What Takes You to Your Soul?


I was one of those people who would listen to folks’ stories about running or exercise and internally (I hope) roll my eyes.  I couldn’t relate.  “So you love to run, good for you, but why do I need to know all about it?”  Let’s be honest, runners can talk about running, a lot.

This weekend I was talking with a fellow runner-blogger-pal after she completed her first 13.1!  As we talked about her amazing accomplishment and all that it meant to her, we also confessed that we’ve become “those people,” the one’s we didn’t understand.  We confessed that our recent physical accomplishments are much more than physical feats, though that does matter too.  Running has also become a doorway to our vulnerabilities, our mind games, our emotional challenges, our doubts and insecurities.  If we can push through, dig deep, and stay present, it is also a doorway to our strength, determination, resilience, values and (dare I say) spirituality.

Let’s face it, people write about their physical adventures ALL.THE.TIME.  One of our “sister sites” is dedicated to Mommy Runners.  It also doesn’t have to be running.  My cousins bike.  My minister talks about how she can “swim indefinitely.”  My neighbor hikes and one of my volunteers kayaks.  What we all have in common is that somehow, pushing our bodies and testing our limits, bonus points if we can do it in nature, brings us to our center.

Saturday, I ran a 10k and came in dead last.  In more inspiring terms, I was the “final finisher.”  I rocked out 6.2 miles in 75 minutes.  My super-goal was under 74, so I was pretty close.  What I was unprepared for was being last.  While I am always in the bottom of the pack, I’ve always also been a part of that pack.  Among the slow we develop camaraderie and companionship routing each other forward.  Saturday, I was slow all by myself as I waved to the backs of the “élite.”

My colleagues hanging with me post race.
My colleagues hanging with me post race.

I found myself alone early in the race. I had my mind, my foot strikes and my MP3 as my companions, and my mind waged a bit of a war. “Why are we doing this again,” I would ask myself.  It was just hard, every step, and then I would turn a corner to stare at a hill, going UP.

That image is one I know we can all relate to, the idea of already being spent and finding ourselves face-to-face with another challenge.  Life presents them over and again.  We are lucky when we have a chance to catch our breath.  Physical feats are a way to choose those challenges instead of having them thrown at us, and for me, it also “trains me” to respond in life to a challenge with the tricks and tips I learn from the challenge of running, cycling or swimming; absent the crisis or emergency

  • I am capable of much more than I ever imagined
  • Even when we’re “running” alone, all our support surrounds and lives in us, in their voices, their love, their encouragement
  • The more we can sink into whatever is in front of us, the more the pain dissolves into the landscape, and the easier it becomes
  • One step and one breath at a time is enough.
  • My courage lies in the process, not in the result
  • When I dig so deeply that I find my center, and look at you in yours, I feel I’ve known you forever.  Namaste.

This is soul work.  It’s hard to get out there time and again and to push.  Yet, as I step closer to my soul, I can massage the pain, doubt and insecurity that lies deep within me, and uncover my bravery.  For some reason, I seem to have a love affair with my courage, and I can’t wait for the next chance to get back to it.  That my children watch me, want a piece of it, and have started embarking on their own running journeys.  Well, that’s just frosting.





7 thoughts on “What Takes You to Your Soul?

  1. Love Sage and Noah following in your steps! Run on, Sharlene! I’m in awe of anyone who can run more than a couple of blocks without collapsing in a breathless heap. Though yes, I can indeed swim indefinitely and feel relaxed. Run on! Jan

  2. I always feel my strongest when I’m pushing myself to do something challenging. We resilient people have so much power stored inside of us to use. Keep on running!

  3. I feel you on this post Sharlene. I finished almost last in the full marathon I did back in 2008. I admire you for putting this out there – it takes a lot of courage to talk about finishing last.

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