Earlier this year I wrote about long-term relationships (in running). It had dawned on me then that I had had a short-sighted view of my running career, even if I fully intended to run for the rest of my life. Over the last few months, I have not been great about incorporating a long term mentality into navigating my training. I piled a lot of big challenges on my plate this year, so it is easy to get sucked into a short sighted approach. My default mode has become extreme discipline and intensity, starting back when I decided to train for the Trials. That is a long time to be pushing the envelop. It is not a long-term strategy but I have found a way to physically and mentally endure (hell, enjoy!) this long streak. I thought "this is what it means to be truly committed to something".
This past Saturday, Nathan, Brett and I set out from Muir Beach for a nice long run around Mt. Tam. It was a gorgeous morning, a perfect blue bird morning. The day before I had done a super hard tempo workout before a jam packed day which didn't leave me feeling very recovered. I was worried that the run was going to be a slog, but we all fell in comfortably, chatting as we cruised along the road to Deer Park Fireroad. I managed the climb (and by managed I mean I didn't get dropped) and we got to Pantoll feeling happy to be out on the trails. It was just what I needed. I love cruisey runs where you just fall into pace and don't necessarily have to worry about feeling good or bad.
After a quick stop at Pantoll and a run re-route due to all the wash-outs, we headed over to Mountain Home Inn via Matt Davis. At Mountain Home Inn, we ran into our friend Mike and he joined us for a few miles along Sun Trail and down into Muir Woods. Mike was in the process of trying to start a bread starter from the Tartine bread book and so Nathan spent time answering his questions and talking him through the process. I think it is super cute when Nathan starts talking about bread because he gets so excited!
Mike turned off at Muir Woods and we headed over to Redwood Creek to connect to Miwok. Nathan and I had planned the route over breakfast and he really wanted to run down Diaz Ridge to finish the run because he'd never run down it. I figured it was going to be a beautiful way to finish a run so I was into it.
Miwok (from Redwood Creek) Trail is a special place for Nathan and I. In all the time we've been running together, no matter how far we run, whenever we get on this trail, one or both of us totally bonk (usually epically). Thankfully, we always have a gel to get our energy up, but we usually stop to have a quick kiss (ok maybe a make-out session) about halfway up the hill before taking our gel and carrying on.
This time was no different. Or so I thought.
We were cruising up the hill when Nathan said, "It never fails....I am totally bonking". I asked him if he had a gel and if he wanted to stop. He said he had a gel and would take it. He told me to keep going though so I kept on running. A minute later, he told me to hold up. So I stopped. He asked Brett to hold his waterbottle and after handing it off immediately pulled me into a kiss. Brett said, "Aw man, I didn't know I was going to have to hold your water bottle so you could make out with your girlfriend". I pulled away from Nathan to make a face at Brett (and was about to harass Nathan about taking his gel). As I pulled away and looked at Brett, Nathan dropped down on to his knee. He looked up at me, pulled a engagement ring off his pinkie finger where he'd been hiding it, held it up to me and said, "will you marry me?" I was shocked, so surprised in fact, I didn't believe this moment was actually happening. I asked him if he was kidding (actually first I called him something not very nice I was so surprised, oops) and then bumblingly told him, "YES!"
Meanwhile, Brett is in shock as well because he wasn't in on the secret. He told me "quick give me your camera!". It was nice to have someone else there to experience and capture the moment. I had witnessed Brett and Larissa get engaged a month earlier and it was such an emotional high!
I was overwhelmed. I cried, I laughed, I swore, I kissed Nathan over and over again. I couldn't believe it. We are so excited about our future together!
I learned something in that moment too. Something about me, something about my running. As I said earlier, I believed that I understood what it meant to be truly committed to something. I thought I was at the highest level of commitment with my running because I was rampaging forward with serious momentum, doing work, racing hard. I realize now that part of pushing so hard for so long comes out of not truly understanding what commitment for the long haul is. Real commitment for the long haul is not about precise execution, flawless discipline or perfection all the time. Sometimes it ugly, sad, messy. Relax, quirky or a total flop. I am excited about the heights to which my training has taken me in the past few years, it is exciting and wonderful. But at the same time, it has made me lose sight a bit of what I am truly committed to in running: doing it for my whole life. I have been driving myself so hard, there has been no room for balance (the good, the bad, the perfect, the totally flawed). I have enjoyed my successes less and taken my failures harder. I see now that I was trying to squeeze it all in, get out every last drop before some perceived inevitable end. I once loved something as much as running and now, it is not even a part of my life (basketball) at all. I think deep down I thought the same thing would happen with running. And so I pushed.
Getting engaged unlocked a deeper understanding of commitment for me. I thought I had always had a long term view of our relationship and yet, in that moment, I realized that I can in fact love more and my commitment can, in fact, deepen. In the days since, it has provided food for thought about my relationship with running. I want to get back on track with my primary goal of running for my entire life. I want to truly embody a long-term view. I want to remember that that kind of commitment takes work, discipline and execution, but it also takes forgiveness, balance and perseverance. If I can remember that, then each step is a little bit lighter as I see the path ahead of me for miles and miles, disappearing beyond the horizon.