Alison’s Blog: Living in the moment. Why it matters.

Alison_marathon_2011_finish

I’m guilty of this myself, “Not living in the moment.”  Why do we do it?  Why does it matter? There is a saying, “The reward lies in the journey”.  That means losing the weight or crossing the finish line is not what it’s only about. Maybe it’s more about the experience, the love, happiness and excitement you get, and share with those you love, by challenging yourself to be healthy or run marathons.

Alison is working on the worthiest of goals, “Living in the moment”. Elusive, but worth the effort.

Alison:

Last week at the gym, I heard an interesting conversation between two women that I know, Shawn and Mindi. Mindi is about 20 years older than I am, Shawn is about 15 years younger. But these two women who are 35 years apart from each other were sharing a conversation with an equal level of enthusiasm and understanding. They were discussing the New York Marathon, the same one that I had run in early November.

Their races were very different from each other. Mindi finished the marathon in about 5 hours and 20 minutes (yes, the 62 year old woman beat me by about 8 minutes), Shawn finished in a breath over 4. This was Mindi’s seventh New York Marathon and Shawn’s first. As they talked and compared their war stories discussing the crowds in Brooklyn, the damned Queensboro bridge (and I admit I smiled when I heard that other people agree that bridge is pure evil), I heard something else as well: euphoria, fatigue, fear, self-accomplishment. Immediately I got irritated with both of these women whose conversation I had been shamelessly easvesdropping on and stormed out of the locker room to do my workout.

What got me so annoyed with Shawn and Mindi’s conversation? That Shawn was an hour and a half faster than me? No (though I do realize it’s possible that she had finished, gone home and showered, had dinner, and watched about a third of her favorite movie before I even entered Central Park). Was it that they weren’t including me in it? No; I don’t think they even knew I was in the locker room while they were talking. I was annoyed because I could hear how they felt about the marathon, and what they experienced.

When people ask me about the marathon, they have a look of awe and amazement in their eyes. And I answer their questions and don’t understand why they are looking at me like that. Recently, though, I’ve come to understand my own confusion. I didn’t “experience” the marathon. Yes, I was there, and ran the whole damned thing. Yes, I was sore and in pain before I even got to Manhattan. I heard the crowds, read the signs, even ate a lollipop that a little kid handed to me at about mile 14 (and kid, if you’re reading this, thanks again!). But I didn’t live in the moment or truly experience what it felt like to accomplish a feat that only 1% of the population has done.

I’ve known this for a while, and it’s been gnawing at me for the last few weeks. On one run in Central Park last week, I looked down and saw that the blue paint lines that mark the course of the marathon are still there. Although I never really noticed them during the race (those lines are really more for the leaders. I just followed the tens of thousands of people in front of me, and pretty easily figured out where I had to go), I did on this run. As I saw them, I momentarily felt the exhilaration I should have felt when I was at the same spot several weeks ago. But then I battled that feeling down, just like I always do. Feeling something and truly being in the moment was just too scary.

Last week my running partner, Karen read my blog and asked me to please stop referring to myself as “Fat Girl”. I get her point. I’ve lost my weight, kept it off (except for these last few weeks, but I’m more than halfway back to where I need to be), finished a freakin’ marathon. Why is “Fat Girl” still getting face time in my blogs? Well, because “Fat Girl” is the one who keeps me emotionally numb, unable to live in the moment or feel the elation of any of my accomplishments that are helping so many of my readers to face and conquer their own fears and reach their own goals.

A few days later, Peter K and I were having a conversation. I explained my epiphany about not living in the moment. I told him that I was scared that doing it would take me to all the emotional places that turned me into “Fat Girl” so many years ago. Peter’s answer was simple: accept that it’s OK to live in the moment, and understand that feeling proud of an accomplishment is not a path to self-sabotage. Huh, that just might work.

Saturday morning, I knew what I had to do. I woke up early enough that even my cats didn’t get up with me and ask for their breakfast. I went into my basement and did 4 sets of resistance bands. With each tug of my band, I felt my muscles working, my breath getting heavier. I’ve been doing resistance band training for over 3 years, and this was the first workout in a long time that I actually felt.

When I was done with my bands, I donned several layers of clothes (it was about 30 degrees outside), and went for a 10 mile run. My run was in my town in Westchester (fine: my town is so small and my run so long that it was actually in three towns), nowhere near the marathon course in the City. But during Saturday’s run, I finally let myself feel all the stuff that I should have felt back in early November. Well, OK. I didn’t feel the intense pain that crept in about mile 17 and hung on for about a week, but I felt everything else. I felt my legs moving, the wind and sun on my face. I climbed the back to back hills that I’ve dubbed “That [expletive] hill” and “That other [expletive] hill”, and felt the accomplishment when I reached the top of the second one and could just keep going. I loved ticking off the miles in my head, knowing that just a few years ago I didn’t drive to stores that were this far away. When I got back to my house, I even pictured crossing the finish line in my mind, though I admit this time I was a lot less tired and the sun wasn’t about to set.

I’m already qualified for next year’s marathon, and I’ve registered for the New Jersey marathon in May of 2012. I can’t wait to experience them and this time, actually do just that. And tomorrow when I go to the gym, I hope to run into either Mindi or Shawn. I’d love to chat with them a bit about what it felt like to run a marathon.

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