When the weather shifts to colder temperatures and light becomes scarce, you might hear great groaning coming from my house. As an early-morning runner, light is a huge motivating factor for me to get out of bed. Luckily, I have running buddies who don’t let me off the hook easily. They are the type you’ll find running sprints during nor’easter storms. That makes me lucky…I think.
And so, because it’s the only time that works for all of us, I set my alarm for the unholy hour of 4:30 a.m. twice a week and meet my running buddies at Agony Hill (yes, that’s really the name). One day, though, I had a mishap. With all my preparation of laying out clothes, shoes, watch, and fluorescent hunting-like orange vest, I neglected to check the battery of my headlamp. As I started my run, I realized the light was so dim it did absolutely nothing to illuminate the path ahead of us. Luckily, I was able to mooch off my running buddies for the first few miles.
Trouble came when we encountered our great nemesis, Boston Hill Road. It is a hill that goes up and up, and then up some more. It was on this hill that my group became separated. One runner was ahead of me, and one behind. Both runners had their own lights. I was in the middle, without a working headlamp and found myself running blind.
Darkness is where imagination takes over. I heard a rustle in the trees. Weren’t skunks most active at this hour? What if I twisted my ankle in a pothole?
Irrational panic helped me pick up my pace to try and catch my friend up ahead. But her pace was too fast. I contemplated slowing down for my other buddy, but admittedly, I hate slowing down. So I ran as well as I could, alone in the darkness, hoping not to encounter a savage skunk or an errant rock.
We finally reunited atop the hill. Never was I more thankful for someone else’s working headlamp. But never again did I wish to rely on someone else’s light at 5:00 a.m. on a dark New Hampshire road.
As we ran down the other side of Boston Hill Road, I thought about the individual light we all carry. We all have unique and individual talents which light our own path and also help those around us. Our light is the only true way to run the race we were meant to run. And in that race, so many of us are burning out by going too fast, and yet feel greatly dissatisfied when we go too slow. The good news is that we’re intuitive creatures. We know what a good pace feels like. And like my headlamp, if we carry our own light, we don’t have to worry about trying to keep up or slow down with anyone else—or comparing ourselves to others.
Too often, other lives appear bigger or brighter. In an excellent Power of Moms podcast, Whitney Johnson, author of the new book Disrupt Yourself, says to remember the compliments we too easily shrug off. “That might be your superpower,” she says. Those superpowers, I believe, are the lights you carry, that everyone else can see even when you can’t. What a shame not to let them shine!
I often wonder when Boston Hill Road will ever feel easy. It never is. No matter how many hills I run, it’s still hard every single time. I sometimes wonder when being a mother, a wife, a sister, or a human being will be easy. Sometimes it is. Often it’s not.
Progress is small, but it’s there. Where once I had to walk up Boston Hill Road, now I can run (slow as a snail) without stopping. Isn’t that like life, too?
The world doesn’t need any more followers. What it does need are strong women who carry their own light to run their own particular race. Physics tells us that light always overpowers darkness, no matter how small—and this includes my tiny headlamp beam on a dark New Hampshire road!
As soon as I got home from that dark run, I changed the battery in my headlamp and made sure it worked. Then, on the next day’s run, I was able to light my own path. Now I try to ask myself often, “Am I carrying my own light today?”
Question: Are you carrying your own light? If not, what can you do to do so?
Challenge: Find a way you can use your talents to help someone else, even if it is something small like being kind or friendly.
Edited by Lisa Hoelzer, Becky Fawcett, and Sarah Monson.
Image created by Julie Finlayson.