One foot in front of the other

One foot in front of the other.

This was my mantra. It’s what popped into my head as I jogged the first two flights of stairs at the Fenway Park Spartan Sprint over the weekend.

By the time I bear crawled the last two flights of stairs at the start of the race, my legs were garbage. 

One foot in front of the other.

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We jogged around the stadium, weaving our way through the seats and up stairs. I didn't feel like I was in my body.

I slowed to a walk as I went down stairs, and heaved my way up the stairs, worrying that if I tried to go faster, my wasted legs would miss a step and I’d face plant into the concrete.

The last few weeks have been a struggle. And my body felt every bit of that struggle on Saturday. 

I’ve talked openly about my journey with depression - and some of you may recall my story from 2005, when it was a failed run that helped open my eyes to my misery. It was as a result of that run that I realized that maybe, just maybe, life could be better than either awful or just ok. 

I slugged my way to the second obstacle  - box jumps - and looked out at the field, at the Green Monster where other runners were racing in front of me. 

For the first time, I considered that this might be the first race in which I participated and never finished. 

I watched women half my age effortlessly jumping up and down onto the concrete box and tried to will myself to do the same. But my legs weren’t having it. I did my step ups and thought, one foot in front of the other. 

Then I went back to my mantra - one that I’ve used in races in the past - I am strong, I am capable. 

But I didn’t believe it. 

I kept going, keeping up with my Spurling teammates as best I could, doing obstacles where I could and burpees where I couldn’t (83 to be exact). And all along, repeating my mantra.

I am strong, I am capable. 

One foot in front of the other.

I didn't believe the first phrase and was struggling mightily with the second. 

I don’t know if I ever believed that I was strong or I was capable last Saturday. But I kept telling myself anyway.

Don't get me wrong - there were plenty of other thoughts going through my mind. The usual negative soundtrack was playing. But I tried to interrupt it as often as possible.  

In talking to many clients over the past few weeks, I know that much of life has felt the same for you. The time change (which is no small thing), being without power for a week, whatever the case may be, many of you have struggled as well.

I'm not sure what you think in times of struggle. Maybe you've also told yourself things that you just couldn't quite believe - trying to interrupt your own negative thoughts. 

I am strong, I am capable.

I can do this.

I will do this.  

It can be really tough to give ourselves a positive message in hard times. It's a practice and one that I'm not great at. But I'm learning, slowly, to deliver the positive messages where I can, even when I don't believe them. Because eventually, we absorb it. We start to live it. And gradually, we feel it. 

By Sunday morning I was feeling a little more myself. And I tried to remind myself that I survived. 

Life can feel really hard. It can feel like a struggle. Those peaks and valleys will always happen. 

But we get through them. And hopefully come out a little stronger on the other side.