Fight, Flight and Freeze
What do you do when things get shaky? Do you fight, do you flight or do you freeze? In my identity, I have conditioned myself to believe I am a fighter – a strong, powerful woman who crushes anything standing in the way of her freedom. Funny enough, that is who I show up to be to most everyone who knows me, too. In reality, though, I tend to avoid dealing with things. Mostly when it goes back to visiting old memories and pains.
How did I create this gap between who I take myself to be and how I actually behave? I started wondering and that brought me to running extreme distances for a novice runner.
When Running Does Not Equal Flighting
Last month I ran my first half marathon. I did the 21km in one go. At one point, my knee started hurting so acutely when I was touching the ground, that I had to stop. So, five minutes, I walked and prayed. And then I ran again.
I did not train. The month before the half-marathon, I went for only 4 runs. Three days before the 21 km run, my comfort zone was 14 km in one hour and a half. I did it anyway. I ran the whole 21km. When I passed the finish line, my body was in turmoil. Waves of emotions washed over my body after crossing that finish line. In that very moment, I took ownership of my own mind and system of beliefs. I shook and burnt to the ground my world of pain and disbelief. I stood in my power deeper and more powerfully than I ever did.
When I passed the finish line, my body was in turmoil: waves of emotions washing over my body. In that very moment, I took ownership of my own mind and my system of beliefs. I shook and burnt to the ground my world of pain and disbelief. I stood in my power deeper and more powerfully than I ever did.
I ran to prove myself that I can choose to run if I need to. I ran to take myself on the very edge of what it means to visit those dark places of the soul where every little ounce of your being screams: “You will not make it. You will fail. Sonner or later you will give up and you will once again disappoint yourself and those who chose to stand for you, to cheer for you.” For the moment, I felt I had concealed that gap between what I think I deserved and what I was actually achieving.
The “You” Element
You are now reading this not by pure coincidence, are you? You are a powerful creator, an elegant, grounded, beautiful human being in all your glory of not seeing yourself as such when you look in the mirror. It is painful to hear how beautiful and strong and determined you are in the eyes of others and how belittled and misrepresented you are in your own view, isn’t it?
Every run I’ve ever done was about revisiting yet another story I had told myself and reconfirmed throughout my life. A disempowering story that now stands short of truth, a story that is a misfit because it takes away from my shining nature, from my joyous and radiating self. “Stop now. You are tired and your body will not be able to support this. Who do you think you are to take on such a challenge?” It felt as if these words were leaking out of my mind, floating as if they were a string of piano notes . I kept running, allowing them to vanish behind me.
Running As a Way of Being
To me, running is all about conquering my mind. Nothing else. Running is a very tangible example of “I can do it & I choose to do it!” I see myself in a boxing ring. The strong, entitled opponent looking at me with pitiful eyes, thinking I stand no chance. It tries so darn hard to keep itself safe, my mind, so hard it would do anything to win. It uses sleek moves, unfair arguments, it uses the intimacy we created over so many years to put me down, to keep me safe.
And I continue running despite hearing “You are tired now. What if you said you’ll run 10 km today? No one will know if you just end this now.” But I know. My higher self knows. That in me who takes irrefutable commitments knows. That in me who stands tall in her integrity knows.
The Pain of Victory
2 weeks after the half-marathon, I finished my first marathon. Ran probably around 30 km and walked the rest. Tremendous pain, tremendous victory. Again, with very little training, around 3 runs to be precise. While I don’t recommend you to do this since it is not respectful towards your own body, I so glad I did it. I registered for the marathon in the afterglow of running 21 km. The following day, I was feeling empowered and I trusted that I can do a marathon. And I did, though it was a far different experience than what I had expected it to be.
I had a plan: do a combo of run 10, walk 2 km three times and run the last 6 km. It did not work. Fatigue and disbelief kicked in within the first 10 km. I wanted to stop so badly, call an Uber and go have a goat cheese burger. But I didn’t.
The Ones Who Run for Their Lives
My marathon T-shirt read “4 me running is a luxury. 4 people in war zones it’s a necessity.” By merely wearing that T-shirt, I had transmuted this marathon into a story about trust. Trust. What so many of us run empty of. In war zones, people lost the fundamental trust. And I can only imagine what it feels like to wake up every single day to a world where there is not a single piece of your reality you can count on. Everything is changing so furiously, so violently from one moment to the other.
Trust. That is what I ran for.
Trust is a fundamental right. We should all be able to trust that we will be supported, that we will live, that we will have a shelter and we will not be harmed, that we will have enough food and that we do have the right to go to school. Trust that we are free individuals, equal under the law of god, of one, of the universe, love, justice, however, you choose to call it… Trust that we are free.
It brought me to tears to pretend I can relate to that sentiment of what it means to know you will die, to smell the blood of your loved ones, to not be able to take a rest from the violence. I can poorly imagine what it must feel like.
This energy of feeling the trust and thus lack of it for so many others is what kept me going. It utterly helped me to have that emotional link. The first kilometers, I ran with the belief I will not be able to finish a 42km run within the maximum of six hours allowed. My body was breaking to pieces – my mind complaining so much, crying, lamenting, petulantly resisting change into a softer, a gentler version of itself. The more my body hurt, the more my strength grew, the more I believed I will do it after all.
Had a little bit over 1 km left when I saw my partner. He screamed at me “Go, Anca! You are nearly there!” I felt a globe of energy exploding into my chest and I started running faster and faster, as fast as I had never run before. Tears were washing off my face and all I could think of was “Where is that damn line? At least I have a damn line and after it, there is peace, there is the certainty a meal and of rest.” I ran faster, towards those who do not have that certainty.
1 km expanded into time and space. I could feel the pain of them all, of us all, running along my nerves, stretching over my bones, clinging to them. But I had trust I will finish. A trust neither you or I nor the UN will be able to restore to those who were are failing each and every day by being bystanders, by looking at their lives through a glass, by hashtagging their pain.
I crossed the finish line as. I burst into heavy tearing. Trust.
Trust in me and in the things I take for granted. Trust that I can choose who I want to be.
For me, that is what running is.