For pretty much all of my life, I've held ideas about myself - about what I could and couldn't do, about who I was and who I wasn't. All they've done is hold me back. As I was running at the gym yesterday, I thought, 'It's only taken me thirty-two and a half years to start finding out who I really am! How lucky for me!'
I ran and walked in intervals for 3.1 miles - a treadmill 5K. I was slow. I didn't care. I felt absolutely alive - sweaty, gasping, shuffling along. Ever since middle school gym, when the mile run portion of the Presidential Fitness Test scarred me for life, I've resisted running. It's so intense, this experience of a racing heart, burning lungs, and jostled joints. I am confronted by my fears and by the way I limit myself, compare myself to everyone else. The list of reasons why I'm not a "real runner" is long. I can't be a real runner because:
I'm too slow. I'm too fat. Too old. I wear glasses. I don't have the right shoes, clothes, mp3 player. I don't know the right way to breathe. I don't like being cold. Or wet. Or hot. I don't like wearing shorts. I don't wear a watch, or a heart rate monitor. I don't drink sport drinks. I don't shop at Runner's Market.
I could go on.
Running scares me partly because I'm afraid of getting hurt, and writing scares me pretty much for the same reason. But the more I write, the more I want to do other things that frighten me. I am somehow pushing up against myself, meeting my mind's resistance and punching holes in it, slowly.
In the spirit of "Why Not?", I am running a 5K race in six weeks. I have creaky knees, tight hamstrings, a twitchy back, a big butt. I still don't think of myself as a runner. I wonder if that will change when I cross the finish line. Sometimes I tell myself, just put one foot in front of the other. Just get down one word, one sentence, one paragraph. Moving forward, as slowly as I need to go, I figure I'll meet myself on down the road.