Lessons From the Mountain {Part II: Fear}

For the first time ever while training for a race, I have run every one of my training runs alone. And the good majority of them have started in the early hours of the morning, often before dawn, with only my headlamp to light the way. People have asked me again and again, "Aren't you afraid running out there in the woods in the dark by yourself?" And my answer is always a resounding, "heck yes, I am." Because in all honesty, I am a bit terrified running around the mountains in the dark with cougars and bears as my company. And yet, I've learned that slightly terrifying is a necessary element in the equation that adds up to the undoubtedly exhilarating.

When I run through my fear, the rhythm of my breath and the sound of my feet hitting the trail one after the other is magnified by the quiet of the darkness. I feel strong and empowered, my confidence growing with every step. If I weren't a little bit terrified, I wouldn't have the sense of exhilaration and strength either - and that would truly be a loss. I guess that's to say, that when we let fear win out and let it paralyze us or prevent us from doing something we're meant to do, the question is, what have we just missed out on? 

                                                                                               Don't Worry, the only place I saw this was in my imagination!

                                                                                               Don't Worry, the only place I saw this was in my imagination!

Now don't get me wrong, fear can be a good thing. It can keep us from doing stupid things. Ask my parents and they will tell you that as a child I really could have used a bit more fear in my life. But I'm pretty sure there's far less of a risk of something catastrophic happening from running the trails alone than there is getting in my car every morning. So, I think there's a fine line between fear that helps us and fear that hinders us. 

So, I keep running, even when I'm scared - whether the fear is of the physical or the emotional kind.

Because if we're going after truly big goals in life, fear is going to be present. A big goal means there's a risk of failure, a risk of feeling vulnerable. With this upcoming race, I've felt all kinds of fear - What if I don't even make it to the start-line? What if I don't make the cut-off times? What if I don't make it to the finish line? What if I get injured again and repeat my time on the hideous pink crutches of yesteryear? What if people will then say, 'I told you so?' What if I am the last one to finish {admittedly while I'm terrified of this, I also think it would be pretty cool - much better than second to last}? What if I get to that point in the race where the pull in me to give up is so strong that I just give in to it? What if I don't have what it takes mentally? - so many fears. And all of this, this is the healthy side of fear, the side that leads us to the fork in the road where we can choose to risk and be vulnerable or choose to play it safe. It's the side of fear that if we lean into it, rather than run from it, will lead to growth.

So, what if instead of aiming for "fearless," we aim to acknowledge the fear and to embrace it - to run straight at it, to run right through it, to come out on the other side, the side called growth. I'm going to give it a try this Saturday. I'll let you know how it goes!