Risk Worth Taking

I’ve never been much of a risk taker. Rock climbing? No thanks. Skydiving? I’ll pass.

I like facts. I like figures. I like rulebooks and maps. I prefer classical music to jazz, and I can’t even fathom going to a restaurant without properly vetting the menu online. This love of the known translates to my love of running. Running is safe. Running is solved. There’s solace in the structure and release in the routine. When life gets out of hand, I can count on the constant rhythm of left foot, right foot to clear my mind.

Even with this love of the familiar, I’m open to change. Over the past few months, I’ve made several significant changes, both on and off the road. I switched to a plant-based diet. I got more serious about adding hill training, trail running, hiking, and yoga to my routine. I accepted a new job, and I’ve been more honest with myself about what makes me happy.

Turns out change is good. Change is healthy. Change is working. In May of 2014, I ran a very slow half marathon. In May of 2015, I ran the same race over 23 minutes faster, improving my pace by nearly two minutes per mile. The risk of changing my training paid off, and everything about this year’s race went objectively better.

I finished the race on the highest of highs, basking in the feeling of success, of victory, of control. After the race, I followed protocol and gave myself the requisite time to rest and reflect. Racing puts a body through the ringer, so recovery time is essential. But considering how effective my new approach had proven to be, I didn’t want to lose momentum. How far could I ride this wave? The moment my two weeks were up, I wanted back in the club. I signed up for another marathon, and another after that. Barring injury, emergency, or act of god, I’ll be running the Portland Marathon in October 2015 and the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in June 2016.

Committing to races is always a gamble. There’s no way to know what the next few months will hold. I may suffer an injury.  My job may be more demanding than I anticipate. I may not be able to complete the races, and I may be out the time and money I’ve invested.

But it would be riskier not to. I can’t gamble with my sanity or leave my health to chance. It would be a far bigger risk to let my rest week turn into a rest month (turn into a rest lifestyle…), and it’s too big a wager to risk losing the discipline and structure I love so dearly. I need to have a goal, even if it’s far in the distance. I can’t promise I’ll cross the finish line, but I’ll be clearer and happier trying to get there.

I don’t know where life will take me, but I know I need to keep moving forward. There are no guarantees, but it’s a chance worth taking.

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