January proved to be one of the most difficult months for a runner in Nashville, and yet perhaps one of the most empowering at the same time. Mornings with single digit temperatures and minus zero windchills tested even the most dedicated. I will tell you there were evenings when every stride hurt like hell fighting the cold, the wind and sometimes the freezing rain on my face. At 47 I could feel my bones ache and my joints tighten. And I can’t tell you how many time I swore I felt more like 74.
Where I typically found running to build my energy and provide me with much needed umph, instead I found myself continually drained. I lacked motivation. Found myself going to bed earlier and earlier and sleeping in later and later. I felt overwhelmed and defeated. With a full life, fitting in workouts proved challenging. But I forced myself to see it through; some nights squeezing in a quick two miles. But eventually every mile was slow and arduous. Every stride evoked a grunt. This was the first time in my life that I perceived running to be a constant drain, having depleted my body of every last ounce of energy and drive.
But I’d made myself a promise and had professed it to many a close friend and colleague. And despite the mental and physical battles I managed to put in 25 workouts and 74.1 miles through the month of January. Still, though a goal had been met, I still found myself looking at running negatively for the first time I can remember. Never had I pushed myself so hard only to feel so unfulfilled and completely exhausted. My body ached consistently throughout the day. Every step walking to my car in the cold wind that had become our January brought me further down. I then recognized that not only had the month taken its toll on my mindset toward my workouts, it had also managed to push me to new limits in my view of life in general. Where I typically found desire and drive, I now found anxiety and exhaustion.
When you co-parent three kids as a divorced dad; your life is; shall we say quite full. To the point that it is near impossible to have a life outside of work and family. Maintaing the home, the bank account, the kids, the career and fitting in time for physical release at some point is enough to bring even the most determined individual down to their knees. And yet you push forward. You pick em’ up and put em’ down. Somewhere you fight for the strength to continue. Quitting simply isn’t an option. You truly have no choice but to keep … moving … forward.
And then it happens. Just when you’ve reached a point when you’re convinced you’re at a dead end. When you have no more to give. When the thought of taking one more step, making one more lunch, folding one more pair of jeans, all of it is inconceivable; the clouds begin to dissipate. The sun begins to shine. And somewhere within, you feel a fire start and you find a new inner strength awaken. But what you don’t realize is that all of your efforts through the cold; every time you pushed yourself through the wind, rain and darkness; every extra effort you made to push yourself forward; has made you that much stronger.
A day of 61 degree sunshine squeezed itself in-between arctic vortex’s. And it was glorious. And I had perhaps one of the best five mile runs I’ve had in years. And I attribute it to each and every one of those horrible, painful, dreadful runs when I was convinced my time was over. Forcing myself through the mental muck and bitter cold rain. They were what built the foundation for this amazing feeling of rebirth. Had I not fought through all the crap, I’d have never experienced the joy I felt that day.
As a single dad (or mom) you accomplish things every day that would make most people crash and burn. You manage miracles on a regular basis. You battle life, work, traffic, the drama that is a nine-year-old, finances and lost keys. But each day makes you stronger as you recognize what you’re capable of. Each argument, struggle, battle leads to greater understanding and stronger relationships.
If you’re hitting a wall. If you feel stuck in a black hole that’s full of single digit temperatures, dark skies and gail force winds that freeze your very soul. I promise you, it gets better and every step you take is going to make you that much stronger. Just remember; we get so accustomed to handling so much so often, that we fail to give ourselves credit for the small victories. It’s easy to run five miles when you feel great. But what an accomplishment it is to run five feet when you have NOTHING in the tank and you’re down to your last breath. Remember; some days the very act of taking one step, in and of itself, can be an accomplishment worthy of a trophy. If all you had in you was one step today, that’s one more step than zero.