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There are two things I must do. One is write, and the other is run. The problem is there are days when I don’t feel like doing either.  On days when I accomplish both, I feel complete. I feel like me. Yet, for as many miles as I’ve run each time I begin, I must fight the demons that tell me to stop. Every step I take fuels me to keep going until I reach a stride where my mind focuses, and running is enjoyable. The first two miles are always the toughest. It’s the same for writing. Getting started can be a battle. I’m working on my third novel, and it’s not any easier than the first. Actually, it’s harder because I’m learning more. When I sit down to work on my manuscript or to write a post I go through an entire Facebook, email, Pinterest ritual before I begin. The longer I wait, the more I torture myself until finally, I focus. And it is torture because I let the fear swirl around in my mind growing more intense with every minute.

The lesson I’ve learned from writing and running is the importance of doing something–anything when faced with fear. Taking that first step toward doing the very thing that frightens you is empowering. It teaches you to get up, get courageous and go! It’s not easy. The things we feel the most fearful of are the things that are the most important to us. We can choose to let fear immobilize us or we can walk confidently in the direction of our fear and do something.

What a difference a year makes! Last February I wrote about my reluctance to run a 15K.

Afterward, I wrote about my race experience.

This journey of training and setting running goals for myself has taught me a lot. One of the greatest lessons I learned was that sometimes it takes failure to get me to be grateful for how far I’ve come, and that believing in myself takes practice just like training for a marathon.

Failure

I spent months preparing. Even after only completing two 5K’s and a 15K I was determined to run 26.2 miles. Sort of.

As the race approached, I heard myself saying things like “I’m going to try…” and “I might want to stop at the half.” I worried when those words came out of my mouth. I still didn’t quite believe I could do it. Then sure enough, on race day I reached the point where I could turn right and finish a half marathon or continue and loop for the full. I turned right and then felt the agony of defeat. I had let myself down. Instead of celebrating my first half marathon I went home sad.

In the weeks that followed, I learned two things. First, I had been way too hard on myself. I should’ve celebrated running over 13 miles and the work it took to get there. When I went back and read my post  Couch to 15K, I realized that once there was a time when 7 miles felt unattainable. Now, 7 miles was an easy workout. I needed to feel gratitude for that accomplishment. Second, I learned that it was my perceived failure that drove me to finish a marathon two months later. Having to pick myself up and try again gave me the strength to eventually reach my goal. I knew as I walked into the Expo the day before the race that no matter what I was going to run 26.2 miles. The word try did not come out of my mouth. During the race at mile twenty-five when my feet began to cramp, I told myself I would limp to the finish if I had to. I was not going to give up.

Believing In Yourself

My race experience led to the understanding that simply saying you must believe in yourself while setting a goal may not always be possible. Maybe you have to set your goal and believe in yourself just enough to make it to the first step. Otherwise, the fear of not reaching your goal will cause you to give up. Once you’ve celebrated your accomplishment of reaching the first step it helps you to believe enough to continue climbing.  For example, if your goal is to lose twenty pounds it can be too overwhelming to think of all the life changes you’ll have to make to lose that much weight. So instead, break it up into steps. Believe in yourself enough to lose 5 pounds. After you’ve accomplished that, believe you can lose 10 pounds.  I can guarantee that if you lose 10 pounds, you’ll have enough belief to lose another 5. And then when you’ve lost 15 pounds you’ll know it’s possible to reach your goal. In other words believing in yourself takes practice too. It doesn’t just happen. There’s great fear in the journey to accomplish the unknown. Once our minds know we can do it, it becomes much easier. Now that I know I can run a marathon, every time I go on a shorter run and feel like stopping I remind myself of what I’m capable of running. It makes all the difference in the world. Once we know we can, we do.

That little voice inside that says you’re not good enough; you’ll never do it, it’s too difficult, you don’t deserve it, is fear. Plain and simple fear. Because what if you fail? What if trying and failing leaves you feeling weak? Embarrassed? Setting goals takes vulnerability, but it’s in that vulnerability that we grow. It’s about having the courage to fall, get back up, brush yourself off and say, “I’m going to try again.”

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I’ve been asked by several people, “why do you do it?” Why do I take on challenges instead of living my life with a perpetual routine? Right now, I’m training for a marathon, teaching, and editing my novel.

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I boarded a plane alone at nineteen. I was on my way to LA! It was probably one of the craziest things I had done in my life. I didn’t have a plan, only a suitcase, and some cash. My excitement and naivety took me all the way to Santa Monica Beach.

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What was I thinking, has been my mantra for the past few weeks. One morning, last month, I guess my coffee was a little too strong, or the sun may have been shining a little too bright, but I heard myself asking Arielle if she wanted me to run the Gasparilla 15K with her. Now, I’ve been to this race many times. Arielle began participating in it back when she was in middle school. Eric joined her. I remember seeing my husband’s face after he crossed the finish line. Pure exhaustion sprinkled with pain. I always felt it was a bit insane to get up before dawn to run 9.3 miles for fun. My job was to cheer, take pictures, and sip hot cocoa. Afterwards, we’d go back to the hotel, get cleaned up, and enjoy the beautiful city of Tampa with thousands of others. A nice meal, a little shopping, that’s what I call fun.

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