Last year, almost to the day, I ran my first marathon in Portland. Despite the pouring rain and blisters, I crossed the finish line with a delirious smile, tears of joy, and a desire to do it all again. I texted my best friend that same day and suggested we run the Chicago marathon together – before I knew it, we had completed a painfully beautiful process also known as marathon #2. After my first marathon, I wrote a post on 4 things I learned from it. It only seemed right to do another post, but add one more lesson for one more year of life, training, and ice packs.
I am an extroverted introvert.
I have been an ENFJ for as long as I can remember – outgoing and energetic. I like to joke that I am the life of my own party because no one laughs harder at my jokes than I do.
My professional life since college has been that of a textbook extrovert: teaching. From teaching yoga to 3rd graders, to now teaching math to high schoolers, it requires all the extroverted energy. Teaching is basically giving a speech for hours on end with a captive (and usually disinterested) audience. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE it. It drains me, but in all the best ways.
Running caters to introverts, and I think that’s why I couldn’t stand it for most of my life -it was BORING. But quickly it became a way for me to refuel and refill my cup – to step out of the madness for a moment and run.
What I love about the Myers Briggs assessment is that no one personality type is better than the other. Extroversion is not better or worse than introversion, it’s just different. I haven’t retaken the exam in over a year, because regardless of results, I feel like I identify more with introvert than I do extrovert. Introversion is my comfort zone, extroversion, genuine extroversion, is my challenge zone.
The more time I spend extroverted, the more time I need alone and introverted to recover. I think a lot of that is a shift from external validation to internal, which I have been journeying towards for quite some time. That is not to say that extroversion and validation are directly linked – but for me, there was a strong correlation.
Running has brought me home to myself . Running helped me stop getting so wrapped up in things I have no control over. Running told me to keep on truckin’ – the rest will figure itself out.
2. I need to be proactive about my mental health the same way I am with physical health.
I’m super open about therapy because I think mental health should be as important, prominent, and conversational as physical health. One of my coworkers asked me the other day why I was in therapy and I bluntly responded with “well last time I moved out of state I lost 50 pounds and almost died….so I’m trying to make sure that won’t happen again. Ya feel?” I could see their immediate regret in asking me – I felt no guilt. I am finally at a place where I can be proactive about my mental health instead of reactive. It feels good and I want to share it! Granted, I could find a more eloquent way to share that.
First things first – everyone should be in therapy, as a way to be proactive about our cognitive fitness – (but that’s a TEDTalk for another day). As I trained for my last marathon, I was trying to make sense of losing a roommate and wonderful person. Unfortunately, as I trained for this marathon, I was grieving the loss of one of my absolute dearest friends. The silver lining is that I could not lay in bed all day and wallow. I had to get up, get out, and wallow in a productive and proactive way – that way was through running.
Running healed my heart when it felt like nothing else could. It allowed me to process in a way that moved me forward – literally. I could cry while running, but I couldn’t fall apart while running. I could bend, but I could not break. Running kept me together because it kept me moving forward.
3. Yoga is always the solution and never the problem.
In mid-August, I spontaneously took a week off from running to do a week of hot yoga. As many of you know, I practiced yoga throughout college and completed my RYT 200 (Registered Yoga Teacher 200 hours) in the fall of 2013, which allowed me to achieve a long-time goal of becoming a certified hot yoga instructor. I taught about 300 classes over a course of 2 years – my last 2 years of college. Towards the end of my senior year, I began to burn out. I wanted the income, but my heart wasn’t showing up to practice anymore. At the beginning of summer 2015, I began having panic attacks during my classes. I went on a hiatus shortly after that – a hiatus from which I never returned.
I decided it was time to reconnect with my mind, body, and spirit in a way that I had shut myself off from. I got back on the mat, and with that, back in touch with my skin. I’ve never felt to comfortable in my skin, but yoga reminds me what it’s like to embrace my body and be thankful for all that it does every day. I hope to continue getting reacquainted with my practice, because it roots me in who I am.
4. You are what you eat (and smell).
I have always been a notoriously terrible cook. I did 100 days vegan at the beginning of the year, and have stuck to a mostly vegan diet since then (with the exception of In-n-Out and most doughnuts I come across). I tried a plant-based meal delivery service for a couple months called Purple Carrot. I ended up not liking it (I am also the world’s pickiest eater), mainly because it reinforced what I already know: I am a terrible cook. However, I was glad to be exposed to the wide array of plant-based options, and it renewed my energy to be plant-based for the long haul.
Essential oils – I had never heard of such a thing until this summer when a couple of my friends introduced me and I got hooked – HOOKED, y’all. I use them almost daily now and whether it is a placebo or not, I feel better. As many of you know it is SO hard for me to sleep through the night and now I only wake up once if at all! I also diffuse oils like “Lemon” to wake up or “Lavender” to calm down and destress. I am excited to continue to learn what oils can do for my body, health, and mind. In terms of marathon training, I used “Panaway” mixed in with lotion to massage my legs after long runs. Self-care feels good, y’all.
5. “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.”
My first marathon I completed on my own (with the amazing support of my friends and family). It was rewarding in its own way, but I knew if I did one again I would want to do it with someone else – someone that could push me, motivate me, and most importantly, constantly question why we were crazy enough to do this. Naturally my best friend in the world came to mind – my Irish twin. She lives in Chicago and, next to Portland, I figured the Chicago marathon had to be one of the flattest and “easiest” marathons out there (26.2 miles is still 26.2 miles)….
Our road to this day was far from easy, but we had each other throughout the process of pain, endurance, and “did you run today? cool me neither.” texts. I am so glad we reached this milestone in life together, and can’t wait to see what adventure we take on next.
I don’t know when I will do my next marathon, but I now there will be definitely be a third. Training during my move to a new city and starting a new job felt stressful at times, and while I loved the challenge, I don’t want to put myself in that position again. My goal is to move to D.C. in a few years and be there for the long haul, so who knows, you might catch me running an East Coast marathon sooner than later.