I ran my first ever half marathon today in Almaty, Kazakhstan and set a new personal record of 02:06:28 in 21 kilometers. To me, this record is less of an indication of the time and effort I have put into training, but instead it represents the numerous voices of encouragement and motivation from strangers I have met in a strange land, all of whom I am now proud to call friends. Without them, I'm not sure I would have ever participated in a marathon in the first place!
When I first arrived in Kazakhstan, several of my colleagues had already participated in the Almaty marathon the previous year; some ran the 10K, some did the 21K, and a select few opted for the full 42K. As they each recounted their stories of training and triumph, I got a sense of the camaraderie and unity that was borne out of the journey they all shared as they strove to push mind and body to new heights. I wanted in. Over the next few months, I found myself training harder and running longer distances than I have ever done in my life.
I shared many eventful runs with my training and running partner, Orville, who is, to put it simply - a black man in Kazakhstan. The local people tend to gawk at him with mixtures of fascination and awe. He is always being honked at by passing cars, interviewed by local television stations, and requested to have his photo taken (with or without permission). Orville regards his famed status with much grace, which I greatly admire. It makes me uneasy to see the way people behave around him just because of the color of his skin - but I diverge.
Today, records fell. Legs sore, body fatigued, and yet my head is above the clouds. I am extremely happy I was able to meet such a great group people and be able share this moment with them.
I have been doing a lot of reading (self-help mostly) and thinking (about the future) lately, though none of this has resulted in any sort of definitive action. This past week has been filled with many ups and downs, and it was one of those weeks that felt as if the downs tremendously overshadowed the ups. I have behaved in ways in which have made me ashamed of my character - I gossiped, and I complained - a lot. I am also guilty of being a massive consumer; a consumer of lies, outrageous acts of injustice, and rumor. I am sick of the complaints and I am tired of the negativity. It is time to break myself out!
I briefly thought of titling this blog post "Commitments for the Future" but that just made it sound vague and ironically non-committal. The future can mean tomorrow, or it might be some abstract entity far off in time and space. In the end, I resolved to come up with a list of "Do Now's" (so named after a common teaching strategy described in Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov). As a good friend once advised me, "New Year's Resolutions are a scam. If there are things you really want to commit to doing, then they should just be 'goals.' You don't have to wait for a new year to start living the life you want," (his approximate sentiments in my words).
Without further ado, my current list of Do Now's:
1. Create more, consume less.
2. Stop complaining! Nobody wants to hang around a killjoy.
3. Drink more water.
4. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
5. Train for a half-marathon. (Run a half marathon before the end of the year).
6. Implement a "no eating out week" at least once a month.
7. Stop eating at least three hours before bed! Otherwise your sleep will be uncomfortable and your belly will feel like a stack of bricks (I know this from experience).
8. Work to pay off student loans.
9. Invest in a retirement plan before the year is out.
10. Read at least 10 minutes a day.
11. Level up in adult-ness. (Work in progress).
Admittedly, the goals themselves need some work in terms of specificity, timeliness, and a way of measurement. But hey, I think it's a good start.
Teacher, Friend, Adventurer. (Not necessarily in that order)