Running From Fear

By Emily Cooleyrunner~s600x600

I, like you, am afraid. Constantly.  Of deep water.  Of nasty bugs. Of freak accidents.  And admittedly, of the dark.  I am so afraid that one day in the late summer of 2012 my awesome husband turned to me and said, “Em, you let fear make decisions for you.” A few days later my mentor said the same thing.

*Sound of tires screeching* Whoa.  Hold the phone.  I’m introverted, and do a lot of self reflection so I of course know that I’m afraid, but it’s so obvious my friends and family notice too?  I am NOT ok with this.

So, I decided to plunge head first into my fear.

First, I decided to leave a job in chemistry that I hated and instead pursue a job that I absolutely love — *ahem* that job is working for Salt Lake Running Co.  Second, I turned down the opportunity to finish my PhD to stay in Salt Lake with friends that I now call family.  Third, I one day told my husband to grab the dogs and his board shorts.  We headed out to Rockport State Park.  He swam to the middle of a cove.  And I, screeching all the way, nearly in tears, I swam out to him – my dogs braver than I. (I did have a minor panic attack on the way back, but I wasn’t eaten by some lake monster, phew!).

Lastly, since I’m being honest, I’m terrified of the idea of marathons.  After I ran my first half-marathon, I swore off running 13.1 miles EVER again.  A few weeks later, after my soreness wore off, I signed up for another.  After a setting a personal record in the spring, I gained more confidence on the road.

Over the summer a very dear friend invited me to trail run with her.  She practically had to drag me with her.  I was so AFRAID of the trails.   What if I sprained an ankle?  What I ran out of water??  What if I had to pee?! What if I ran into a mountain lion or moose with a taste for human???  Thankfully, my friends are tough on me and she never let up until I went with her.  I found peace on the trail.  Blissful peace.  Soon, she and I signed up for a “girls weekend” with another friend running a trail half-marathon in Moab.  Training for that half has been my all time favorite period of time.  This training over lapped with me working 3 jobs, and struggling with things personally.  The trail spoke to me, calmed me down, gave me clarity.  I look back and wonder how I EVER feared what gives me so much.

After making so many life-changing decisions for myself, I decided to let fate/God/the universe (whatever it is to you…) decide my next big one: if I should run a marathon.  I anxiously paid my $5 to put my name in the Odgen Lottery and waited to hear… And to my utter dismay, I made it in.

At first, I put on a false happy face and spread the news on Facebook.  Then I thought about this monumental task I was about to undertake.  How could I possibly run 26.2 miles, which would likely take me over 4 and a half hours to complete.  Seriously?  A year ago I was baffled at how I could run 30 minutes without stopping… I know other people can run for longer. I know that to some people 26.2 miles is nothing or its stupid.  But I also know to a lot of people 26.2 miles is on their bucket list, something to strive for.

What I’ve realized is that wanting to run a marathon or a 5k or even one mile without stopping is NOT trivial. No goal of yours or mine is trivial.

This past year, as difficult as it was, taught me more than I thought at the time. In the midst of my personal and professional crisis, people rallied around me and I was able to have people lift me up when I needed the most help. In the past few weeks, I had been trying to put together a training plan and had spun myself into a tizzy. How many days a week do I run? What drills? When is the best time to increase miles? What if, what if, what if…? I was drowning in doubt and second guessing.

Then, Lisa Menninger. We had met several months before and she has been a source of information and inspiration. Talk with her for five minutes and you will see what I mean. Lisa agreed to work with me and within our first 10 minute conversation all of my (current) fears dissolved. And I now have someone to squash all my future fears, hold my hand when it gets hard, and kick my butt when I get lazy. I am also very blessed to have married a tough-as-nails Marine who loves me and supports me. I will never underestimate the power of encouragement and support.

The biggest limitation of human potential is “fear of failure”. So, here is my question to you: what do you fear? What would you attempt if you knew you couldn’t fail?


One last word, the hardest part of any run for me is never the end. It is never when my feet are literally bleeding. It is never when I run out of water, with parched lips, and three miles to go. It is never the final sprint to the finish. It is ALWAYS the first step out the door. The fear of “what will happen” is paralyzing. But now, instead of being crippled, I run. I run far, I run strong, I run from fear.




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