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The Human Spirit

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” – Wilma Rudolph

Another Grandma’s marathon, another first marathon to celebrate. This time it was my niece Emily’s turn and she did it! The first marathon is about finishing. It’s the “I think I can and I’m ready but I’ve never done it before” elusiveness.

Four to five months of training, commitment and hard work gets you to the start line. You learn the value of preparing your mind as much as your body as well as your spirit. All play an important role in getting to the finish line.

Many training runs by yourself convince you that you are alone in this effort. But when you get to marathon day, you soon realize through the support and encouragement of family, friends and complete strangers along the way that you are in no way alone in the endeavor, or in life for that matter. The cowbells, people yelling your name, the texts from family and friends checking in, the running by your side the last mile show how many people are cheering for and sharing in your success.

“The greatest achievement of the human spirit is to live up to one's opportunities and make the most of one's resources.” – Luc de Clapiers

“The greatest achievement of the human spirit is to live up to one’s opportunities and make the most of one’s resources.” – Luc de Clapiers

Whether it’s a marathon or another dream or goal, the meaning comes from the journey before ever getting to the start line. It’s the unfolding and freeing of the human spirit that deepens the meaning and calls us to seek more challenges and dreams. There are no short cuts – the secret is in the intersection of time, effort, focus, consistency, faith, optimism, persistence and determination.

Pick your “marathon” and go for it with your whole heart, mind and spirit. We all have longings that pull at us to go out into the world to give and be our best, beyond what we could ever imagine. We need only to take the first step and each that follows become second nature. Your human spirit is ready and waiting to take flight.

From I Think I Can to I Did It

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” – Golda Meir

We are three weeks out from Grandma’s Marathon, hence the 20 mile run. Last year, my brother ran his first marathon. This year, my niece Emily is running her first marathon. I am training for my third marathon in October, inspired by many who have gone before and encouraged by friends and family. Each of us can and are called to inspire, encourage and be encouraged by others.

Yesterday, I ran 13 miles of Emily’s 20 mile run, mostly behind her of course. It was in the low 80s most of the run. It was a hot one.  John and Tina followed along on the bike with water, Gatorade and a cow bell.  I remember my first marathon and am so excited for Emily to experience the fruition that comes from the seeds she’s planted, the work she’s done to get here.

“Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles.” – Alex Karras

“Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles.” – Alex Karras

While it’s an important part of the training plan, the 20 miler is more important mentally than physically. It give us the confidence and reminds us that all the work over the past three months will pay off and we have it in us to finish 26.2 miles. We’ve done the work, now enjoy the ride.

We often need to overcome our own definitions, limitations and perceptions of what’s possible, to believe in what we are made of and to act on it. Whether it’s a marathon or another dream that’s written on your heart, pursue it vigorously, put in the work and know that you have it in you to finish the race.

New Shoes

“The most simple things can bring the most happiness.” – Izabella Scorupco

A new pair of running shoes, 9 degrees ABOVE zero with 30 degrees coming on Thursday and a run while it’s still light out with the girls brings great joy and delight. We need not search too far to find happiness in each day, even in Winter or on a Monday.

“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” – Marilyn Monroe

“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” – Marilyn Monroe

Be Still

“Watch out for the joy-stealers: gossip, criticism, complaining, faultfinding, and a negative, judgmental attitude.” – Joyce Meyer

It seems innocent enough. A little complaining, talking about someone else, thinking everyone has it better than us – they’re “lucky.” Feeling justified, we think that letting it out again and again somehow will make it better. And it doesn’t, it makes it worse. What we focus on is what we become, who we are. These seemingly little things chip away at our capacity for joy. These joy-stealers are contagious if we don’t keep our guard up. Complaining is one of my triggers. I’ve been hearing a lot of it lately and instead of letting others chirp and let it go, I complain about their complaining. I fall into these traps when I’m tired, working too many hours and when I don’t get to run outside due to the “polar vortex” winter with 20 below temps.

We need to be still and look for the good in others without question or delay. Naïve? Maybe, but what and who will we miss by jumping to conclusions, judgments and criticism? Are we willing to risk joy and delight in exchange for “being right” in our own mind, whether we are or not. And we not only need to remove the joy-stealers, we need to replace them with gratitude, appreciation and awe for the many blessings to be found when we take off our blinders and filters. The light shines in replacing the dark. Be still and cast light.

“So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” – T. S. Eliot

“So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” – T. S. Eliot

Be Brave

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

We often get defeated by the day to day, the small. Harsh words from a customer. Work filled with unending unreasonable deadlines. We get lost in transactions, lists and the sheer volume of tasks, losing our humanity in the process.

I started this blog to write more, to challenge my introverted self to open up and to search for the good in each day. We long to be lifted out of the small and to be cast into the moment, into the light. We have the power to shape our life and to encourage others along the way.

The video below was made by the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. The young lady in the beginning of the video and who has the courage to remove her wig in the middle is the daughter of my boss. She’s gone through a second round of treatment for a rare cancer. The bright beautiful smile you see in the video is who she is through and through, finding and giving joy despite the depth of her circumstances. The video was posted on October 7th on YouTube and now has 288,820 hits.

Take a few minutes, turn up the volume and count your blessings. Be brave.

Persevere

“In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm… in the real world all rests on perseverance.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Eight months ago when I decided to do my second marathon, I was very excited at the idea. I then proceeded with the training, taking it seriously, following a plan and overall I felt great. At 48, I am in the best shape of my life. Yesterday, I did the work to prepare, to finish strong. I rested and drank extra water on Saturday and Sunday, well-hydrated, I thought.

