I could be wrong, but if I had to guess, I'd say Goldilocks would not have been a happy runner. Too hot. Too cold. Too wet. Too windy. Too tired. Too long. Too short. Too hilly.
A few weekends ago I laced up for an 18-mile run. Two weeks before I had just run the Austin Marathon -- pacing my husband for the first time. I didn't have a race on the horizon, but I was excited to get out the door and get my legs moving -- I shouted the all familiar "Mommy's going running" over my shoulder as I headed out the door -- the cold Austin February air blasted my face. I took one look back to see my four kids, still dressed warmly in their pajamas, playing Star Wars with toy light sabers and makeshift ones made from long cardboard tubes, and I knew they were going to have a fun and loud morning with Chris -- who was already sipping his coffee trying to wake up.
As I was waiting for my Garmin to pick up satellite, I looked up at the sky to see some dark clouds threatening rain -- but my weather app promised it would hold out for a few hours. So I headed out.
The temperature was about 35, so when it started drizzling on me just a few miles into my long run, I knew it had the potential to be a miserable run. I caught myself as I started thinking: I wish it was just a little bit warmer. I pulled my beanie down over my ears so they wouldn't ache from the cold and I adjusted my gloves -- which weren't waterproof. I started to feel a little sorry for myself as I felt the cold rain stinging my face -- the initial excitement of a long run started floating away from my the colder I got. I realized just minutes before I had longed for this -- and I wanted that feeling back. So I decided right then and there to push those negative thoughts out of my head. Because summers in Austin can be brutal. The first summer we moved here we had over 100 days of 100-degree weather. I refused to let myself complain about the chilly Austin air-I was going to enjoy the cold, wet run, knowing the dog days of summer are waiting for me. And I also hope that when Summer comes, I'll just accept it for what it is -- knowing I can't do anything to change the weather -- instead I can focus on the positives.
I did not want to be a Goldilocks runner. Not this day.
18 miles later, I burst into the house, drenched and cold but feeling like my soul had been cleansed -- worry, fear, doubt -- all the negative things I had been holding onto from the week before, were released on my run that day. Running polishes you that way. You can leave for a run feeling rough around the edges and miles later the run will smooth you out and soften you up until you feel like things aren't as hard as you thought they were.
When my oldest daughter saw me she placed her small hands against my face: Your cheeks are red! Weren't you freezing cold running? I told her with the biggest grin on my face: I was cold -- but that's OK -- I felt so happy to be running, It was fun! She looked doubtful but I promised her to take her out on a short run so she could run in the rain with me.
There is always something we can complain about when it comes to running. Too much traffic, too many piles of dog poop left behind, the sidewalk is too bumpy, there isn't enough light. Even when all the conditions may be seemingly perfect, for whatever reason, completely out of your control -- you may just have a horrible run.
And when we start getting Goldilocks-y about our runs, we lose sight of how great running can be and what it can do for an anxious or worried heart. If you only focus on the negatives you might miss out on the way it can help you release anger or self-doubt -- or any of those ugly, negative emotions that shouldn't rest inside you.
There is rarely a perfect day -- even now, when Austin is beautiful as it turns into spring, with the temperature hovering around 70 degrees, I could complain about the allergies that will surely cause my eyes to get itchy and watery. Or.
Or... I could just enjoy the run for what it is: a beautiful day to be running in Austin, Texas.
No, Goldilocks wasn't a happy runner.
But every day we lace up our shoes for a run, we get to decide: Will we let our thoughts point out every little thing that isn't perfect? Or will we push those negative thoughts aside and let us see running for what it is: a gift not to be taken for granted. For now, I choose joy. Because regardless of the weather, terrain, my state of exhaustion -- running has the power to cleanse my soul-to wash away my worries of the day -- whether it's through sweating it out in a hot summer day, or washing it away with the cold, stinging, rain.
My heart doesn't care -- it just longs for me to enjoy the run.
Nicole Scott is an RRCA certified running coach who writes about being a mom to four, faith, and a whole lot of running at MyFitFamily.