Lace up the shoes, head out the door. The first step is always the hardest. Make it out the door, and the odds are you’ll make it farther than you thought you could. Never tell me the odds.. Lace up the shoes. Head out the door. Just one foot in front of the other.
I needed motivation. I needed forced accountability. I needed an external reason to do what I knew I needed to do. I had been running around the neighborhood, running around in my head. I had to give myself a real reason, a justification to run. I needed a reason. A long, long time ago I found one.
I found my first real reason in a race I would run for my Grandpa. A simple 10k for pancreatic cancer (Fuck Cancer) but it got me to actually sign up, to train, to put on a bib.
I still didn’t feel like a runner.
I ran that 10k for my Grandpa. While I was “training”, my mind started to understand that I could cover the distance. I finished and actually believed in my ability to cover six miles. I knew I could do it, because I had just done it.
I think I was wearing my race t-shirt when my kids soccer coach told me that if I could run a 10k, I could run a half marathon. I believed her. I signed up for a local half, because someone else said I could do it. I was scared and not sure I could do it. But I did it anyway.
While “training” for my first half marathon someone else convinced me I could do, the Universe forced my hand as only it can do. I had been looking at my shoes that had NWM on them and I didn’t know what that was. I googled it and learned that it was for the Nike Women’s Marathon. I found the site and entered a random drawing for entry. What was I thinking?
My brain said I didn’t actually commit to anything because I couldn’t actually sign up. Secretly, I was building confidence and a momentum to keep going and only see that now. It was a random lottery. The race would be for forty thousand women, and I didn’t think I had great odds of getting selected. If I was actually going to do it, the Universe would have to do that for me. I didn’t have to make that decision on my own. I couldn’t make that decision on my own back then.
Before I ran my first half, I got that fateful email. I found out I won the lottery, I was entered to run a full marathon. Shit. I hadn’t ever even run ten miles before, let alone twenty six point two. I started to panic. I didn’t think I could actually do it. Honestly, I had taken comfort in the thought I wouldn’t get in so I wouldn’t have to.
But, there was something from this I wanted. Real talk, I signed up because the finisher medal was a Tiffany necklace (yes, seriously) and the race was in San Francisco. I love San Francisco and I had wanted that blue box with a white bow since watching Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for as long as I could remember. That little blue box made me think I would be somehow important. It was a gift that I could earn. It wasn’t about running.
I used a book called The Non-Runners Guide to Marathon Training. I followed that plan. I finished that marathon and got my little blue box with a white bow handed to me by a fireman in a tuxedo. Yeah, Nike hit all of the girly elements and even my tomboy self was a bit giddy. I had finished. I had accomplished all the miles and I had done it in the city I remembered going to as a kid. I became a marathoner in the city with brunch, the city with the museum, the city with hills that meet the sky, the city with the Christmas tree as tall as a building inside the building.
I was a marathoner, and yet I was still not feeling like a runner. I told myself I was just a mom who needed a break. Going for runs did that. I was still just a mom afraid of age and getting too big to fit in my jeans, but at least I had a little silver necklace to show for it. The little silver charm says I run to be. What a reminder.
I got competitive with myself, I listened to the Bitch. I needed to finish another one, with a respectable time. So, I signed up for another the following year. The Universe let me do that one again. I have now earned two little blue boxes. But I still didn’t get it.
I have run a few other marathons to honor people I care for. Five in total, all have given a different sense of fleeting accomplishment. But, I didn’t have to buy bigger jeans.
I have run marathons, at a turtle pace but I have finished them. I listened to the Bitch and beat myself up about being too slow, not a real runner. I was that runner who worried more about time cut off because there is no sense in even thinking about qualifying times for the Boston Marathon. I worried about being able to finish on time. I was that runner who needed to actually consume calories because I was out there so long. I was that runner who lost my toenails. I learned to paint little nubs on skin to pretend I hadn’t lost most of them. I was that runner who would walk a bit and chat with a fellow turtle to give them a mental boost to make it through. I highly recommend the alphabet game. I was that runner who could only be proud of herself for a fleeting moment before she beat herself up about how she should be faster, that she wasn’t good enough.
But today, I am starting to feel the need to do it all again and it’s different. I remember.
I ran to see faces of those who were struggling with demons, trying to out run them. I get it. My first marathon shirt has “I outran my demons” custom printed on it. If only that was totally true. Unfortunately, those assholes have long since caught up to me again.
I ran to eat. Really, there are few times in my head the Bitch is quiet about eating a cupcake except after a few miles of running. I ran for carbs. I ran because I really love butter.
I ran because you could to do it alone, and to be honest the only other thing I really did alone was drive or ride to work. I ran because hours on end of quiet, or music of my choice uninterrupted were rare those days. I miss those days, the days where I felt the need to be alone. I really miss those days. I miss the crowded house.
I ran to remind myself to take care of myself. The commitment to training 3-5 days a week, holding back on that extra glass of wine, eating balanced meals and taking care of my body to make it through the miles. I ran because it felt good to feel good.
I ran because there is very little else in the world that felt like crossing a finish line. I was never going to win. I was actually somewhere in the bottom of the finishers list, but I am on a finishers list. Truly, finishing what you have started is kinda amazing. I ran because I liked feeling amazing for a moment.
I ran because it quieted the Bitch and calmed my Monkey just enough to not be scattered for a few hours. A few moments they could get along in my head. I ran to be.
Two years ago I ran the Marine Corps Marathon wearing his dog tags from World War II, finishing at the Iwo Jima memorial. Even though there were tens of thousands of runners, nobody was around that memorial by the time I was done. It was surreal.
I just cried.
That was my last run.
I let it go. I let running go. I let go of something that I should’ve held on to and I have stupid FB memories popping up reminding me. I ran to be.
I have that itch again.
I am starting to crave the structure of a training plan, an excuse to buy work out clothes that you work out in, not just go to Costco to pick up more butter.
I will probably be slower than ever as I haven’t run in a while. I won’t be able to head out the door and just run a 10k. I’ll have to start over. But today, I know that’s ok. It has never really been about the running, and it’s ok to start where you have to start.
Just do it. More than just advertising, don’t ya think?
Put on the shoes. Lace them up and head out the door. One foot in front of the other. This time I can do it just because. Just because I remember that there were moments of sanity found on the pavement. Just because there was calm. Just because there were caterpillars crossing my path with bald eagles soaring overhead. Just because I would stop at the top of a hill and take in the view. Just because I know there are people who wish they could.
Just because I still love butter and really, really don’t want to buy bigger jeans.
Just because I can.
The local half in May, I’m registered.
I am a runner.