to my intuition and decided at the last minute to run in calf sleeves, which I often do not do. I pulled one of the calf sleeves up over my knee to offer just enough stabilization to keep me going.
I just kept taking my mind back to the visualization exercise I had done those days prior to the marathon. I kept thinking of my friends and family who created a virtual cheering section, along with race signs and best wishes that I received in a text message just moments before the race began.
Headphones in my ears, my familiar running playlist offered me some comfort.
I pushed and pushed my way through each of the following miles. At Mile 22 I got a second wind, realizing that I could crawl the last four miles if I had to. But I didn’t have to! I walked/ran those four miles with a newly recharged energy.
That quiet, supportive intuitive voice stayed with me the whole race, softly and gently encouraging me to run the mile I was in and nothing more. A few times I had to choke back tears because I realized I was really going to finish the race and was about to become a marathoner.
And then it was over – 26.2 miles from where I started and I had the medal to prove it!
I’m not the same person I was before this experience and it’s a great reminder that growth and evolution can happen in unexpected ways. All we have to do is listen when our inner knowing gives us a nudge, sometimes in big ways but many times in much more subtle ways, to usher us along this amazing journey.
**A special shout out to my family and friends for the amazing support and great signs (Thanks CC for coordinating!) And Jamie Drever and the Moms Run This Town (MRTT) community, for the love, support, shared miles and encouragement along this amazing adventure! When are we running the next one??