I am someone who tends to think in absolutes. My beliefs are strong and not easily swayed. This is true even when it comes to what I believe about myself. And for the first 41 ½ years of my life, I believed -- very strongly and with all of my being -- that I was not a runner.
There was plenty of evidence to support this belief.
The summer I turned nine, my mom signed my brother and I up for track through our local parks and recreation program. I still don’t know why she thought this was a good idea. My brother did well, giving it his all, as was – and still is – his way. I, on the other hand, figured out the first day that running was hard -- and sweaty. I quit.
Then there was eighth grade softball. I tried out for and made the team, which was pretty surprising to everyone involved J I played first base – not particularly well. But what I remember most – other than laughing with my friends until I could hardly stand up – was the running. At the beginning of each practice, after doing some calisthenics, we were required to run to the end of the road and back. It was not a long road. I never ran the entire distance. While every other member of the team ran down to the corner and back, I would run down two or three houses, hang out in that person’s driveway and then join the rest of the team on their return trip.
So you can see that when I say I was not a runner, I don’t say it lightly.
When my youngest – Pinky Bean – was approaching her second birthday, I realized that the 40 extra pounds I was carrying around could no longer be termed “baby weight.” It had become just “weight.” This was no longer okay with me. I followed the Weight Watchers program to a tee and followed a daily exercise routine of cardio DVDs in the wee hours of the morning. I’m proud to say I lost 42 pounds and have kept all but a couple of them off. (Christmas cookies are yummy – and dangerous. I’m almost done working them back off. J)
It was very shortly after I’d lost the weight that I got an email from a friend. Like me, she’s a mom – of four kids, not three. Like me, she’s busy – but actually busier with that extra kid and three of her kids being in school full-time and all four playing a variety of sports. Like me, she’s involved in our church and our kids’ schools – but more so. Unlike me, she’s a natural and enthusiastic athlete. She runs marathons and I – don’t. She’s someone I enjoy and who I admire a great deal. She’s also someone who makes me laugh until my face hurts J
The gist of the email was that this friend, who would become Coach Moe, was starting a Couch to 5K running program and was seeking out participants. You didn’t have to be a runner or to have ever really thought much about running. She promised it would be low-pressure and fun. Maybe it was because I do admire Moe or maybe I’d had too much diet coke that morning, but I fired off a quick, “count me in,” response before I gave myself time to think about it. Then I did think about it. And panic set in.
The first night was a little scary. It was cold and there was a light rain falling. But there were a group of us in it together. Amid nervous laughter, we set out. I had no idea where that night would lead me. It led me to the next night and the night after that and the night after that. Soon I was running for ten minutes at a time – unheard of when we started and I would be panting and in pain after 90 seconds of running. For despite being in pretty good shape (remember all the cardio DVDs), running takes it to a whole new level.
As we progressed through the program, I discovered something that blew my mind:
I LOVE RUNNING!!
What? How could this be true? But it was. There is something that is so wonderfully calming and yet so challenging about running. It clears your mind and lets you feel what your body can do – what you can do.
I finished the Couch to 5K program and ran a race in July, 2012. Now for anyone who might be thinking of taking up running, if you live in a place like say, North Carolina, don’t run your first race in July. Also, don’t get so amped up at the starting line that you start out at a dead sprint with the professional caliber runners. Despite these errors in judgment, I did it. I ran a race. I had a time in mind to beat. And I beat it – by 13 seconds. And when I crossed the finish line, there were my hubby and my three precious beans cheering me on. BEST. FEELING. EVER.
I am still a runner. I will run faster and I will run farther. I will probably never run a marathon. But then again, never say never.
The most important thing is what I’ve learned. It’s a lesson I hold dear and one that I hope to pass on to my beans. I learned that I can do more. Coach Moe is tough. She smiles and laughs and does completely awesome things like having an 80s theme night run, but she’s tough. She lets you know that she believes in you and that she expects you to do more. She pushed me. I wanted to show her that her belief in me was well-placed. And in doing so, her belief became my belief.
I am strong. I am capable of many things. That feels even better than putting on a pair of jeans in a size I hadn’t worn since before kids.
I want my kids to feel strong. I want them to know that they are capable. That even if something seems outside of what they think they can do, it’s worth trying. I want to do for each of them what Coach Moe did for me. I’ll show them the path. I’ll run alongside them for a while if they need me to. But then I’ll let them know that they are strong enough. That they can do it.
And when they reach the finish line, I’ll be cheering louder than anyone.