A common thought that crosses my mind frequently the week of a big race is ‘Why?’ It comes in many forms. The first, of many questions, comes out of annoyance, due to a disruption in my routine. My shoulders are filled with those little devils perched as high as they can, crawling their way up through my hair to my ears, whispering doubts and uncertainty – filling my brain with questions about the race. ‘It’s a far ways to go on two feet, are you ready for it?’ and, ‘Did you prepare enough?’ The voices get a bit louder a few days into my taper – ‘Do you really need to rest when you feel so antsy,’ and finally – the big one – ‘Why do you want to do this race anyway?’

The last one stops me dead in my tracks – Why do I want to race? Why do I do this? As soon as I’m able to think about it a little bit, I’m able to brush off all those little devils from my shoulders and replace them with little trail running angels, who bound around from shoulder to shoulder, shouting confidence, positivity and anticipation.

I think it’s normal to question yourself, to feel doubt, nervous anticipation and confront the fear associated with big goals – it’s something I’ve come to expect with a taper (they don’t call it taper tantrums for nothing). For me, upon examining my ‘why’ – the reason I get on start lines, push myself, test my limits and never stop giving up on myself – forces me to put everything in perspective. My ‘why’ is the driving force behind it all. It’s the reason that makes everything worth it – win, lose or draw.

I’m what people call a ‘process person.’ For me, I get extreme satisfaction in working towards something. I like the boring runs, the monotony of training. I like the feeling of running when I’m tired, just as much as when I feel effortless. I imagine myself building a house, knowing that each day is progress toward a bigger goal, even when I don’t see what the house looks like yet. When I really examine it, there’s a huge ‘why’ behind all of this – why do I enjoy the process – because it brings out the best in me, everyday. It’s how I keep betting on and believing in myself.

Running is an extremely personal experience. I spend many hours every day running alone, completely within myself, diving deep (or sometimes not so deep) into thought. It’s like a relationship – where running and movement is the way in which I learn about myself, but also the world. Every run in a new – or even familiar – place, is an opportunity to discover, learn and grow. It’s the ultimate playground for an innately curious person, who still squeals with excitement when she finds a new bug on the trail and always stops to look at them (with the exception of race day – no stopping for bugs on race day).

My ultimate ‘why’ for running is pretty intangible. When I start to think ‘why me?’ feeling sorry for myself or doubting what I can do, or thinking negatively about the injuries of my past, I turn it around and say ‘why not, me?’ This helps me for those big days, big efforts, races, adventures and everything in between. I never know what I’m going to discover out there in the mountains, on technical terrain, or within myself. Maybe I’ll reach a boundary, or perhaps I’ll break through one. Every day I keep investing in myself and continuing down this path, using running as a means of discovery, acceptance and challenge, I’m constantly reminded ‘why not, me?’ So I continue to put one foot in front of the other, betting on myself, believing anything is possible through this simple movement.

So tell me what is your ‘Why’ – what drives you to be your best self, to face adversity, doubt, negativity or a new challenge? What is it that gets you to a start line to do something scary, and to try your best anyways? I’m here to tell you that once you find that, the challenges might still be scary, but you’ll have enough courage to face anything thrown your way.

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