Remember that kid who picked dandelions out in left field during softball when you were 8? Yup. That was me.
How about the girl who finished a mile run in middle school in just over 18 minutes? Oh yeah, that was ALSO me.
You know the old saying, "I only run if I'm being chased?" I'm not sure I would have even run then. It just wasn't something I had in me, nor something I had an interest in. I did theatre! I was a singer! I was going to go to Broadway and never have to run, because theatre people aren't athletic and it's okay!! At least, this was how the 17-year-old version of myself rationalized my lack of athleticism.
Eventually though, I started to get bored with *just* doing theatre. I always saw the same people. I did shows at the same theatres. It was a routine I was very comfortable in, but it was making me restless. I wondered if there was more out there, something different that could give me a similar thrill to being on stage, but would give me a chance to push myself in a new way.
I started this little run club about three or so years ago. I called it the "Run Club for Losers". The premise was, a bunch of theatre kids who weren't necessarily runners would get together a couple of times a week at a local run path. Together, we would theoretically be able to push ourselves to run, something none of us particularly loved.
And the scary part was, it worked. Sure, we had different people every week, and some people came once and never came back. But there was a small core of us who faithfully showed up every week, and two miles turned into three, and then four... and it was only a couple of months before I actually... LIKED running.
Then I started racing. Here was the thrill I was looking for. Hoards of people getting up early on a Saturday morning JUST because they loved to feel their feet pounding on the pavement? I loved crossing the finish line with a new personal best. And watching the cows in a field watch me as I run past. I even loved running in the pouring rain and getting completely soaked.
It was like this little Narnia I didn't know existed was waiting for me right on the other side of the stage. And that summer, I ran and I ran and I ran. I'm not sure how many races I ran, but it had to be at least 8-10. It felt so good to stretch my legs, and accomplish something new. Something I didn't even know I had in me!! I wondered why I had always hated the idea of this sport, why I just assumed I wasn't a runner and could never be.
I ran my first half-marathon, the Detroit Free Press Half, in the following fall with a couple of "Run Club" devotees. Did I ever in my life think I would run a half-marathon? Of course not. But we trained, and we pushed, and sometimes it sucked. One of my friends experienced what could have been a setback, as personal tragedy hit her family in the days before the big race. I've always admired her courage, that despite losing someone so dear to her, she made the commitment to fight on and race. That just proves how the human spirit and body can triumph... why would you ever tell yourself you can't do something? There is so much strength inside of you, so many things you can do if you put your mind to it.
There was a perfect moment at sunrise as I neared the bridge to Canada during that race. I pushed up the hill, the bridge loomed up before me. With red and orange rays streaming across the water, I looked up- literally hundreds of people were moving almost like one body across the bridge, through the early light. Passionate people, all doing something they loved. Maybe doing something for someone they loved who was gone. Hell, maybe doing something they didn't love, but did to prove something to themselves. 90-year-olds, 13-year-olds, skinny people, not-skinny-at-all people... there is no set mold for running like I had thought when I was younger. Just regular people, like you'd see on any street in America, getting together and doing something special for themselves.
Never tell yourself you can't do something; "can't" is the unwillingness to try. And you may be missing out on something absolutely awesome in the meantime.
"Regret for wasted time is more wasted time." ~Mason Cooley