Heather Stephens

A couple of months ago, I learned something about myself. I do this thing where I keep waiting for life to start. When I go to college, then my life will start… When I meet someone and get into a relationship, then my life will start... When I graduate from college, and when I get a job, then my life will start… When I move to a new place and meet new people, then my life will start….. When I find the job of my dreams, then my life will start… The list of then my life will starts goes on and on. 


When I was coaching at Georgetown, I lived with two guys and a gal in a little town house off McArthur. One of the guys I lived with taught me something that I will never forget. I had come home from an overwhelming day at work and was crying in my bedroom. Insert the following thoughts: 

What am I doing with my life? 

What is my greater purpose in this world? 

What on earth is my next move?

& other classic 20-something ponderings...

Despite our exorbitantly high rent cost, our walls were paper thin. My roommate heard me through the wall and came and knocked on my door. He started out by saying, “dude, you need to breathe”. I was breathing. That was the one thing I was doing. "No, no, no, you’re not breathing the right way.”  I can’t remember the exact technique he taught me, but it was some sort of loud throaty breathing exercise that was supposed to help you find your center and stay present in the moment. So I listened to him and tried it. It helped. Then he told me the thing that I will never forget: we live in constant flux between the past and future; if we’re not careful we’ll skip right over the present. Don't skip the present. His words held such truth. I wasn’t sure the throaty breathing meditation exercise was for me, but I liked the idea behind his message.

A few weeks later, I jumped in a tempo with the Georgetown women. For six miles, we were locked in. Nothing in the world mattered other than maintaining 6:10 pace for six miles. It dawned on me, that running was my loud throaty meditation stay in the moment thing. It was the piece in my life that kept me grounded. Present in the here and now.


This past September, I felt the weight of transitions folding in. The same old poking, pestering voice in my head was back: “when I do this ________, then my life will start.” So I shut down that voice and went back to my constant; running. I signed up for the Vegas Half Marathon. For 8 weeks, I stopped angsting over the poking voice in my head and I locked into putting one foot in front of the other and breathing in and out. 

As the race got closer, I set an A, B & C goal for myself:

A - Break 1:19:00

B - PR (Under 1:19:52)

C - Fight like hell when shit gets tough. Dig deep. Get Ugly.


As I rolled up on mile 8, averaging ~5:55 pace, my body transitioned from race mode to survival mode. Head back, wings flailing, I suffered through an ugly last 5.1 miles. When I crossed the finish line the clock read 1:23:12. I quit the sport in my head. I never wanted to run another half marathon again. I dragged my tired body through the mile-long finishing chute, and tried rationalizing with the dramatic thoughts. Could I have raced faster? Will I race faster again in the future? Definitely. Maybe. I’m not sure. 


As I got closer to the end of the finishing chute, the thoughts quieted and I started feeling thankful. Thankful for all the miles, the workouts, the long runs, the meeting up with old friends and new, and the reminder of the joy of living in the moment. This whole thing wasn’t about looking back and comparing to my previous self, or jumping ahead and making assumptions about what might happen in the future. It was about everything that was right in front of me: my mom and my best friend right at the end of the finishing chute. All of the tweets and texts from my Oiselle family. All people I met through running. My heart felt full and I felt proud. 


My advice to someone who feels stuck, waiting for life to start?

It already started. It’s happening right now. Figure out what you’re loud throaty breathing thing is. Go dance your dance. Sing your song. Put one foot in front of the other. Breathe in and out. Take it in. Every moment that you can. And then watch all of the other pieces fall into place. 



Take me to...
Introducing The Flyway - A Series On Change By Meg Murray
The Flyway - Routine Changes Everything By Sally Bergesen
The Flyway - A Time For Change By Kristin Metcalf