noun: the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way
adjective: denoting or relating to a race or other sporting event that takes place over a long distance or otherwise demands great physical stamina
Several years ago, I started a tradition in which my last blog post of the year was a reflection on the past 12 months, both in words and photos. Many people start January by choosing a word as their guiding theme for the year ahead. I could never quite get into that idea. My custom involves looking back at the past year — reflecting on what I’ve done, learned and experienced, and choosing a word that represented the past year. I knew endurance would be my word for 2019 for quite some time. In fact, the idea came to me while I was running the Great Smoky Mountain Half Marathon in September.
When I started 2019, I had one goal in mind. Naturally, it was running related. I wanted to run farther and longer, and be able to sustain conversations with friends while running. Accomplishing this goal comes down to one thing: endurance. I didn’t realize on New Year’s Day, however, that that goal of endurance would come to symbolize even more as the year went on.
At the beginning of 2019, the longest distance I ran was seven miles and I ran predominantly by myself. I joined the Trained in Terre Haute running program and every Saturday, I joined three girlfriends for weekly runs. My friend, Emily, and I also decided we’d run one race each month, whether it was a 10K or 5-mile trail run. All that while, I ran with friends. I had conversations. I ran for longer, and more miles. On April 20, I ran my first half marathon distance of 13.1 miles, with close friends by my side. On May 18, I finished my first ultra distance of 50K (31 miles).
I spent June through the end of September training for the Indiana Trail 100K (62 miles) race. I ran five days a week, with back-to-back weekend long runs, in the summer heat and humidity. I ran alone and I ran with friends. On September 20, I ran a marathon distance of 26.2 miles and then achieved a personal record (PR) time completing a half marathon the next day. And on October 12, I attempted my biggest challenge, the Indiana Trail 100K. While I didn’t achieve the 100K goal, I did manage to finish with 51 miles. I’m closing 2019 with 1,087 miles run; not bad considering my total miles for 2018 was 315 miles.
Endurance came in more ways than my running. Twenty-nineteen was a challenging and personally transformative year for me as well. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of through experiences I never thought I would go through. I realize I’m being vague, but I cannot go into details about the situations I faced right now (I hope to at some point). I’ve gone through some extremely difficult times, but they’ve also allowed me to grow in ways I never thought possible of myself.
Through personal endurance, I also learned a lot about vulnerability. It’s a scary thing, but can also be transformative and beautiful. I’m incredibly grateful to my friends and family that helped me embrace that. Looking back at this year – my running and personal situations – I honestly don’t know how I endured it all. Yet here I am, ready to “dwell in possibility” of a new decade.
The year also brought other things … One of the best things I did in 2019 was teach kids writing classes at the local library and coordinated drop-in writing sessions for writers at a coffee shop. Sophie finished elementary school and moved on to middle school where she joined the dance team and landed the lead in the school musical. In the spring, I attended the Power of Narrative Conference in Boston with my great friend, Ann marie, and I pitched a writing project idea to a panel of editors. I was fortunate to work with wonderful clients and I restored my freelance business to a new level of success.
I’m grateful my two dogs and cat are still with us, as much as they drive me crazy at times. I saw some wonderful live music shows and spent countless hours with deep friends. I made great memories with my sister, Ellye; and Sophie shared time with her cousins who now live close to us. My sister, Sari, visited over the summer. I enjoyed many long conversations with my sister, Kayli. And my mom made three trips to Indiana in 2019.
These year-end photo collages give me a chance to visually reflect on the past year. I love looking back on all the memories, seeing Sophie grow up and watching the natural environment and seasons change before my eyes. I really love that my physical space is a constant reminder that life passes by, that nothing is permanent, and there is always a possibility to make a change and wake up anew each day. I share many of these moments and “micro-blog posts” on Instagram, so feel free to follow me there if you’re not already.
Thank you for reading Leah’s Thoughts and being part of my journey. Happy New Year, and here’s to 2020 and a new decade!
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