So when is the last time that you challenged yourself? I mean REALLY challenged yourself to take on a stretch goal that gave you a shiver of nerves that raced down your spine? Challenges are important for our personal growth and development.  If we never push ourselves, we stay static and fail to take ourselves to the next level.  I encourage everyone, employees, clients, friends and family, to follow Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice:  “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”

My greatest rewards in life followed my biggest challenges.  Since I now understand this concept, one of my current goals is to be at peace during challenging situations since I now realize that the challenge is always perfect and the outcome will be greater than the discomfort of working my way through the challenge.

So, my recent stretch goal was to run a half marathon – on trails.  I’ve been a trail runner for 26 years and live for those moments when I can savor the trails and nature.  It’s so much more than a physical endeavor – it’s mental, spiritual; a connection to nature, to myself and to my source. I discovered a half marathon race on the trails of Bothe National Park in northern Napa.  I had the usual thoughts one has before a stretch goal – am I ready, can I prepare in time, is this the right time to commit, etc. Well, I waited too long and by the time I went online to register, the race was sold out. At this point, I was determined, so I contacted the race coordinator and asked to be placed on a wait list.  Life loves to embrace our chosen challenges and help us along, so while I was on the wait list, I strained some muscles and wasn’t able to work out for a month. You know what’s coming – I received the call that I made if off the wait list and could register for the race.  The kicker – I had a week to train.  To date, the farthest I’d run was 7.5 miles.  I had a week to prepare for running 13 miles.

First priority – feed my mind with the best messages to support my goals. I had to believe in my ability and let only empowering thoughts into my mind. There was no room for doubt and there was no giving myself an out.
Second, I had to honestly assess my goal, my abilities and my limits. While I sought advice from experienced runners, I knew that the best source of training was to check in with my body to see what it wanted me to do to prepare. After all, I’ve run trails for nearly 3 decades.  I am also physically fit and know how to best train my body.
Third – full commitment to the goal!
Fourth – work hard!

On race day, I was ready and excited. It was raining and the park was filled with anxious runners trying to stay warm and dry.  The forest was glistening and the trails were mini rivers with the flowing water.

I was ecstatic! After living in a desert for nearly 3 decades, I love running in the rain!

I started the race, determined to run my own race, my way, enjoying the majestic scenery and celebrating a day in nature.  What did I think about during those 13 miles? I thought about how blessed I am to be fit and healthy and able to prepare in a week for this run. I thought of the amazing community I’m part of and the support leading to this day. I thought of the people less fortunate than me who would love this opportunity but couldn’t yet access it. Yet. I thought of the people serving in the military and risking their lives to give others the opportunity to experience freedom – freedom I take for granted every day.  I thought of how much more our vets deserve when they finally return home.  I thought of a trail race I ran just a few months prior around Angel Island that was 7.5 miles and I had to invest a lot of physical and mental work to prepare for that race. I had started in fear around preparing for that race and my mind was immersed in doubt.  I battled through it and enjoyed the race.  I looked at how far I had come since that race – I just prepared for a half marathon in a week and was completely ready for it.  I knew I was able to run this race because I took on the Angel Island race and stretched myself to prepare for it.  It proves my initial point – take on the thing that you fear – embrace it – and you will blossom as you grow and take yourself to the next level.

I also savored nature.  I ran single track, technical trails.

 

I ran over creeks, jumping on rocks or balancing on fallen trees. I ran beside creeks and watched the rushing water race in the opposite direction.

I ducked under trees and jumped over trees on the trail.

 

I slid down muddy trails, beleaguered by the pounding feet of 300+ runners.  I climbed to the tree line and ran in the clouds as I looked out over the pristine mountainside.

I marveled at the enormity of some of the trees and imagined what they had witnessed over the course of the decades they stood as centurions in the forest.  One of the trees had a rich, smooth burgundy trunk that I had to reach out and touch as I jogged by it.

 

Before I knew it, the finish was around the corner.  I stepped on the gas and ran the final leg. I felt amazing as I crossed the finish line.  In that moment, I was quite certain I could accomplish anything I set my mind to.  That’s the beauty of stretch goals.  What was once a stretch becomes the norm and growth is inevitable. And why not enjoy the process?

So, what’s your next stretch goal?