It's amazing how much you can think you know about someone, even so much so that you like them instantly, but it's not until you peel back the layers of their character that you unveil the depth of why this person is such a special soul. That's how I feel about the lady who wrote this article below. Ms. Brynna Lipson came into my life, and my running life, in the summer of 2014 and this gem of a lady has become an unspoken role model for me to speak my mind and be my most true self. Below are her thoughts and musings on the trying year that 2016 was for so many of us; spun, as she always does, into the light of positivity about the lessons learned and motivation to move forward towards greater future things.
So, Ms. Brynna....
I used identify as an 'everything happens for a reason' person but have lost some faith in that belief system over the years. I prefer to identify as a 'learnist' - learn from everything and everyone to make you better.
WTF. Three common sometimes comedic letters that if you are like me you use on the REG.
I.e., “WTF is with people not reading the ‘be courteous’ signs on the subway and wearing their back packs during rush hour????”
Daily annoyance WTFs aside, I've developed a new positive love for WTF, not just in angry moments. It can be a powerful agent of change.
2016 was supposed to be my sub-4 hour grand comeback debut after a 3 year marathon training hiatus. This was my focus and my main life goal for the year. I came back stronger than ever physically, training runs paces were in the right range in dismal summer conditions. It seemed not just possible, but very likely and achievable in Chicago.
Sub-4 did not happen in Chicago. Sub-4 did not happen in Philly by 55 seconds.
After a lot of WTF, I realized my 4:00:54 in Philly is no coincidence. I’ve been a serious competitive athlete my whole life winning state soccer championships and running on champion relay teams. I can't turn a blind eye and say better luck next time to a missed goal. I could just take the easy way out and attribute the 54 seconds to the fact that I didn't wear a watch and really didn't know how close I was, or the rough wind. I figured if I was going to miss it, I'd come in at like 4:05 and it would have been a valiant effort in my 2nd marathon 6 weeks after Chicago. Never did I think I'd be that close, so I figured it was time to pay attention to the universe messaging.
I reflected hard on my training season. In Chicago, I had a one-off IT freakout and it seemed so random, but Chicago led me to Philly. Philly gave me the scarlet number 54, and that 54 has led me to some WTF and excitement for the future.
Did I work hard? Yes. I did long runs almost every single weekend and ran 3x a week from Feb-Nov. I went to strength and yoga classes and even swam sometimes. We all ran when the weather said 500% humidity, don’t go outside or breathe. I ran in Montauk. I ran in AZ in August (don't recommend). I am comfortable saying I worked hard.
So what didn't I do? I never pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I can actually recall specific instances where I had the chance to cross the line, and didn't. When faced with the uncomfortable, I backed up. After much psychoanalysis that I am not qualified to do, I'll tell you why. Fear of failure. Fear of being vulnerable. It was a deep subconscious that pulled me back when I was about to go over the edge that I can see now in hindsight. I'm not afraid of being tired or pain. I think it's the fear of the goal itself; the fear of not being as good as others. If I pushed myself to my limits and still didn't reach my goal, what kind of athlete would that make me? If I gave enough effort to get close/succeed, but not too much that it could be an excuse for failure… that would be safe. That is the 54 seconds shy of 4 hours in Philly.
Superb. I solved the WTF. The new more important question is how to move forward and make change? When those moments pop up, how do I say HELL YEAH and propel myself into the precipice of the uncomfortable zone every time? How do I let vulnerability in and grow from it? Interestingly enough the runs between Chicago and Philly I definitely toed the line. That wasn't conscious either, but those runs were initially fueled out of frustration and I started to awaken the beast within. I see now that doing a 2nd marathon at all, in 4:00:54 (18 minute PR) much less, was me opening the door into my uncomfortable. In my first orange theory class on the treadmill post Philly, I had some new thoughts I haven't had before. As the instructor called for us to go “all out” for one minute, I thought 'It's only a minute they are asking me to go all out.... what even is my all out? I can push that + sign a couple more times... I'm not in the orange heart range zone yet and I'm running pretty fast...'
You might be wondering why on earth am I telling this story? Or maybe you think this is all fluffy abstract BS about some dumb races and these are first world problems. Maybe so, but I intend for this story to also serve as a microcosm of the universe and what lies ahead, hopefully relatable to everyone, runner or not, in some way. I hope this inspires everyone to look at their WTFs, and for all of us to look at our WTFs as fellow human beings.
We all have our personal life WTFs, and now more than ever, our nation WTFs. They are in running, work, relationships, the subway, the list goes on. Discomfort is the crux of change. Muscle soreness is the muscle being broken to rebuild stronger. Missing goals (aka the real F word, FAILURE) is the soreness to rebuild the psyche and come back hungrier. Don't settle for the easy answers! Get close with your life WTFs, running and otherwise. WTF is the first step to getting down and dirty with making real change.
As for me, I'll see you all out there on the streets of 2017 New York City half in March and full marathon in November running down my WTFs.