The Road Less Run Blog has been a grounding source in my life the last 6+ years. I’ve documented a journey through graduate school, my experiences and struggles as a female coach, my athletic experience as a distance runner, a move across the country from New Jersey to Colorado, my experience starting a business, my life with two cats, and a quest to find true happiness all fueled by an endless supply of coffee. I’ve had periods of time when I’ve written frequently and periods of time [like 2020] where posts have been few and far between. I’ve written about running. I’ve written about my life. I’ve written about my goals, successes, and struggles. I’ve written it all and at times I’ve written nothing.
When I started this blog in August of 2014 I was on a quest to find excellence with running and my career. Back then I was sure that in 2020 I’d be running 17 minute 5ks and coaching superstar athletes at a huge university. I was sure I’d STILL be living my beloved green house in New Jersey. Why did I think this? Because, that vision was what I thought success looked like. The more I tried to create this reality the more I failed because this dream and this vision were not my destiny.
6+ years ago I was a new coach in my mid 20s trying to figure out how to be a role model and a mentor for a group of young college athletes. The most pivotal turning point in my own running journey was becoming a coach. I had to learn to lead by example and set aside my own issues to serve these athletes. And this, is where the dream that broke me blossomed.
Running has given me everything. Running has been a gift that has enriched my life continually. I wanted to find ways to give that gift to other people. I attached myself to this mission and I have been holding on to it for dear life since 2012. The only problem is that over time my life has changed and things have not always gone the way I wanted them too. When things have been challenging, discouraging, and completely soul crushing I’ve held onto this so tightly that I’ve ended up with infected emotional blisters. I have refused to let go even when it was so painful that I should have stopped holding on. Letting go was not my destiny, holding on was not my destiny, but loosening the grip and embracing my reality was.
One year ago someone asked me what I was doing [for work], how things were going, and if I had any leads on new opportunities. As I answered these questions she also asked me what I was going to do. I told her that I wasn’t going to do anything! I said that I was going to be open to whatever the universe has to offer me. I loosened the grip and decided to embrace my reality. In the days leading up to that conversation, I had become increasingly aware of the fact that I had limited options and resources due to my geographical location. I love where I live, however dream jobs are scarce and opportunities can be limited as a result. I decided that if my destiny was to coach a team again, a team would find me. I literally did nothing that had anything to do with coaching and I didn’t do much of my own running in January 2020.
Ironically on the day everything shut down due to COVID I was offered a job that had to do with coaching! It was not a job I was expecting to be offered, it was very serendipitous. I was super excited until COVID said, ” Oh yeah, this is what the universe had in store for you, however there will now be a hiring freeze and the job will just be floating out there somewhere………” AND THEN, the universe shut down my office and I wasn’t working at all. Shortly after that, I got tendonitis in my achilles again. It helped me to know that the whole entire world was falling apart and my life was just a small fragment of a global pandemic.
While I was sitting at home for 6 weeks doing nothing I thought I’d be productive and get a lot of personal projects done. Instead, I read a lot of books, watched a lot of Netflix, did crossfit workouts in the driveway with Phil, walked around town with Phil, hung out with the cats, and spent a lot of time learning how to work from home and pretending to enjoy webex and zoom meetings. Once things calmed down? normalized? leveled out? we made the best of it and got a lot of home improvement projects done. Our house looks completely different then it did a year ago. I used to refer to our house as shabby and now it looks like it won a home makeover from HGTV. Our home improvements are the silver lining of 2020.
In this time when nothing was happening except home improvement projects, a lot was happening inside of me. I was embracing my reality. I was feeling both over and underwhelmed with my life. I had a lot of time to ponder what exactly I am supposed to be doing, how I can embrace the reality in front of me, and what brings me joy. I wrote a joy list. It is detailed and long and growing. I learned that a lot of things bring me joy, more things than I realized. Sitting outside at night, the stars, the moon, coffee, petting cats, having meaningful conversations, organizing, running, mountains, berries, Christmas, wildflowers, slipper socks, the smell of cinnamon, fall, writing, shirts with thumb holes, the sound of rain, water, poetic music, pens that glide across paper, nachos, books, post it notes, and puzzles are a few things on my joy list. There is joy in simplicity and everyday things.
Quarantining and being stuck at home is humbling, and it makes you appreciate what you have. I have more than I could see. When I was finally able to return to work I recognized how much I missed it. I’ve always liked my job and my coworkers but this pandemic put things into perspective. I literally experienced an alternate reality without that part of my life. I realized that I love the work I do even if it isn’t coaching, and I am good at what I do. For the longest time I felt like coaching and running fast were the only two ways that I would be able to love my life, truly be happy, and find joy and fulfillment. If I wasn’t running fast and I wasn’t coaching I was nearly invisible to myself. I hesitated to take on other roles and responsibilities, and I certainly would not hold on to any other role or responsibility as tightly. Being in the midst of a pandemic made me realize that it’s okay to be passionate about other things, and that embracing other passions and interests doesn’t erase who I am at the core and it doesn’t make me less of a coach or runner. It simply adds depth to my soul and breathes joy into all of the days that I am not coaching or training for a big race.
I tried to craft the dream I had when I started this blog 6+ years ago by putting myself out there and taking risks. I tried to make the life I wanted into a reality. The risks I was taking weren’t adding depth to my soul. They weren’t helping me find joy. I am not running 17 minute 5ks, or even 20 minute 5ks right now. In fact, there are no 5ks!!! I am not coaching superstar athletes because I am not the kind of coach who seeks out superstars. It makes no sense that this was ever even part of my dream. I prefer to work with athletes who have passion and strong work ethic. I am also not coaching at a huge university. I am coaching part time at the NJCAA level. When I say that running gave me everything, I actually mean that running at a NJCAA school when I started college gave me everything. I no longer cry over the loss of my green house in New Jersey. Though I loved that house, my friends were not a block away, I could not walk to work, and it wasn’t next to a mountain. If I had achieved this dream I don’t think I would genuinely be happy because walking to work is on my joy list along with living next to a mountain. That dream was based on a picture of success crafted by expectations, not what is in my heart and soul. Reality is right here and now.