by Jill Shenkel Henwood
Empowerment, Responsibility, Intentionality, Diversity, Connectedness, Joy, Optimism, Gratitude, Nurturing, Healthy, Open-hearted, Compassion
Joy – joi
a feeling of great pleasure and happiness
Optimism – op·ti·mism
hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something
I won a bet this weekend. I am not a frequent gambler, but when one of my high school cross country athletes bet me that I wouldn’t walk in a 5K race we were running this weekend (the Emma Coburn Elk Run 5K in Crested Butte hosted a high school race as well as a community race), I couldn’t pass up on the friendly wager. I have many miles under my belt – at all different paces – so I was slightly offended that he thought I could not run an entire 5K. But I did run the entire thing. Barely.
As I looked at the next two words on the list – Joy, Optimism – that I needed to write about for this blog, I initially wanted to take it a different direction. As a woman, in the era of #MeToo, it had been a long week. Fortunately, I ran the 5K this weekend and had a wonderful overnight trip with my high school cross country team which got my positive blood flowing. Then I turned off the news, and it got even easier to embrace joy and optimism. I am not advocating for not paying attention to what is going on around us; however, I would instead argue that joy and optimism are vital for us to have hope and confidence about the future. And how we approach the simplest things in life – like running, or exercise or the “routine” things we do – shapes how we tackle life’s bigger challenges.
I have a few phrases that I frequently say to my high school cross country runners – things like “it is a great day to run,” (generally in Western Colorado it is a great day to run – even better in the infrequent rain, which it happens to be doing right now so it will be a great practice this afternoon) and “smile, it makes you run faster” (which actually HAS been proven – click here). They frequently laugh at it – but often on the most miserable, scorching days of practice, they will repeat those mantras to me! It sounds cliché, but this positive and optimistic outlook and attitude works! If it elicits a laugh or a simple smile, it has made a positive impact. Similarly, if we look out and see the rain and decide it will be miserable, it most likely will be.
When I started Girls on the Run in Western Colorado 19 years ago, I liked so many things about the program including running/walking as the exercise and lens through which girls learn that hard work and discipline pays off, media awareness and working to actively combat messages surrounding girls, avoiding gossip, and amazing coach/mentors who have the time and opportunity to connect with girls. I had no idea that probably the most profound impact of the program on my life is encapsulated in these two words – joy & optimism. Everyone will experience great things in life, and everyone will experience rough patches. Many people will endure truly devastating things as well. But I continue to be amazed by those who have faced true devastation – and bring joy and optimism and gratitude as their armor. So, the least I can do is to bring a joyful and optimistic attitude with me every day. It is healthy, and it is powerful. As the quote above points out so clearly, things will happen to us, but how we react will have a much larger impact than anything that “happens” to us. Joy and optimism are some of the best tools to deal with whatever life brings.
And so, I come back to the 5K this weekend – the Elk Run 5K in Crested Butte. I ran it- I did not walk – but I was motivated by the many GOTR girls who were there in their capes and/or pink shirts running a 5K along with some of the best in the world. And I was also motivated knowing that the high school athletes who I coach were waiting to cheer me on – enjoying every moment – encouraging me with many of the words I use with them – pump your arms, push off those toes, and of course…
Smile, it makes your run faster!