Change of Course May 29 2018, 0 Comments
George Bernard Shaw once said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
Progress. Relentless forward progress. Isn’t that what differentiates those who “do” and those who “do not”? And for those of us who do, isn’t striving to be ever faster, stronger, smarter, better, what keeps us moving those goals even higher?
Now, I use the pronoun “us” VERY loosely here. I am not an athlete. My idea of a great workout is yoga. Not hours-long Bikram yoga in a hot box with 30 of my (not)closest friends. I’m talking me, my mat, and a DVD at 5am in my living room, stretching, balancing, and breathing. It’s as much about inner reflection and connecting with my body as it is about introducing my middle-age physique to fitness through baby steps. And the only body-shaming comments I have to deal with are in my own head.
But, I have goals too. Changes I want to make. Things I want to accomplish. And that requires a course adjustment. Not just physically, but more importantly, mentally. I must make a daily (sometimes hourly) choice to walk this new, unfamiliar route. I’m a creature of habit and a critter of comfort. Change is not my friend.
Sometimes, life forces the change, or at the least, plays catalyst to transformation in one form or another. Job loss. Illness. Injury. A catastrophic event. Anything that immediately re-focuses us on what is truly important and what it is that makes our spirit soar. It takes great courage to embrace the change, follow a new path and leave the past behind; knowing it served its purpose to bring us to this moment, but will now be only unnecessary and burdensome baggage on the trip forward.
I’ve been blessed to be welcomed into the totally awesome and immensely compassionate trail running community over the course of the past few years, thanks to my husband’s passion for and dedication to the sport. I’ve found camaraderie from both the athletes and supporters alike. I’ve witnessed the highs, lows, and everything in between. In many ways, the running community has restored my beliefs in the goodness of humanity and in the ability for each of us to overcome just about anything.
Spend any amount of time at a trail running event and you hear story after story of people sacrificing their own races to help another athlete; sharing water, supplements, clothing. You watch as crew members jump in to help a runner that doesn’t “belong” to them. You witness volunteers cheering, comforting, massaging, and providing sustenance with food and drink and also through their words of encouragement. But what you may not have noticed, is how many folks’ courses were forever altered that day. The runner that got lost had to stop, re-evalute, and change direction. The person that stopped to help had to establish a new finish goal and find a way to make it to the next aid station without suffering from dehydration. The volunteer who so delicately and calmly dealt with a racer’s medical emergency was inspired to take a first-aid course and pursue a nursing degree. The child who ran into his father’s arms as he crossed the finish line, decided to sign-up for the track team.
In order to open up and embrace the change, we have to let go of our current perceptions and, in most cases, some of our identity. We often define ourselves by what we do and/or how we look. I often joke with my husband that he looks the part of a trail runner. Long hair. Check. Beard. Check. A wardrobe comprised of running/race gear. Check. Ugly toes. Check. (Sorry, babe!). But unless we allow ourselves the freedom to live beyond what and who we are today, we will forever hold ourselves back from our true potential.
This struggle has taken a very personal turn over the past few months. My husband, Orange Mud sponsored athlete Chad Hause, is going on five months non-running. Five months. Let that sink in. Anyone who’s passion is suddenly stripped away without a time frame for reinstatement would struggle to find self-worth and stay positive. “It’s only running,” you say. But it’s so much more. It’s his lifeline. Running gives him clarity, a sense of calm, a way to sort through life’s little and big problems, a way to simplify and shrug off the chaos. He loses himself on the trails only to emerge with a renewed sense of self, a fresh perspective, and a twinkle in his eyes.
Without getting into the specifics, a lingering injury has kept him out of commission for most of this year. Faced with the inability to run and acknowledging he needed another outlet, he threw himself into researching the possibility of bicycling. We went from, “I wonder if I could bike,” to, “I just signed up for a 100 mile bike race,” in .3 seconds flat! And that twinkle…it was back! The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of phone calls, emails, web tutorials, bike parts, and race prep. There have been more set-backs along the way, but he has never faltered on the goal.
The course changed. Just like when the flags disappear during a trail race resulting in some extra “fun” miles, life provides many opportunities for growth, exploration, and adventure. He’s still a runner, but now he’s also a biker. He’ll find his way and this new adventure may very well lead back to running. But when he gets there, he’ll be so much further up the path in wisdom, experience, and outlook than he ever would have been without the deviation.
We can all be more than our current path leads. We just have to be willing to change our course. After all, “without a change of course, there can be no change of destination,” – Dani Johnson.