I’ll never forget my first runner’s high. Junior year of high school, cross country practice. It was a bad day of high school for me. I’d just found out the smart jock from my honors classes started dating, of all people, a cheerleader. And she was a senior. I was so mad about it, mostly mad at myself for never being bold enough to go after someone I really liked. Anyway, I was over being at practice; we were doing 400m repeats at Horner Park—and there were hills involved. We all lined up at the start for what Coach Tony said was our last repeat. At the sound of the whistle, I gave it my all, pushing with my legs, forcefully pumping my arms, working through every negative thought on my brain and releasing every ounce of teenage angst on the pavement. I got to the end, gasping for air, proud of myself for giving my all, and ready to go home.
“Alright, line it up,” we all looked at Coach Tony confused as hell, ready to start protesting, but we knew better. That’s when I started to cry. Not a big ugly cry, but a cry so intensely subtle my tears could easily be mistaken for sweat. I was mad on the previous repeat, but now I was pissed. I didn’t have any energy left, and my brain was already tapped out from going all-out on the last one. Toe on the line, I took a deep breath and sucked it up. Through the trees, over the hill, around the corner, sprinting my way to the end. I felt like I could go on forever. Every moment of that final 400m was a blur. When I finished, faster than the previous 400m, nothing else mattered but being there, in the moment. It was a truly remarkable feeling I could have easily missed. What if I had skipped practice? Or used the surprise repeat as an excuse to not go all-out?
Sometimes we go through our daily lives thinking we’re already going all-out, be it with our workouts, careers, or relationships. It’s in those moments when we think we have nothing left it is all the more important to dig deeper in order to find something even better. Finding your best self means being uncomfortable at times. There will be moments of clarity when you know exactly what your looking for, and there will be times when doing an extra repeat yields unexpected results. Either way, taking a new approach, or pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone will teach you more about yourself than you knew before. There’s no room for comfort when you’re working to get better. And you should always be working to get better.
You’re not always going to have a coach standing at the finish line with a stopwatch holding you accountable to break your previous time. Nobody is going to tell you when to set a new goal, or change directions. It’s up to you to find new challenges, or know when it’s time to add an extra repeat. The only way to get better is to push yourself beyond what you think you can do. Don’t hold back. It’s going to hurt. You might cry a little. Just suck it up. Dig deep. And then dig a little deeper. That’s where you will find your own, “Best Me.”