635 Miles to Nowhere

May 1 start line

The morning of May 1 I embarked on a self-created racing adventure to celebrate my birthday and makeup for the fact that my weekend 24-hour race had been postponed. On that same day, my husband signed me up for a 635-mile event called the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee. It seems only fitting that yesterday after completing the 635th mile I found out that my rescheduled race had been officially canceled.

And there I was having to reconcile what Being Here meant for the day. It meant celebrating the 101 days it took for me to complete 635 miles while also holding space to acknowledge that I am painfully sad about the Outrun 24-hour race being canceled.

Being Here is conflicting. Being Here is upsetting. With just about everything this year we are being asked to make substitutions. If you get your groceries delivered, we are often asked by our surrogate shoppers if a substitute for your requested item is OK. We create our own races in an attempt to fill in and skip over the feeling of loss.

Here’s the thing, we are almost never upset for the reasons we think; or what it looks like from the outside. You may be reading this and considering the privilege that the seemingly biggest thing on my mind is a canceled race. And you’d be right about the surface details but you’d equally be wrong about the substance.

The Outrun 24 holds a special place in my heart. It is the race where I first proved to myself that I could do something beyond what I believed I could do. I trained and trained, and sweated both physically and emotionally for six months leading up to this race in 2014. Mostly because in the deepest part of myself I feared I couldn’t really do it. I am not even sure at the time I realized what was happening. I was aware there was a lot of pressure but I chalked it up to asking friends to fly in, drive in from elsewhere and spend their weekend and their energy doing many many miles to celebrate my 40th birthday. On the surface, it looked like one thing — maybe ego — but underneath it was far more. It was fear of not being able to do it. But deeper and more painful yet it was considering the possibility that I was going to discover what I already feared was true: I was NOT good enough. I was a failure. I was a fraud and just playing at this running game.

And then in 2017 I was having an astoundingly challenging year. I was plagued by injury, loss, crisis of faith and ultimately I had to withdraw from the Outrun two weeks before. This was supposed to be my year, 2017. I was training harder, more seriously and in a way I had never before. I was pushing my comfort zone hard and I was pondering the possibility that I could do more than I ever dared imagine. And on the heels of withdrawing from the Outrun, I hit a spiral that would only pick up speed, steam and countless fears in its vortex. This race sort of became an odd bookend for me. It was the beginning of something in 2014 and the seeming death knell three years later.

When I signed up for this May 2020 race last fall it was a step of faith. And much like my first time there,  I thought it would prove something to me and maybe lots of other people. It would prove false what I had feared for so long might be true: I would never get back what I was convinced I’d lost and I was irretrievably broken.

It was to be my own personal resurrection, my comeback if you will. And here it was postponed. So instead of really sitting with what feelings were bubbling around this, I created my own 46-mile birthday event. I enjoyed it. I don’t regret it and I think it was a great choice. However, I missed out on what felt like an arrival of sorts. What was to be reconciliation and healing for me had been slotted into a 4-month purgatory. And yet again for different reasons, I was sidelined. I was feeling a familiar powerlessness. Once more, it goes to show we are hardly ever upset for the reasons we think, or for what it looks like on the outside to others.

I didn’t even know all of this until yesterday. I sat down to share with you about my virtual run across Tennessee and instead cathartically and tearfully began writing the emotional reality of what this loss feels like. I am not going to rationalize it for you or me. I am not going to do myself the disservice of minimizing the personal hell I have lived in and through since 2017. I won’t do it.

My personal dark night of the soul expanded out farther and wider than I ever imagined it would or could with me still being alive on the other side. But much like our blog last week declared, I am still here.

I am still here. Even after all the tears, the doubt, and  the crippling fear that some days brought to me, I am still here. I survived it. And there were far too many times that I wasn’t sure I would. As a friend said to me during some of my final miles to 635, sometimes it’s good to look back. She’s right. We need to witness how far we have come.

Each day I transition little by slowly from surviving to thriving. It has been hard-won.

Being Here in this human life is a delicate balance for us all. We will all suffer deep, soul-wrenching grief, loss and our own ungluing.

And when we survive it, we have a more sober approach to life. That’s not to imply cynicism. It’s more the outcome of having done battle with the darker parts of yourself, life experiences and to rise slowly, unsteadily, inconsistently but constantly toward the light.

Yesterday, I completed a 635-mile race to nowhere. Yesterday, I learned that a race that had become my personal symbol of redemption and return had been canceled. Being Here and being with both of those truths was and is conflicting.  And today, I am still here.

Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G

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