All week, the meteorologists predicted pouring rain all morning. 8:00 am start – blue skies and mid 40s, a perfect running day. It usually takes me a few miles to warm up. Mile 6, I was achy and had a headache. My brother John had dropped me off, parked near the finish line and biked back to meet me at mile 10 on the course. Mile 13, I told him I felt like I was tanking, only half way there, and I thought, “I may not make it” but I turned up the music and pushed on. I took some more electrolytes and kept going. Mile 16, calf cramp and light headed. Mile 17-20, a few light showers followed by an ankle and groin cramp (first time for this one, delightful). My legs felt like stumps. John kept riding ahead, stopping, getting off the bike and clapping as I went by. At one point, a woman looked at me and asked my name, I told her and she yelled, “you can do it, Kathie!” At least one of us believed it.

At mile 21, I knew I would finish even if I crawled in on all fours. Friends and family were gathered at mile 25 so my goal was to see them, be upright and smiling. My niece Emily surprised me coming back from school (3 hours away) to be there. Right down the line, hugs and kisses for friends and family. Emily ran me in the last mile with John still riding along the side, the longest, slowest bike ride he’s ever done. Mile 26.2 – done. Amen.

Walking back up the hill to mile 25 to see family and friends, I figured I’m too old for this. Where did I go wrong?  I described what happened on the course and Terry asked, “did you drink more water than usual?” – Sure did, needed to be hydrated. Well, it turns out, you can drink too much water – the official term – hyponatremia – I washed all of the electrolytes. He did the same thing on one of his marathons. All the symptoms matched with what happened on the course, with the exception of seizure and death. Glad I missed those.

While I wanted to finish strong, I endured to the finish. Life is about showing up, trying, failing, getting back up, trying again, giving, receiving, fun, faith, family, friends – all those gifts that describe the past four months that culminated yesterday morning. Choose your “marathon” – whatever that is and pursue it with all you have.

Proof

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

The fact that our thoughts can weigh us down is proof that they can in turn lift us up. I’ve wavered this week between anticipation and worry about the marathon tomorrow. More anticipation and excitement, but worry has more weight and density.

“God enters by a private door into every individual.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“God enters by a private door into every individual.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Doubt and faith are two sides of the same coin. Doubt lingers and nags in worldly voices that never have the courage to show themselves. Faith is the seed in all of us, planted and firmly rooted in God, the Master Gardener. A quiet knowing that there’s something greater in each of us and embracing us. Needing no proof, faith lifts, pulls, pushes and hurls us forward into the unknown. Faith is depth and motion, hope and joy. Faith is letting go.

So whatever marathon you are going through right now, let faith hold your hand firmly and run you through each and every step. With faith, proof doesn’t come at the start line but shows up at the finish.

GrateFULL

“It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” – Brother David Steindl-Rast

A dinner with friends, a walk with the dogs through the woods, a phone call, email or text just checking in, a smile, a laugh, a long run, the gift of seasons. The simple wonders of each day are plenty. Gratitude breeds joy. We are full, overflowing. Each day – seize the moments with gratefulness and awe.

Team Sport

“No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.” – Alfred North Whitehead

“The language of friendship is not words but meanings.” – Henry David Thoreau

“The language of friendship is not words but meanings.” – Henry David Thoreau

Yesterday, I ran the Bear Water Run, the last long run before the Twin Cities marathon three weeks from today. They offered a 10 and 20 mile option, twice around White Bear Lake. Lined up with a few hundred others, I thought of the training runs I did by myself to get me to this last long run. It was encouraging to be with others on the same journey with their own stories. A few blocks in to the run, my brother John and sister-in-law Tina were on bikes waiting to follow along, checking in every few miles.

As I was approaching the end of the first 10 mile lap around the lake, I thought of 2004 when I ran this event for my first marathon training. I had IT band injury from running on uneven pavement, so I was concerned if I would even finish the 20 miler. As I turned the corner for the first 10 miles, Dad was standing there to make sure I was ok. He came back at the end of the run too.

Learning the lessons from my first marathon, I felt much better after the first 10 miles yesterday. Anna then joined me for the second 10 miles lap around the lake. She pulled me along with her fresh legs, conversation and walking with me when the toll of the hills started to work on my knees and ankles. When we were two miles out, putting it all in a bite-sized perspective, she noted “only 20 minutes left”, then 10 minutes, one mile left. She even let me finish a step ahead of her. When we were at a the “you finished” lunch (beer) with Mom, Dad, John, Tina and Anna, the texts messages came rolling in from friends checking to see how I did.

In our daily life, we can often feel like we are alone, doing the “long runs” by ourselves. Yesterday, reminded me that we are never alone. Life is a team sport. We need only look up and around and see the gifts of family and friends – our cheering section, running along our side, making the journey complete.

12561

“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” – Napoleon Hill

“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” – Pope John XXIII

“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” – Pope John XXIII

My race packet for the Twin Cities Marathon came in the mail yesterday – 12561 – my race number. Reality – three weeks away from the marathon. Numbers start running through my head…

  • 18 weeks of training
  • 3 pairs of shoes
  • 523 miles to get to the 26.2 miles start line
  • 60 hour work weeks
  • 95 degree runs
  • 48 years old
  • 20 miler this weekend – the last long run before “game” day

If I would have added those numbers up before I started, I may not have started. The bottom line – I’ve gotten from week 1 to week 18, one run, one mile at a time. Running when I didn’t feel like it. Starting at 5:30 am on Saturday mornings.

We achieve our “marathons” in life one day at a time, doing the work, staying the course with discipline, visualizing the finish line, carried through by prayers and the support of friends and family. It all adds up. And when we not only to dare to dream big, but we dare to do the work over and over again, we’ve won the race before we started. I won’t be the fastest, but I’m going the distance. 12561 – there’s a lot behind that number.

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