The alarm clock jumps to life in the muted hush of my slumber. It seems that stupid o'clock waits until just that moment when sleep has finally arrived, finally settled in, finally made friends with the dragons that keep me awake most nights. The sharp undertones of my wake up call shout from mountains I haven't yet climbed. They squawk relentlessly into the stillness I've cocooned myself within. This moment of my pre-choosing, this moment I dared to believe, dared to trust, that in fact, I am capable of achieving my goals. This moment I dared to believe that I was worth the try.
Yesterday's run clothes hang off the drying rack. They look limp in the dark, hanging there lacking the incentive to rise up by themselves and dance into movement. They mirror my insides. My every fibre, as much in love with running as every other day, craves to retreat heartlessly back into my cocoon and shelter my soul from the harsh weather, the invisible ground I might tread. I cannot seem to reach out to touch those garments hanging there. Disdain for my lack of enthusiasm, simmering self loathing for my lack of relish of effort.
Some days there is no place from which to retrieve this.
I reach instead for the kettle and the mug that sit in wait each night on my counter. My eyes adjust to the LED luminescent glow of the heating water. Breathing in life force, asking, no begging, the universe to lend me some driving force to settle into purpose. Steaming mug in hand, fingers intertwined around in a clutch that reminds me I have strength still. Slowly, calculated manoeuvre, well practiced, I slid to the floor. My quiet, my peace, my happy place, my thinking space. Here, eye level with my feet, I dare to dialogue with the what if's my spirit might bring forward.
What if I fail?
Failure according to whom? To what standard? Is showing up, trained and ready, prepared to give everything in spite of the odds, considered failure? I may tell myself that, but what would I preach to my children, so impressionable? Is failure not more contained back under the warm linen? All cocooned in the ignorance that you could tolerate a life without this purpose?
What if I never improve?
Improve in what? Strength? Speed? Endurance? Patience? Who's judging? Well I am of course. This is what you have a coach for. Let him do his job. Trust in that.
What if it's not enough?
Enough? Could you ever define what that might be? Enough? Can you imagine being more? Or less? Again, Who's judging? Well me of course.
Tea half gone, stone cold, I put the mug back on the counter. Pulling myself up off the floor reminds my every joint, ligament, muscle that stillness is not the way of life I choose. Yesterdays running clothes seem to wave in a wind I can't feel. As if to say, Good morning runner. Ha! I do not deserve that title today I think. Begrudgingly I pull them off the rack, pull them on. Tossing aside my pjs, knowing there is no retreat from this. Suunto in the window targeting a satelite that would record my stats, as poor as they might seem, for the entire world to read later. Snow covered roads await. Freezing temperatures tease through the walls of my apartment. And my layers feel bulky around me. I am transformed to a puffball marshmallow cross. I am hopeful no one will notice my slow trudge out there this morning.
I wait as long as I can without suffering too excessive guilt. Shout out several good mornings. Notice how hearing someone else's voice can pick up my spirits, as if I'm not alone in it all. Perhaps I'm not. Perhaps belief is like that, some small thread that tethers us to each other. Risking all failure, stagnant non growth and the likelihood that even if I am not ever enough, I must live with that too, I step out into the darkness of morning.
In the first 5km I have to walk three times. I hear the whispers. I hear the voices in my head. I thought you were a runner? Thought you'd accomplished great things? I walked three times in the first 5km. I choose in that moment not to keep this to myself. This struggle, this pull to give in, this untimely unforgiveness for embracing a learning moment brings to me an awareness that I am not alone in that either. Running in the cold is hard. Walking in the cold, when dressed to run, is a hardship. At the time I felt I deserved that discomfort. Want to be warm? Run. My legs in revolt. My lungs catching up. My heart sobbing about the enough factor I had tried to leave behind on the kitchen floor.
The roads became busier. The day was winning the skyline. The ground slipping into invisible, disappearing into the dare of desire. Is that step road? Shoulder? Snow drift? Ditch beginning? This struggle I knew. This was my disability surfacing, attempting to place itself in amongst the abled 'runner' genre. I braved a road crossing to switch things up. Sometimes a change of scenery makes the world feel new again. I took a road I'd never touched, alone, solo, frozen day, invisible feet along a sleeping country road. Risking failure. Gambling improvement. Tempting enough.
I passed a road closed sign. Paid no heed. There were still tire ruts under my toes. I felt them. Come this way love, they spoke. Follow. I did. Trusting the solid feeling they offered. Up over a hill I didn't know was there, one I couldn't see on the horizon. But when I was on the top? Breath taking frozen world in every direction. On the wind I smelled breakfasts, heard alarms, rushed lives, all missing this. Invisible frozen world, waking up all around you. Then the road ended. I'm certain it wasn't always like that. It was there one minute. Gone the next. Tire ruts misplaced. Perception of this world again shifted.
Funny how I missed when the run became easier. Funny how I skipped the overcoming of my fear. Funny how I jumped from the hill top to the end of the road. Funny how I don't remember the farmers fields lining the road thinning out. Funny this feeling of my toes hanging off the edge of the road, my known world. Staring into the abyss of what if's in front of me.
A 100 miles is my goal. I have been here before, but not like this. Not under threat of a 30 hour cut off. Not with the weight of disappointing such a friend caught in my chest. Toes hanging off the edge of the road. Directionally challenged. Or, challenging my direction? Trusting in movement. Trusting in my training. Trusting in my coach. Trusting in my shoes. The earth felt empty in the next step. Construction lives here. I felt that. My soul resonants with the same metronome. Under construction. Attempts at growth. Daring to get up off the kitchen floor.
Daring to believe in my goal. Daring to trust that I am enough. Daring to know failure inside and out.
Daring to love myself anyway.
I could not tell you what was ahead of me on that land, where the road ended so abruptly. I turned around, headed back another way. Sometimes in life you must take the long way around to get where you so desire to be. I ended up running through a school zone at drop off time. My heart cried at the din, the confusion, the chaos. My insides clawing at the edges of my tolerance for it all. The comings, the goings, the rushing. Trusting the earth to carry me through safely. crossing guards I couldn't see, blowing whistles, waving orders. They don't know I can't see them.
Why should they? I'm not displaying my disability for them. I'm just running. Suddenly craving to hang my toes off the edge of the world again. Anything except traversing through this. Think I held my breath for three blocks. Praying I'd live to run another day. School buses thundering by. Funny how I'd been sitting on the kitchen floor talking myself into this run and already I'm craving the next.
I found my turn. Headed home. Back to the warmth of my safe space. My little cocoon of a world where the disability I try so blatantly to disregard can roam free. Where the coming apart is akin to the piecing back together. Strip off the layers of run clothes, hang them up on the rack to dry again. They seem to wave in a breeze I cannot feel. They seem to tease me with tales from the edge of the world. They seem to taunt with pestering questions; what adventure will we take tomorrow blind runner?
And again, I dare to believe.... and set my alarm once more.