I used to see your stickers and inwardly roll my eyes. Your 26.2s and your 13.1s. Your “Just Run” and “I Run Because I Can” bumper stickers. I used to see them and think, “We get it. You can run. Congrats.” (I’m such a snot, right?) But then I became a runner. And now instead of my petty little jealous thoughts, I feel inspired. Now I see your stickers and I think, “You rock.” Because now I know and understand some of what it takes. I’m working up to my first half marathon in May and I really do get it. The fact that I’m about to lose a toenail really makes me feel legit. (And unfortunately, just in time for flip-flop season. This is totally going to ruin my feet for summer. Boo.)
And so now, your stickers inspire me. It’s a whole different type of jealousy. It’s admiration. It’s respect. And it’s tons of inspiration. I see your stickers and I think, “You did it. You paid the price and you did it. You toughed it out and did it.” I see your stickers and think, if I can run 11.3 miles, then I can run 13.1 miles like you did. I see your stickers and think, “That’s not some crazy Olympian. That’s another chick like me. And she’s got a sticker.”
I used to see the sticker and think it was a little egotistical. A little braggy. Now that I know what it takes, I see the sticker and I think, “Thank you. Thanks for reminding me that if you can do it, I can too.” And when I do, I’m gonna get a sticker.
This past September, I stood at a church picnic, chatting with a few “runner” friends and mistakenly commented that I had always wanted to run the Turkey Trot, an 8K run on Thanksgiving morning and the oldest foot race in the country. Well. You don’t have to say that twice when you’re surrounded by runners. “So why don’t you?”, they asked in unison. “You should.” Major eye roll. Open mouth, insert foot without running shoe. Because in September, I wasn’t a runner. That’s why. And the thought of possibly being able to run 5 miles was completely ridiculous. I was practically sure I would NOT be able to do it. Inspired by one friend’s comment that running is simply “putting one foot in front of the other,” I started running that week. I had a little over 2 months and decided that I was going to do it. Ugh.
But I did it! I really did it. I had asked my 19 year-old son if he would be up for it too and happily, he said yes. So together we headed out in the dark on Thanksgiving morning, joined by another friend as well, and made our way downtown. And I could not be more thankful that we did.
At the risk of sounding dramatic, the experience of this race was one I will never forget. I had an absolute blast. And with my son by my side–the fact that we were sharing those moments and running together–well, I was one happy girl. The energy and atmosphere were overwhelming. Thousands of runners, thousands of bystanders cheering us on and wishing us well. Running through the streets of downtown Buffalo. Sprinting through the finish line, a few seconds behind my son and seeing his smiling face as I crossed. A total emotional high that lasted all day and then some. I took mental snapshots that I have already replayed many, many times.
The ultimate ending to the story for me is that I set a goal and worked hard to meet it. I made new choices and rearranged schedules and set early alarms. I did it. Many days it sucked. Many days I really didn’t feel like running. But I am incredibly proud of myself for pushing through. And believe it or not, that won’t be my last race. In fact, I can’t wait to run another one. Did I mention I’m a runner now?
I am embarrassed to say that what I’m NOT is a goal-setter. I wish I were. But I think this is going to change too. (I was going to write “I hope this will change too”– but then I corrected myself– I didn’t reach my goal by hoping. It was by making intentional choices and a lot of hard work.) This whole experience has inspired to me to find other areas of my life that need a reawakening. The only thing stopping me is me. And I have decided that I am way too smart to be the only thing standing in my way.
I’m a new runner. By new, I mean I’ve been at it for about 3 months. I’ve gone through running phases in the past, so it’s not like I’ve never done it before, but this time it’s sticking. I know some of you hate me right now and I get it. Really. Because I’ve always sort of hated people who were runners. Like it was this secret club of these virtuous super heroes that had the mental and physical toughness it takes to knock off a few miles. But really, all it took was a decision. That’s it. There was no thunder and lightning, no voice of God, no waking up and suddenly feeling like it was in me. I just decided to do it. And then I did.
Now don’t get me wrong. It’s hard. It does take mental and physical toughness. It does take discipline. And despite the cliché that says the first step is always the hardest, it’s not. Are you kidding? I still feel like a rock star at the first step. What’s hardest for me is the first mile. The whole first mile I’m thinking, “This is kind of sucky. My legs hurt already. How could my legs hurt already? I’m still on my street. I can’t do this today. Maybe I should just stop right now and walk. People are still sleeping and I could be too.” But call it pride, or stubbornness (or wanting to eat something fabulous later), but something suddenly starts to kick in and I keep going. I find my groove. My breathing evens out and I’m soaring.
Okay. Soaring is dramatic. And truthfully, I can’t really say if I’ve ever experienced “Runner’s High”. Runner’s Hell? Yes. Been there. Many times. But man, when I finish a run, I could cry. And admittedly, the first time I finished 5 miles, I did cry. I was just so stinking proud of myself. Because I don’t see myself as a runner. But I am a runner now. And the only thing it took to become one was to run. And I did it. And I’m still doing it. For me, it’s a reason to celebrate.
I hope you’re starting to catch a little of what I’m getting at. It’s not about the running. Well, it is for me. But what is it for you? What is it for you that feels just out of reach? Like you want it, but it just doesn’t seem like it’s ever really going to happen? Well let me tell you, it won’t happen by magic. It will happen when you decide you want it to. When you make a decision. When you take the first step and then stick it out for the first mile and then some. A year ago I only wanted a blog. But I’m not an author. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I like to write. So do a lot of people. But one day it clicked– If there are millions of blogs out there, why can’t one of them be mine? Why couldn’t I have one too? The answer was, I could. As soon as I decided to write one. That’s the day I got one.
Sure, the bigger picture is humbling. I may never run a marathon or publish a book. But this year on Thanksgiving morning I’ll be running my first 5-mile race through the streets of Buffalo, getting me one step closer. And every time I decide to write a blog post or make notes for my “someday book”, I’m choosing my future. The only person responsible for your life is you. Go do something about it.