On a life update and goal setting

Hello! I suppose the best way to begin this post is with a life update: I’ve moved to the South of France! Thibault and I drove down from Strasbourg to Montpellier two Fridays ago, and everything has gone relatively smoothly except for one teensy detail: our WiFi won’t be set up until tomorrow, and our new apartment has the signal of a the-aliens-are -coming-for-us bunker.

Note the concrete walls

As someone who works from home, this is slightly less than tenable. So, I spent all of last week taking the tram into the city center to park myself in Starbucks for entire workdays without moving (lest I lose my too-small table), so this week I figured I deserve to ease in with a creative exhale .

And, it’s been a hot second since I’ve actually published anything personal on here! The 52 Weeks of Fearless feature series remains ongoing (albeit a bit sporadically these days), but, I don’t know, I just didn’t really feel able to put myself out there these past… several months. This has also been reflected in the aesthetic of my Instagram page, but I feel like it’s all tied to the pandemic, and how deeply and personally it’s affected me (as it has all of us).

Not only am I unable to grasp that there are ~11 weeks left in 2021, but I am also reluctant to obsessively reflect on the past 10-odd months. I thought 2020 hurt, but damn, 2021 has been something else. I do feel like I’m emerging into something (a newfound appreciation for the fragility of mental health? financial security? a strong desire to nest? my late 20s?) and in lieu of pinning and puncturing my feelings into a journal with anatomical words , I’ve just decided that this decade largely sucks and isn’t meant to be fun, but if I take lots of deep breaths and remember to keep my head up and run on my toes, I can at least finish strong.

Speaking of finishing strong, I ran my third half marathon at the end of August! I did the Strasbourg Half Marathon with a couple of friends who are also the reason I continued running regularly after said half marathon.

Sunrise in Strasbourg silhouette over a bridge with a church in the background
Sunrise view from the bridge at Rue du Conseil des Quinze with the Russian Orthodox Church silhouetted in the background

Now, with fresh feet on the ground in sunny Montpellier, I’m eyeing a fourth half that the city is hosting at the end of March, and considering setting a serious time goal for myself for the first time since my college racing days. Who knows, maybe next year will even see me do my first marathon!

Like I said, it’s been a weird year. Over the course of a single day, I often feel like a toddler, cycling through an entire spectrum of emotions and constantly surprised and frightened by their intensity. This is fine, except that screaming and stomping as a 26-year-old in public is not generally considered fine, no matter how overwhelmed you feel, so finding outlets for inopportune swamps of feeling often manifests in odd ways, like mentally leaping from” Great, there’s an upcoming half marathon in Montpellier!” to “Maybe I should do a marathon after that upcoming half?”

If I’m honest with myself, this newfound interest in a marathon has more to do with Shalane Flanagan and my admiration for how she blends her public-facing personal commentary with professionalism than a pure interest in seeing if I can run for 26.2 miles. For those of you going “Shalane who?” – Shalane is a semi-retired professional runner who (among dozens of other accolades) became the first American to win the New York Marathon in 40 years when she won the event in 2017. I’ve never met her personally, but she recently embarked on a goal the Bowerman Track Club has named Project Eclipse that has captured my attention and imagination for its raw, yet purposeful, urgency.

Project Eclipse. It’s an apt name for a personal-professional that is simultaneously bringing Shalane out of and spurring her to chase the superhuman goal of retirement six in-person world marathons in 42 days with a goal time of under 3:00 for each marathon. In layperson’s terms, that’s a 6:51/mile (4:16/kilometer) for 26.2 miles (42 kilometers). From the onset, she’s been clear that this goal emerged from a confluence of life changes that she’s been navigating since she formally retired last year. As of this writing, she’s halfway through Project Eclipse and gearing up for the fourth race on the docket today, the Boston Marathon. Boston also comes right on the heels of the Chicago Marathon, which was yesterday, but, the notoriously menacing Boston course also happens to be Shalane’s childhood stomping grounds.

There’s a beautiful intentionality inherent in her goal, but I’m also fascinated by the profound symmetry with which her goal aligns with chaos. Chaos, by nature, defies alignment. It is explosive and, when it gets the bit between its teeth, corrosive. Corralling it is the concreteness of a goal within a grating, grinding submission is as counterintuitive as it is brilliant, and I think that, ultimately, is why I’m now thinking of running my first marathon next year. This decade, “your 20s,” defies structure and defies planning, but maybe if I embark on an emotional and physical journey designed to honor that chaos, the spirit of it will, at last, find a way to flourish.

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