I ran my first pain-free 2.5 miles in 14 weeks this morning. The fatigue in my legs and the burn in my chest was a feeling I’ve missed, and the gratitude I felt today was overwhelming to say the least. (OK, I cried.)
I went to my first November Project workout last October. I started in the way that most of us start—someone bothered me about it until I ran out of excuses. Obviously, I loved it and came back for more. Back then I would #JustShowUp, but hang in the outskirts—not committing too fully to actually making friends. I’d come home each time and my boyfriend, an extreme extrovert, would ask, ‘Did you make friends yet?!’ and I sheepishly say.. eh, not yet.
Over Christmas break I went home to New Hampshire and my parents forced me to clean out 5 tubs of memories before their impending move. Apparently I was a hoarder, as I had every card, every picture, every love note I’d ever been given saved in those tubs. I stayed up all night, all week, reading through every single one. I’d make peace with it, stepping into a life I’ve forgotten for a long time, then put it in the trash bag. It was part nostalgic- part heartbreaking. Every note, award or trophy said the same thing—Girl, you’ve got spunk and it’s really fucking awesome to know you.
I won ‘Most Spirited’ in High School, ‘Most Heart’ on the basketball court (OK, that’s totally because I wasn’t that great at anything else on the court), ‘Miss Congeniality’ for my dance company. People commented that I was the silliest, funniest girl they knew.
In NYC I was a hermit. I was shy. After 8 years of being in the city I had a total of 3 friends I would lean on—and I still wouldn’t really let them in. I have two Besties that see the silliest, craziest side of me—and one is my SISTER who lives in Cali, and my sister-from-another-mother that lives in Florida. I’d lost myself. I’d surrendered to the bitchiness of NYC and let it suck me dry while I was so distracted 'making my dreams come true.'
I created an event on facebook when I got back to NYC and decided I was going to put in effort to make some November Project friends. I reintroduced myself online, stating I’ve been hiding in the sidelines but I’m ready to party. Literally, like, let’s all go to a party together. People were receptive and enthusiastic, as I’ve learned is now just a given, and it was the beginning. I didn’t quite know what yet, but it felt good to start.
Fast forward, I ran my first half marathon in March. I had a goal in mind—a goal I wasn’t convinced was even plausible—and I demolished it. Shit, now I was hooked. I went to every NP workout, I started running 10+ miles on the weekend at a pace I previously thought was reserved for only ‘real runners’, and most importantly, I made some fucking friends. I ran another half marathon, this time with some pain in my hip—but you’re supposed to push through that stuff, right? And again, shaved off 6 minutes from my previous time—I felt unstoppable.
My career blossomed. My confidence went through the roof. My runs pushed me mentally to a place that seemingly gave me a direct connection to the blog gods—words poured out of me. Some silly and some funny snuck out. It was like the egoic dam that held back my creativity and inspiration was losing its strength and it was only a matter of time until the good shit trickling through was going to be a flipping waterfall again.
Oh yeah. But then this hip. Too many weeks of ‘I should get this checked out’ led to the doctors saying, ‘Sorry, you’ve gotta stop running.’
“You don’t understand, I’m running my first marathon in November. I finally got over the mental part of running—they say that’s the hardest part, you know? And I did it. And if I just push through this, #justshowup, I’ll be fine I think. This is my year, the dam is about to break,’ I’d plead back.
They ultimately won. I couldn’t argue with the pain I felt trying to walk.
It felt like I was going through a breakup. I lost some anxiety weight, I lost my inspiration and creativity. I forgot how to de-stress without being able to throw on some sneakers and run it out. I had my first panic attack in over 3 years. I was just trudging through the motions. Nothing feels heavier than just going through the motions. I surrendered to the idea of not running the NY marathon, not going to the NP Summit (a massive race/party each year). My self-esteem plummeted and I assumed my running friends would dissipate too.
I’m a Life Coach. I coach LIVING, what a silly thing to say. I am a glorified cheerleader, I love people unconditionally and without judgment—and when they think they can’t go anymore, I’m the one who takes their hand for the 58th time and helps them do one more lap around the obstacle. We can achieve whatever we want if we are willing to be flexible and let go of the specifics we envision. THANK GOD I had to listen to myself telling clients this for 3 full months until one day I had an epiphany—you can only give what you already have. I was running reallllllyyy low on ToryLove, and when it was gone, I’d have nothing to give to my clients anymore.
I started Physical Therapy. I did a deep 30-day nutritional cleanse. I sang morning affirmations. I signed up at a yoga studio that reintroduced me to the dancer, singer, writer, creator and athlete I am every damn class. I continued going to the workouts even though it really pissed me off to have to stand on the sidelines. I ‘helped’ the leaders with the taking pictures at November Project workouts, even though I know he just created a job for me so I could feel useful for a bit. I cheered my face off for races I couldn’t run.
But I still had this nagging feeling of ‘I’m almost there.’ I wouldn’t allow myself to be THERE until I could run again.
And today was the day. A mile into my pain-free (aside from my burning lungs, oh my lanta) run I started crying and thought I’M FUCKING BACK, BABY. But then that ToryLove I cultivated these past couple months—with the help of a community unconditionally loving ME (they totally didn't go away even though I couldn't run)—reminded me, ‘You’ve been back for a while now.’
It’s easy to confuse exactly where our energy should be put to use. I put it in all the wrong places it for a longass time. I’d even say the past 8 years I’ve been a floundering mess. The answer is far more simple than we give it permission to be. It’s just Love, flexible, non-judgmental love. It’s being brave enough to boldly love your community, your body, your life in all it's forms. It’s showing the fuck up for YOURSELF— even when it doesn’t look exactly like you thought it was going to look. It’s patiently rehabbing your foot so you can run that marathon in memory of your mom, or relentlessly staying positive and vibrant after undergoing surgery to remove cancer, or racing faster than the last time, or racing slower than the last time, or eating to nourish, or getting enough sleep, or cutting out toxic friends and putting yourself out there to meet quality ones.
The power of unconditional love is immense. The power of community is immense. Put them together (plus a massive dose of post-workout endorphins) and you’ve got November Project. Thank you.
May you be infinitely flexible and constantly amazed (and amazing).