TOADTalk: The Journey to a Half Marathon

Accountability, a positive mindset, and the support of friends keep Ms. León going as she trains to run 13.1 miles.
Monday morning’s All-School Assembly launches with the Teacher On Active Duty (TOAD) sharing something of interest—a reflection, a story or song, a demonstration of some sort, or a simple poem. In this way, every week, the community gets to know one of our own a little better. This week, Melanie León was the TOAD. Ms. León is senior associate director of admission, co-director of multicultural outreach, advisor to junior girls, and coach of the girls’ JV soccer team. Her TOADTalk is featured below.

So, there is a joke that goes, “How do you know if someone is a vegetarian or vegan? Oh, don’t worry, they’ll tell you.” The same might be true when it comes to running a half marathon—or at least it’s true in my case. I think it helps me hold myself accountable. If everyone knows, then I have to do it! Doc Boyd used the same approach last year when he wanted to stop using the phrase “you guys.” So, if I haven’t already told you, I’ll be running 13.1 miles on May 24t. This wasn’t my idea initially. Ms. Cronin and Ms. Popa were the ones who first came up with the plan. And since running a full marathon has always been on my bucket list, I quickly volunteered to join them. I mean, if I can do this, running 26.2 miles doesn’t seem as crazy anymore. And the great news is that our group of three quickly grew to five with Ms. Berner and Ms. Lowe joining in, too. So now you have to hold us all accountable!
 
So aside from accountability, I want to share with you all what I’ve been reminded of over the past seven weeks of training. First, of how privileged I am to be living in a place with such natural beauty. If you know me well, you know that I love nature. It recharges me; it makes me happy. So, the fact that I get to run on tree lined streets, run through orange groves, run in a valley surrounded by mountain peaks, eventually run from here to the beach is not only amazing, it’s inspiring. For most of us, Ojai is not our forever home, so remember to enjoy it while you’re here. Find time to hike up to Twin Peaks at least once before you graduate, watch the sunset from the Outdoor Chapel, soak your feet in the barranca, camp out by the observatory, clear your mind at Meditation Mount, make guacamole from avocados you’ve picked off Thacher trees, and enjoy a glass of Arlo’s fresh-squeezed lemonade. Whatever you do, just don’t take this all for granted.  
 
The second thing I’ve been reminded of—don’t give up. It’s usually mental fatigue that gets to us. Exercise physiologist, Dr. Samuele Marcora says, “We create our own limits in large part because of what our brain thinks we're feeling rather than what may actually be going on." So mindset really does matter. And a way to keep a positive mindset is to stay positive. Actually tell yourself “I can do this,” “I’m almost there,” or my favorite, “if I can get up this hill, I can take on anything.” I say this to myself every time I run up Thacher Road. I visualize Ms. Morales Kent’s painted rock the moment I turn right off McNell Street. I remind myself that it’s just roughly three-quarters of a mile to the front gate, the equivalent of three laps around the track. That when I reach the top, I’m going to feel stronger and that it will make every other run that much easier. I basically channel Jerry from the Netflix documentary Cheer and turn up my own internal “mat talk.”
 
The next thing I’m reminded of… our bodies are amazing machines. When I first thought about running 13.1 miles, it seemed nearly impossible. The most I had ever run was about 8 miles. But by breaking it down and staying committed and focused, what seemed impossible now feels completely achievable. And not only achievable, but I’m really enjoying it. Honestly, I find it almost therapeutic, and I feel better; I have more energy; I sleep better; I even eat better. And just a few weeks ago, on one of my long runs, I improved my average mile time by a significant amount. What was amazing is that I didn’t feel like I was pushing myself any harder than I typically do. Instead, I remember thinking to myself midway through the run that I was feeling really strong. I also remember thinking that I needed to thank Ms. Cronin and Ms. Popa, because if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be doing this. So, Courtney and Iona, thank you!
 
And that gets me to the last thing I’m going to talk about (but definitely not the last thing running has done for me), training for this half marathon has reminded me to go on new adventures with friends. On Thursday mornings, you can find a few of us running the track together. I’m not one who typically runs the track—that’s where I struggle with mental fatigue the most—but doing it with friends makes it fun. It’s time I get to spend with people I admire and adore. It’s also a chance to build my running base while building important and meaningful friendships. So, the next time you are invited to take on a new challenge with friends, just say yes! 
 
And at the risk of sounding a bit cliché, this half marathon has become less about the end result and more about the journey. A journey I think that my awesome advisees should join me on. What do you all think? Should Cate, Molly, and Karina join me on this adventure?
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