I've always been fascinated by what it means to be brave.
Is it strength? Is it stretching...beyond one's comfort zone into the unknown, the foreign, the uncharted terrain? Is it simply showing up void of any expectation for outcome other than the moment at hand? Is it bold? Does brave scream or does it stand silently by the wayside bearing witness to the action before it?
Last Saturday it was 17 degrees and fucking cold. Like the kind of cold where you can both see your breath and simultaneously, catch it realizing that you've been out in the elements too long.
I didn't have much of a choice. The previous two weeks had not leant themselves to the long run mileage I needed for my training schedule and so against my better judgment I went for 10 miles by myself.
Three miles in, I was feeling really good until I went to suck water from my Camelbak and all I got was air. The water froze in the tubing and instantly I thought, "I can't do it."
But then, my favorite song came on and somehow, I just kept going. Catching up to the trail at mile five, I started losing feeling in my face because the north wind was a nasty little bitch and by that point, I was too far away from home to stop and running was the only logical choice to get back to warmth faster.
And so, I kept running. And as I periodically checked my Garmin, I discovered that the frigid fucking tundra of weather suited my speed well. I was pacing much faster consistently. I was shocked, literally and figuratively.
Somehow, I got home...stripped and dove into the hottest bath that you can imagine. It was painful and blissful all in one breath.
And in that moment, I was brave...not because I was stupid and ran in ridiculous conditions, but because I pushed myself to discern my limits. And on that day, despite the set backs, I had none. I was free.
Since then, I've been mindful of what it means to push and what it means to be still...how it is that we seek the unknown and strive to rise when we think we cannot.
The problem with bravery is that it is a tricky machine. You want enough of it to launch you into places you've never been before, but not too much to have you believing that you can fly off buildings directly into inevitable demise.
The truth is...bravery is loud when it needs to be, but for me, it's quiet most of the time. It's the whisper in my mind that drives the beat of my heart and the buzz in my being that creates a slow, growing motion propelling me toward that which I've never known before. And in the end, I'm better for it. Just one frozen step at a time.