Ah, the demon of procrastination! This post is almost a month overdue as I began mulling with the idea of the title several weeks ago. A month ago yesterday, I participated in my first structured race since becoming an adult. Running was something I did in high school and while I was quite good at it, I became sedentary and totally nixed exercise out of my life as I aged. A while ago, I made a list, a bucketlist of sorts, of things I wanted to accomplish before turning 35. I visit that list quite often and I am proud to say I have accomplished some of the things on the list. Some took careful thought and planning while others just naturally happened, like my desire to vacation for an entire month (I was able to do that in Rio de Janeiro for a whole month after taking the bar exam last year). I visited the list again recently and decided to attempt two items on the list that gnaw at me constantly; the desire to run a half marathon and to learn how to swim (swimming because it just makes sense to know how to save myself and others and because I badly want to be a scuba diver).
So, in my attempt to run my first half marathon, I began by walking for a few minutes everyday. I walked for a couple of days and then decided that I would give running a shot. At first, it was rather hard because I had not run in so long. My legs ached, I was out of breath and honestly felt like a backpacker with several months supply worth of items trying to climb a mountain without training. However, I was determined and did not give up in spite of how weary I felt. I ran everyday and with time I realized I could run longer and actually enjoy the sport. When I began, I would run a mile in 14 minutes and in the space of two weeks, I watched my time go down to about 10 minutes. I'm still aiming for 8 but that's another post. Interestingly, my daydreams and spaced out moments shifted slowly to athletic gear; Lululemon, The Nike Store, and the workout section at Marshalls and T.J. Maxx. I even surprised myself by joining a running club that met at 5:30am in the morning.
What I learned though about running is that running a race or preparing for a race is quite similar to life. When I first started running, I called my best friend who is quite the runner and has completed a marathon to ask how fast she could run a mile. I then called my sister and asked the same question. Initially I felt a bit defeated because there I was running a mile in 14minutes and on my bad days 15 minutes when they were almost nearing single digits. I was even more exasperated when my almost sixty-year old mother said she could cover a mile in 15 minutes. There I was in the same bracket as an almost retiree!
Foolishly, I forgot to take into account that both my friend and sister had been running for several years while I had only just picked up the sport after a hiatus lasting amost a decade and half. I had to learn that my journey was all mine and that trying to judge myself as a runner against their accomplishments would only bring me ruin. Realizing this was my journey was further heightened by a popular quote by Einstein on fish, geniuses and tree climbing. Even though my application of the quote was somewhat out of context in regards to my attempts to be a better runner, it freed me to run on my own terms and at my own pace.
And truly that is how life is. We need to run on our own terms and at the pace that's right for us in spite of what others around us might be doing (however I do not mean this as a license to be irresponsible with our choices in life, certain things should be done at certain times in life). My first race was a 5k I ran with a friend. When the race started we ran together and encouraged each other to keep going. Eventually she ran ahead of me and I was behind struggling to keep going. I finally caught up with her and outran her because I take very long strides and just generally walk rather fast. We played this little dance and finally in the last mile, we ran in stride. Running in stride allowed us to converse and encourage each other, and in doing so the race did not seem as daunting or tiring because we were in it together. When I wanted to stop and walk, she encouraged me to keep going and I was able to do the same for her as well. We watched as others ran by us, but we kept going knowing we were not in a contest with any other runners but were in the race for individual reasons.
After the race, I was able to reflect on how it mirrored life. Life really is not a sprint, but rather a marathon. Running in the race called life looks different for everyone. We're all built differently physically in terms of athletic prowess and even more so in life. Further, everyone knows what they are aiming for and it would be great folly to measure our progress based on that of others. Further, there's honeslty no merit in trying to outrun anyone, because our understanding of why they run or why they are in the race is quite limited. Also, having a running buddy is invaluable because they help bring something out in us that was already there to begin with. They don't make us any better, but simply by running alongside us, they help us believe that we can accomplish feats we once thought impossible. What's interesting though is that sometimes we have to and need to run alone and that is okay because there is no limit to the encouragement we can supply ourselves from within. Ask King David who knew how to encourage himself.
Thus, as I hit the refresh button to keep up with the results coming in from around the country as yesterday was Election Day, I am reminded again that the race to either the House or Senate or other offices did not begin with the candidates waking up a week ago and deciding to run for office. Running for most took months of campaigning, building a team, raising funds, running out of energy, desperately wanting to quit, but still finding the resolve to run until the stop sign, until the lamppost or not stop until the lake was circled and remembering that the race whatever it is continues with every sun rise.