I was not an athlete. I never did recreational team sports. I was more into beaching than swimming. I preferred a paved bike path of leisurely scene-savouring to two-wheeled transportation. I did not run. Ever. In fact, I wouldn’t have run to catch a bus.
When I became a mom to three children under three I had no time. I struggled with my sense of self and who I was- who I wanted to be. I didn’t feel strong- emotionally or physically. I teetered between confidence and doubt all the time.
To that date, my biggest life accomplishment was procreating. Although my children were perfect and I felt like the luckiest mother in the world for them- something just felt wrong about considering them my only accomplishment.
One day I had enough. I had enough of not knowing myself and the thought of passively allowing myself to unfold terrified me.
I thought I knew what I certainly was not. That was a start. At least the start of an inner monologue.
Cautiously, I considered the suggestion that perhaps I could decide who I was going to be. Just like that. But I wasn’t going to tell anyone -in case I was wrong.
I remember that day very clearly.
My husband came home from work and I was waiting by the door with my running shoes on. They were old but stylish, and never used for running before.
I handed him the kids and bolted out the door, promising to be back in a hour after my run. He looked puzzled but gave me a supportive nod.
I ran as fast as I could for as far as I could. And when I reached the end of my street (it would be generous to call it a half kilometer), panting and sweating and feeling like I was going to die, I remembered why I never did this before.
Because it was obvious I was not good at it. I was not a runner. I was not an athlete.
But maybe, just maybe, if I practised, I could get better.
That’s the growth mindset I was aiming at teaching my kids…made sense I should listen to my own advice.
Overwhelmed by a combination of fearless determination to improve my ability and a curiosity to see if I would actually improve, I allowed myself to be a beginner. I allowed myself a good three months to give this a try and if I wasn’t improving then I would stop wasting my time.
I walked most of the remaining hour…more focused on my new plan.
Three months later of running three days a week I had built up my endurance to being able to run 5 kilometres without having to walk. I wasn’t fast but that didn’t matter at all to me. After all- no one was paying me to get out there and get better…I did it for me.
And that drive grew exponentially. Speed had nothing to do with it. The only person I wanted to be better than was the person I was a day earlier.
I revelled in my accomplishment when I finished my three month plan.
I was astonished by my own grit and ability to see through my commitment- even those days when I was exhausted and would have preferred anything but physical exertion-
I. STILL. WENT. And, I. FELT. BAD. ASS.
I noticed all of the cars in the driveways of the homes I passed by. I imagined how comfy people were in their jammies on the couch…probably relaxing and watching a mindless show.
I promised myself I would reward myself with whatever guilty pleasure I desired- But I had to put in my work first.
And that’s when I realized I was a Runner. I began to run for the sheer enjoyment of what running was offering me. And I ran grateful. I was changing.
I began questioning everything that I previously thought to be true…as I came to realize, I was wrong about so much. I was especially wrong about who I thought I was.
Running was teaching me about commitment, goal-setting, defining who I wanted to be, re-defining who I thought I was, understanding the illusion of “limitations”, and appreciating the privilege of my health that allowed me to learn what my body is capable of.
Since that pivotal day that I first decided to step out my front door, I have since completed four full marathons (4 x 42 km).
It feels pretty cool to accomplish something you once believed to be impossible.
With each run, I remember I have been so wrong about so much. And as I continue enjoy my lessons through this journey of my life, I am grateful for running. It has encouraged me to proceed with passion, curiosity and wonder.
I am ready to take on new challenges because it turns out that I can do more than I ever thought was possible.
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