I've never been good at running, yet, I have always had a weird fascination with running. I considered runners to be the ultimate athletes, with their lithe limbs and tiny shorts. Every single year, since 2007, when I made my New Years resolutions, "Run A Half Marathon" would find its way onto my list. I would resolve to "be a runner" and bust out the Couch to 5K program, some running shoes and have at it...for like two weeks before once again deciding it wasn't for me. I joined a few running groups but would always be thwarted, usually by my own lack of discipline and one time by a fractured foot but mostly because I just couldn't commit to making it happen, despite wanting so desperately to be a runner.
As I shifted to a healthy lifestyle from one that had been sedentary, I attempted running every few months, despite the fact that I hated it. Long time readers of my blog(s) will remember that several years ago, I swore off running for good. It became such a source of stress, particularly as I lost weight, because it seemed as if EVERYONE was a runner: why shouldn't I be? And yet, I just didn't like it. It doesn't feel natural in my body and as any runner will tell you, it's HARD. There are those occasional magical runs that make you feel like you're floating on air but mostly it's an ugly slog towards your destination. At least for me.
Even after swearing off running, it still haunted me because it felt like this giant goal I'd never found success in. Running felt like this insurmountable beast that I could never conquer and it became something that seemed to symbolize how I see myself at times: as a quitter, as not quite disciplined enough, as someone unwilling to be uncomfortable to achieve something great.
A few months ago, I found myself feeling incredibly sad and uncomfortable, to a point of near-desperation. I saw a notice that my yoga studio would be partnering with a local running store to do some half marathon training. I hemmed and hawed over whether or not to sign up. I hadn't run in years and I was afraid of failing once again. And yet there was something in me that knew this was part of my journey, and something I needed to do, for me.
I signed up. I spent Tuesday nights and weekends running with a group, and early mornings and late evenings running all alone. Just me and my iPhone, tracking my miles and blaring horrible rap music. Sometimes I would run and feel all of my feelings all at once, and sometimes, I would zone out and temporarily forget the sadness and frustration I was feeling. I would never say that I loved it, but I started to feel so proud of myself every time I finished a scheduled run.
I told very few people what I was up to. In the past, I've broadcast my goals all over the place and this time, it felt so intensely personal and like something that was just for me. I needed running to be this thing that was hard and uncomfortable but also totally private, and just mine. I was part of a group, but as training continued, I spent more and more of those runs by myself, getting comfortable with being really, really uncomfortable. I didn't want the pressure of other people asking how it was going. Also? In all reality, I didn't want another public failure in this arena.
Yesterday, I finally met my goal of running a half marathon, on the hottest day of the year, no less. The race itself was HOT and hard. A groin strain that had come on a few weeks ago came out to haunt me around mile 8, and at mile 10, I got a cramp so bad that I had to sit down. Before I left yesterday, I tucked money into my little pack along with my energy chews just in case I decided to get a cab midway through the race, and I considered it more than once.
Around mile 11, it hit me that I was going to do this. In a totally magical moment, Katy Perry's "Roar" came on, and it all felt so perfect, and of course, I started to cry.
I cried because it hurt and I was hot and tired.
I cried because for so long, I believed that I couldn't do it.
I cried for the girl I was seven years ago, and the girl I was four years ago and nearly 100 lbs heavier for whom running a mile was an impossible feat.
I cried because as I approached the finish line, I realized that I had spent months shifting this belief that I was an undisciplined quitter and this was the culmination of all of those uncomfortable moments, both mentally and physically.
I cried because I proved myself wrong.
I cried because I DID IT.
I don't think I realized how big of a deal this was for me until it was done. Yes, it's an accomplishment to finish a half marathon, but that felt small in comparison to all the things I learned from the process. I didn't realize how deeply ingrained many of my negative beliefs were, about who I was and how I show up in the world. And slowly, week after week, I've chipped away at all of them. Crossing that finish line yesterday gave me the evidence I needed to say, "See? You're not that girl anymore."