I could work on this new website forever. I could literally NEVER publish it until it is just so, just perfect and exactly some vision that I don’t even know that I can define. Or I can put it up there now, under the peak of the mountain which is still glowing in the late day sun. Spell check tells me I am ‘good to go’ and it’s time I listened. If I had acted this way in my professional life as an athlete, I would never have raced. In fact, I studied the idea of perfect, perfection and good enough many times during my training. It became my mantra that every training session served a purpose and every training session was ‘good enough’ for that day. Perfection doesn’t exist, except in our minds, and it is based on what we think other people will think of us. After a few years of training and listening to the negative chatter and self-talk that athletes can literally heap upon themselves, I decided that I wasn’t going to be that person. Living my life wishing I was better, faster or stronger was not going to work for me as it took me away from the here and now of the pure beauty of sport. I challenged myself plenty, I failed often, but always, that knowledge that I had strived for success and tried my best was the river running through my career. Sometimes I didn’t strive and I actually did give up. This did not happen often, but when it did, I knew it deep in my bones. I felt a sense of let down on those occasions, and there were times when I wished my hardest I could take back what happened and do it all again. AND I did get to do it all again. And again. The best part of training and racing is that you get to practice it frequently, twice daily even, and strive to be better, to make positive changes and grow. The process of actually striving to be your best can be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. This process requires courage, vulnerability, confidence, trust and hard work. (None of these things are available electronically, by the way.)
Today I was riding along a trail in Whistler. I was scouting out running routes for my Wanderlust clinics and I encountered a couple with two small children. When I see parents and toddlers, I feel immediate empathy towards them and remember my own - not that long ago- days of shoulder rides and strollers, melt downs and how a simple walk can be so full of adventure and wonder. The father had a three year old boy on his shoulders, and the mom was farther back, watching her 5 year old daughter who was engrossed in waving a long stick around (as children are wont to do). I smiled at the dad and he laughed and said, “We are almost there!”
I rode on with his words in my head and, since I have been thinking about my new site, and this blog post, I thought to myself: You are there! You are exactly here! (I know, I know, I have read a lot on mindfulness and a lot of Eckhart Tolle). But that is exactly what that family was. Putting aside the assumption that they actually had to be somewhere, they were simply there, on the trail at that moment, and the little girl playing with the long bendy stick, she was doing what children do best when you let them. She was BEING.
I rode on, not exactly knowing where I was, which is a great way to be sometimes. I came across the cross country ski hut and was looking at the map when a guy came riding out of a side trail. This was not a typical ‘Whistler mountain biker’. This was a young guy on an old school no suspension steel Rocky Mountain bike that he had likely borrowed from the condo and was too small for him. He was wearing tennis sneakers and jeans and not wearing a helmet and he had the biggest grin on his face. ‘Do you know that trail Tin Pants?” he asked me. I replied that I did not, that I didn’t know any of the trails. His face lit up and his smile got wider and he shared his excitement that he had just rode it and it was the best ride he had ever done. He said this several times so sincerely that his enthusiasm was literally awesome. He pointed at my cyclocross bike and said, “You could do it on that bike too!” So I did it. Tin Pants, here I come. He was right. I am not a hard core mountain biker, I love flowy easy trails, and this was on the easy side of easy for me, which felt just fine the morning after the Sun Run 10k. I rode it with a smile on my face, happy to just be there.
‘Happy to be here’ is what this site is all about, and why I have always called my work Run For Joy. I have had many happy moments in my professional life. Happiness was winning two silver world championship medals, recognition and awards, and getting to see somewhere new. I now see happiness as a feeling: I feel happy when I complete an awesome run, when I have one of those floating, flying days of effortless biomechanics. JOY is what inspires me now. Joy is something that I practice. Without knowing it, all those years ago when I decided to be kind to myself on the tough days, I was practicing positive habits: I was choosing joy. Joy is a decision that deep down inside you love what you are doing, because it is your passion and it feels good to do it. Joy is something we can all practice, especially on the tough days, when you don’t feel happy with the way things are going. And you know what? I rarely have tough days anymore.
On my first website I had a personal statement that is still true: "If I hadn't discovered the way to infuse my running career with joy- an appreciation for my experiences and what I can accomplish-I would have stopped in frustration years ago. Over time my career has come to mean less about winning and external rewards and more about the path to learning, friendships, life priorities and celebrating pure human potential through the medium of running."
Run For Joy is about the why of running. It is about finding a clear sense of purpose and joy in your active life. After 30 years in the sport, after my elite high performance career is said and done, what remains for me is the pure joy of being able to do something that I really love. When you can identify why you like to run or work out, you are in touch with a fundamental and authentic truth. It is through that truth that you connect your physical and emotional well-being and create and sustain positive habits that transfer into all areas of your life.
This is especially true for me now, where the responsibilities of parenthood, schools, after school activities, work and housework play a much larger role. Balance is really only about perspective and even 30 minutes of purposeful joyful running can sustain me for 24 hours.
I am excited to start sharing my experience again. In the coming months, I will start putting out new stuff, and will find and post my old favourites that are currently not online anymore. I will talk about courage, and vulnerability, and striving and failing and all the things that make us truly human. I still love the practical stuff: how to race, how to train, what to do when you are injured, sports psychology and nutrition. I will talk about women and girls in sport and how to encourage a healthy love of physical activity in your children. I will probably share some stories of my racing and training days and I may even talk about training in pregnancy and training in menopause.
Because running is about you too, I welcome your ideas, suggestions, comments and questions and there is a spot on this site for that too.
My guiding values are lightheartedness, wholeheartedness and common sense and I hope you enjoy the journey!
Run For Joy
I would like to thank the Four Seasons Whistler for donating a room prize to the Seawheeze Half Marathon. I won that prize and have used it to seclude myself in order to put the final ‘perfect enough’ touches on my new site.
Common sense and a sense of humour.