Tuned In Versus Zoned Out: Race Day Blunder Turned into Wonder

Today I received a gifted blessing in the disguise of minor adversity. For one hour, 48 minutes and 46 seconds, my mind was unoccupied with anything but what it chose to focus upon with no distractions to influence my thinking. In other words, I forgot my earbuds for the half marathon this morning.

For any reader who is also a runner of long distances and uses the time like I often do to enjoy an audiobook, podcasts, or pump up music, you understand the way my stomach plummeted into my shoes when I realized this dreaded error. As I boarded the shuttle in the cold, dark atmosphere of 5:30 a.m. all I could note were all the intelligent companions who would never have thought to forget such a lifeline. But then Sara sat down beside me.

For the twenty minute ride to the startline in Two Harbors, I learned that she never runs with buds. She and her husband, who are also educators, run this race together every year as well as multiple others. They train together and that partnership means no need for other company. It reminded me what a great experience my first marathon was due to enjoying companionship with Jay Posick. The thought bolstered me, and the ride plus a one hour wait at start gave me ample opportunity to get comfortable with Sara and Tim. I figured maybe I would run with them. Until the starting countdown and their subsequent fast flight out the gate.

Truly, the space I found myself in was so gorgeous, the waves along the Northshore crashing, and the natural beauty surrounding me easily got me through the first mile.  In fact, I found myself so grateful to be in tune that I literally began to thank God for my health to be able to run such a race, for my sister for bringing my children, for the desire and bravery to run this distance, and for the gift of memories made this weekend. After mile three and noting my pace was great, I began to ease into this gratitude with every step and tune into my heart and mind. Just the way it was supposed to be. There are several moments of clarity that I experienced today, but the biggest is the epiphany that I had in regard to this particular race being a parallel to the type of leader that I desire to be in life.

Honor those around you who have more experience than you.
Sara and Tim were incredible to me and provided much comfort with details about the race that I had not known since I only signed up a few weeks ago. Their joy at being there was palpable, and in them, I found an energy, common ground, and a simple comfort in knowing I had found core connections quickly. However, they outpaced me at the beginning. Their background knowledge, expertise, and plan of action had them zooming out in front from the start. It is easy to equate that to those around us who we often see making a difference. While I am still in early years of administration, even earlier years had me clinging to these people, soaking in as much as I possibly could to try to emulate their success. Our passions have always been matched. No doubt. Our connections have been easy to spot. Without question. Up to a most recent entry into what I call a season of restoration, I figured I wouldn't catch up, but I would certainly enjoy working on increasing my pace. I honor those people in my network who push me to be better and comfort me along the way with genuine desire to help me grow and learn.

Trust yourself and get deep into your spirit to propel your best version.
To be fair, this was not my first race. And I run every day. At some point, this type of cardiovascular health and experience tied to intentional and habitual focus are going to pay off in performance. No, I didn't plan the way I should have with a few items, but I was also balancing having my children with me and focusing on their needs. When I didn't have the ability to zone out after the first three miles, I tuned in. My mind started focusing on leading and my passion for the good work we do in schools. My pace kept even steadier, and my heart began pounding at all the recollections from the week that kept flooding in. I considered the retired teacher who was filling in for another teacher on leave who wore yellow on his last day based upon a conversation we had and made an intentional effort to make sure I knew it was for me. In floated the memories of being in so many classroom spaces on Friday afternoon, interacting with staff and having a student request a personal handwritten note like the one staff were getting from me. My pace kept firm and steady. My blood pumped when I recalled the meeting I had with my superintendent about building goals for the year and how they are focused on great and impactful work. My pace sped and steadied when the memory of a concerning report that could have been devastating for our school was handled well, with dignity, and resolved quickly. Each firm footfall reminded me that there is much to celebrate, and I am joyous in the fact that I want to be the leader for Spooner High School that they deserve. And I just might already be that.

People help us grow, but we are not meant to stay at their pace. 
Around mile five, I came up behind Sara and Tim. I thanked God for bringing people into my life like them that have inspired me, helped me see new ways of imagining life, and who have pushed me to be better. Many people came to mind. I considered maybe this was the opportunity for companionship on the run and began to have some self doubt knowing I wasn't halfway and still may need my music. When I came upon them, Sara noted she was hot.  Tim said, "Typical Sara pace. We come out hot, slow down in the middle, and save some for the end." They both assured me this was the plan and they felt good about it. I hesitated for a bit. I really enjoyed these two. If I kept at my current pace, I may never see them again. If I slowed to theirs, it would decrease my current high and the roll I was on with this leadership thought. Something inside told me to graciously keep going. I wished them well, thanked them for this morning, and assured them how awesome they were. And I kept going. Faster. While it feels odd to type this statement as I wouldn't want it ever to come out as overconfident, it is a truth that pounded into my soul over and over. If we truly live to the potential that we are created for, we will end up leaving dear ones behind from time to time. If we choose yes and move into our calling, we will outpace people around us. And that is ok. This doesn't mean we need to cut ties with those who have helped us along our journey. It does mean that we need to choose to move at our pace and not stay at stagnation. That is a hard truth, but one that is essential to growth.

If we engage and seek light moments along the way, the challenging journey can still be energetic and joyful! 
Of course I sang along the course! In this case, there only two memorable songs along the course, and I belted them out. Seconds before spotting my sister and daughter, I was engaged in singing, "Talk Dirty to Me" as the volunteer laughed. I rounded the corner with an energetic smile and a vibrant wave just when my daughter caught sight of me. What a perfect example of how being consistent in our enthusiasm, seeking the joy, and showing up with passion will bring energy and influence others. She was so impressed to see her mama at mile 10, laughing, waving, and singing. That bolstered me through the next three miles where the next instance of musical outburst occurred in the tunnel where nobody saw, but that was for me anyway. I don't need an audience to sing my heart out, and it will still give me bursts of happiness to carry me through. This is true to my every day life and anybody that has worked in close proximity knows sometimes that's all it takes to reframe a day.

Give everything you have, treat others well, and always finish strong.
With one and a half miles left, I was flying. Every ounce of energy I had was thrown into running my hardest at the end. I passed several runners, and each time, I encouraged them with words of affirmation in how well they were doing. In the last leg, two people passed me back. I had pushed them, and they did better because of me. What a gift to see that! I came around the corner, there were those beautiful girls and my sister and niece again. Just when I began to think I couldn't sustain that pace at the end, I saw their joy, and I kicked it up. There can be no walking out the end. Finishing strong, feeling good, and showing that energy mattered for my girls. It mattered all the way back to the hotel. It mattered for the two hours we spent at the waterpark after, and it matters all the time. They need me to be a leader at home and finish strong every day. Finishing strong also means completing this post. As a leader, it is important for me to continue to reflect and stay true to my commitments. Writing this blog while my eyes are ready to rebel from exhaustion is my last leg of today's race story.

When you spend nearly two hours of uninterrupted time in your mind, and the thoughts that come back over and over reveal your gratitude, persistence, and a call to be your best, you end with a PR. In fact, today ended with a first place finish in my age group. That is the type of leader I want to be for my staff, students, and community. To reach my best potential for them every day, week, month, year. My passion flows to be the best version of myself so that they have a leader they deserve and one who is willing to surprise herself as well demonstrate the persistence it takes to overcome adversity and finish strong. Today's opportunity to tune in instead of zone out shows how we can be our best by leaning in instead of pushing through.


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