Monday, October 1, 2012

Getting back my inspiration

There was a time in my life when I ran purely for the feeling of accomplishment.

With Kenny and Kimmy for our first 5k in 2002.  
I'm not sure if I've talked about it before, but at the age of 22 I ran my very first 5k with two good friends of mine.  It was my last semester of college, and my friend Kenny and I spent a lot (a LOT) of hours in the gym.  I'm not sure why. I honestly don't remember what possessed us to wake up one morning and say, "You know what would be awesome?  If we spent, like, two hours a day in the gym.  Let's make sure we follow it up with 15 minutes in the tanner while we're at it.  Check out this tattoo of a Playboy bunny I've been marking into my hip with this sticker!"  (But seriously.  I did that?  Who was I?)  The point is, we were young, bored with our last semester of college, and once we started getting in shape, it was like something took over and we were just obsessed.

This workout obsession culminated into the idea that we'd run a 5k.  It seemed like a huge undertaking, this 5k.  Like, "HOW IN THE WORLD ARE WE GOING TO RUN THREE MILES???"  But we got there, we did what we needed to do, we finished.  We didn't time ourselves; we didn't even wear the timing chips.  We didn't over-think how fast we were or were not going.  We struggled up the hills, but we made it up them, and were proud.  We didn't beat ourselves up that "we could have done better" or "got beat by a six-year-old".  No; we finished, we smiled, we high-fived, and I called my mom excitedly to shout that I DID IT.  I ran a 5k.

Fast-forward ten years and I am still running, with more goals and more obsessing.  Only now, it seems like I have been running less and less for the accomplishment, and more and more because I want to beat someone or PR or get a medal.  Medals are great.  Beating the other girls in my age group is great.  Beating my fastest time is great.  But that feeling I had when I finished that 5k and couldn't believe what I had done?  That was top.  I have been missing that feeling.

Two weekends ago I did a half-marathon called the Park 2 Park, in Holland.  I tried not to psyche myself out about the lack of work I had done to prepare for it.  I went into it with an open-mind and a solid plan following the Galloway method (I should do a post on that running method sometime): I would run for four minutes, followed by a minute of walking, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

A storm brewing; September 2012
It started out a gorgeous morning; cool temps, sunny skies.  I ran the first four or five miles with my old 5k buddy, Kenny; he started me on this new Galloway path, as he has been using it to train for his first marathon.  After those first miles,  I sent him on his way (I knew he had his sights set on a PR) and continued on my own.  Mile six/seven brought us to the shores of Lake Michigan.  Trouble was on its way inland; dark skies that looked to be carrying more than rain were closing in.

By mile eight, there were some thunder rumbles and a few lightening flashes.  I heard a rumor that the race was called, but no one around me seemed to be stopping... so I kept on going.  Mile nine, the lightening seemed to have subsided for the moment; but there was torrential rain.  Hey!  Rain!  It felt good!  I kept going!

A police cruiser edged slowly down the road, announcing that the race was cancelled, there were shuttles available.  Still- me and everyone around me kept trudging towards the finish.

Mile ten.  I got a text from a friend, asking if she needed to come pick me up.  I texted her back and said, "Not stopping til they make me".  I kept going.

Mile eleven.  I felt a sharp sting on my arms.  Hail.  Lots of hail.  I put my jacket back on.  I kept going.

Mile twelve.  My knee began hurting badly, probably because I had abandoned Galloway at mile eight with the lightening, so that I could get back to base camp quicker.  I found another girl struggling through the rain, hail, the sideways wind.  We started talking about her kids.  We kept the conversation going through the last mile, chatting as though we weren't running through ridiculous conditions.  It kept my mind off the ache in my knee.  We just kept going.

When I reached the finish chute, there were no timing mats.  They were winding up the pennant strings lining the finish.  It was just people standing in the rain, shouting to keep going, just finish.  As I crossed where the mats had previously been and got my bottle of water, I felt... awesome. I felt like I had started something and refused to quit until I finished it.  I didn't care about my time or anything besides feeling like I had just done something amazing.

I think I really needed that renewal of spirit.  It's been a long and trying summer, between getting married (oh hey, I got married!) and scaling way back on the races.  Some of the scaling back was because of money and trying to save it; but some of that was just fear.  Fear that I would be beaten, fear that I couldn't do it.  So this win against the elements felt big to me.  That storm woke me up, it showed me I can still do this.

And maybe our biggest accomplishments are not in being the fastest or the best, but in doing the best we can with what we're given.  Don't ever shortchange yourself into thinking you can't do something, whether it's running a 5k or running a marathon or simply running a mile.  Every step counts.  You just have to make them.
me and my new husband at the Park 2 Park in 2012

“Accomplish but do not boast, accomplish without show, accomplish without arrogance, accomplish without grabbing, accomplish without forcing.” 
― Lao Tzu

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