I went for my run tonight. I was determined to get a run in today. After a rainy morning, the weather cleared up nicely, so when I got home from work, I changed into my running clothes and headed out the door.
I always walk the first quarter mile to warm up and as I was getting ready to run, this gazelle of a man with legs up to my shoulders went flying by. Did I mention he was half naked, wearing only short running shorts and sneakers? Did I mention that if there was any way I thought I could have kept up with him for even a few minutes I would have sprinted like the wind just to stay behind him and watch him run (and not for the running part exactly)? But I digress…
As this running vision blew past me, the first thought that came to mind was “How can I run with him in front of me now? I’ll look like the turtle I am.” Fortunately, he turned the corner and I was going straight so it was only an instantaneous thought, and I started my run. For the third time in a row, I ran 2.25 miles after my quarter mile warmup walk.
And I ran. the.whole.way. After a long day at work.
Instead of being so proud of myself though, the thought that kept popping into my head was that I wished I could run like gazelle man. Which is just plain silly because I’m so not gazelle-like.
But then I have these silly thoughts all the time. I run and I worry that I look foolish because I’m running slow, and that anyone passing my by in their cars will think I’m wasting my time. I have to constantly remind myself that at least I’m running. I’m doing something for myself that most of those people in their cars probably aren’t doing.
And so what, if I can’t run like gazelle man. I can’t swim like Michael Phelps either, but I’m a really competent swimmer. And guess what, I’m a competent runner too. For the first time in all of my 50 years, I can run for two+ miles without stopping, without walking, without feeling like I just might die when I get home.
It worries me sometimes how easy it is to sabotage our valiant efforts to get fit and healthy. How easy it is to see a gazelle running by and think, “I’ll never be able to do that so why am I bothering?”
I’ll tell you why I’m bothering. I will never win a triathlon or a marathon or even a 5K. But that’s not why I started this in the first place. I was sedentary and fat and feeling like I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I had a torn rotator cuff and heart palpitations. I was turning 50 and my mother died at the ripe old age of 55 from lung cancer.
Every day I eat right (and I don’t always); every mile I log on the bike or in the pool or on my feet; every crunch and stretch that I do makes me stronger and healthier, and I feel better about myself. Hey, I may even live to 100…or at least 56!
So run gazelle man. I’ll never even try to keep up with you. But I’ll keep plugging away at my turtle pace until I can run, 3, 4, even 26 miles. And I’ll be proud of myself for pushing my body to do what I never thought it would ever be able to do before. Oh, and I’m going to stop beating myself up for not being further along or faster or thinner. I am who I am.
I may be competing in races for incentive, but getting fit isn’t a race with an end. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to do it, as long as I do it.