You’ve heard the expression, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”? This expression does not apply to this post as I am all about sharing the learning I had in Vegas this past weekend. What happened for me was a reminder about choosing to let go and enjoy the ride (or in this case, the run!)
I am a firm believer in having a strong vision and in setting goals to turn that vision into a reality. I have always carefully and thoughtfully prepared plans to meet my goals. Most importantly, I take action to make sure the plans get off the ground so that my goals are achieved. I rework goals, adjust, set new directions in order to make sure I can see success. I have always believed that this is necessary in everything we do – both personally and professionally. That’s why we have School Education Plans, Professional Growth Plans, Year Plans, Project or Unit Plans, etc. I always begin each new school year with plans for achieving goals for growth and improvement. The same goes for my own professional and personal goals. This school year was no different. Actually, I thought it was going to be even better than previous years as we had, over the course of several years, established strong trusting relationships with our students and our school community. Our teaching teams were focused on our school’s vision and the collaboration among our entire school team had contributed to the strongest school start-up I have experienced. However, nothing ended up going according to plan this year. Not only did the goals and plans for the school get sidetracked due to the tragic loss of one of our teachers, but my personal plan of training to run another marathon (with the goal of running fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon) also fell by the wayside when I injured myself not once, but twice during my training. The final straw – just when I thought I would be able to at least finish a shorter version of my running event (the half marathon as opposed to the full marathon), my mom got sick and I spent most of the final week before my race in and out of the hospital – still unable to train properly for my event.
My flight and hotel were booked, my race registration fee paid for, and my plans were made with my running buddies – I could not turn back. I was still going to Las Vegas to participate in the largest night time race in the world, in spite of the fact that I had not trained properly, I had been injured on and off (mostly on) for the past 3 months and I didn’t even feel confident that I could walk the entire 21 km never mind run it. 45,000 runners participated in the full and half marathon to raise money and awareness for those suffering with Crohn’s and Colitis Disease – and I was one of those 45,000 who were about to participate in the first night time run on the Las Vegas Strip.
As I waited for the race to start, I looked around at the massive crowd of runners – those dressed up as Elvis, those brides and grooms who would be running to the designated wedding area to say their vows and then continue with the race, the groups who were running in memory and support of friends and family members who suffered from Crohn’s and Colitis, the couples who were giving each other last minute words of encouragement and hugs and I was completely inspired. I thought about the individual stories of each of the 45,000 participants at this event and I wondered about what brought each of them to this same place as me and if their journey to this race had been as bumpy as mine. And then I thought about the common thing that united us – we were all out here, on this chilly evening in December, sharing a common goal – to run the Las Vegas Strip at night. I thought a lot about my own story, and why I was out there on that Vegas Strip. I was not fulfilling my goal of running the full marathon to get a qualifying time for Boston. I was not even confident I could finish the half marathon – a race I have done several times before. I had no goal. I really wasn’t sure why I was out there.
Then, as I listened to my ipod play my favourite songs, a few of them recorded by my son, I thought about all the years I spent running as a way to regain my balance, my hope and my energy when I was doing my best to help my son as he was struggling through his teenage years. I thought about how grateful I was for how far he had come on his own journey as a musician and how incredibly proud I was of him and all that he has accomplished through his passion for music. I wondered if I would be able to finish this run or if I would have to stop and walk because of my re-occurring running injury and I was grateful for all the other ways I have learned how to exercise so that if it turned out that I was no longer able to run anymore, that I would still be able to find balance and maintain my health. I looked up and noticed a few shining stars in the night sky and I thought about my dear friend and colleague who was tragically taken from all of us this past Fall and how hard it had been to lead a school community through this loss. I was grateful for the time that had passed since the death of this very special teacher and that with the passing of time, my broken heart was beginning to heal. I looked down the strip at the New York New York Hotel, the Monte Carlo Hotel, the Paris Hotel, the Planet Hollywood Hotel and was reminded of those real places that these hotels represent. I was grateful as I thought about my husband and all of those real places that we have explored together since we last visited Las Vegas. I looked at all the cheering friends and families along the sidelines and thought about the amazing send off my entire school community gave me at a surprise assembly before I left and of the two fat binders full of pictures and kind words that were given to me by our students and I was grateful to be a part of such an exceptional school community. I thought about a message from one student, in particular, requesting a picture at the finish line. I was grateful that this very special student was part of our school community and I thought about not letting him down. I was filled with so much emotion, appreciation and ENERGY – that I rocked that strip!!!!
As I let go of all of that had NOT gone according to plan this school year and focused on all that I had to be grateful for – far too many things to share in this post but just enough to keep me thankful for the entire two hours that it took to complete this run (without stopping or walking!) While it was not the best finish time I have had, it was the best run I have had. I let go of my focus on a finish time, I let go of my disappointment in not being able to run the full marathon, I let go of my worry about re-injuring myself and I simply enjoyed the ride. I took in the bright lights, the larger than life sights, the cheering crowds, the loud music (both from the bands along the course and from my favourite songs on my ipod), and even the unexpected beer station along the course (I have never come across a beer station on a race course before?!) I listened to my body and kept breathing deeply, slowing down when I needed to, taking in water when I needed to and being grateful for every minute I was able to keep running (all 131 minutes, to be exact!) I am grateful that I ended up completely enjoying the ride, in spite of the fact that my road to this race was filled with bumps, potholes, detours and even a roadblock or two.
Are goals and plans important? Of course they are, but I know if I get too stuck on having things turn out according to plan, then I will not be able to learn from the unexpected events that happen along the way. I’m not sure what is coming up next for me or for my school, but I do know that I will remind myself to roll with whatever it is. I will continue to let go so that I can learn from the bumps in the road, the detours and the surprises that are all along the route as all of these things contribute to my growth – and most of all – I will choose to be grateful for as much of it as I can.
~ Carolyn Cameron