When Melissa Corley Carter was in 5th grade, an astronaut came and talked to her class. She knew then that she wanted to travel into space herself. She got a PhD in aeronautical engineering – yes, she became a rocket scientist – and followed the path to realizing her dream for 20 years. Despite all of her qualifications, she was rejected because of her eyesight, which was “pretty soul crushing.”
Becoming an astronaut wasn’t her only audacious goal – at the expo for her first marathon, she decided that she would run a marathon on all seven continents. Right before she ran the Rapa Nui Marathon, she learned that her astronaut dream wasn’t going to come true. It was a transformational moment for her.
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Melissa began to reevaluate her life, and her seventh and final marathon, six months later, confirmed that it was time for a major change. It was the Solar Eclipse Marathon in Australia, which took place when the earth, sun, and moon were all completely aligned. The “cosmic significance” that the end of her astronaut journey and the end of her seven marathons were aligned couldn’t be ignored.
Recognizing that her desire to be an astronaut “came out of an intuitive knowing that I am spiritually connected to the universe, a desire to be one with the cosmos, as it were,” Melissa took a “leap of faith” and left her military career. She refrained from following up her marathon journey with what others might regard as a big adventure, and decided, “I’m just gonna live life and savor life; that’s the biggest adventure of all.”
Last year, Melissa published a coffee table book, Running the World: Marathon Memoirs from the Seven Continents, where she shares her outer marathon journey and her inner journey of creating a more powerful and purposeful life. As she says, “Running has such a capacity to connect us to our bodies, to the rhythm of the earth, to our own nature.”
In this conversation, she shares what she learned from both journeys. If you enjoyed listening to Melissa’s thoughts, you may want to check out our “Run and Reflect” notes, our 10 favorite takeaways from the episode to think about on your next run. Click below and we’ll deliver them to your inbox!
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“Thank you” to Melissa. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.