I went to the Grand Tetons with my sister Jennifer in 2009. It was the same year I had discovered running. I had dropped some lbs., focused on food as fuel, and was just that generally obnoxious runner (you know, the one who runs first thing in the morning…even on vacation?! Gross.) I became an evangelist for distance running. Have you heard the good news?
One morning, before Jen and I went for our 7-mile hike, I went out for a run. Thankfully, I had graduated from the need-to-post-every-run-on-social-media stage (but I get that phase-you're freaking excited-because, when did you ever think you could actually do this?) but, I did like to do my stretches before, after...and then talk about running all day long. It’s a metaphor for life!
Anywho. On our blissful hike through nature, as I talked (loudly) at 100 miles/minute (it was to keep the bears away) about races, pronation, interval training, tapering, food, energy gels, a banana and a half before a race for good luck, my sister abruptly stopped on the trail and smacked me.
Ok, she didn't smack me.
But now, I would have totally understood if she did. She stopped, looked at me and said, "That's great, Em. But I'm just not a runner."
In other words, can you please, for the love of all that is good, stop talking.
Evangelist Emily kicks in, "Why do you say that? How do you know you're not a runner?"
And my voice changes. More energy. I'm moving my hands around. Too many endorphins, folks. Too many.
"Because, I'm not good at it."
"Jen. When have you ever run?" "I don't run. I'm not good at it." "BUT HAVE YOU TRIED?"
"Yeah. For like three days. I stopped within a few blocks. I'm terrible at it. It was the worst two minutes of my life."
I shake my head--like any I-want-you-to-see-the-light! motivational speaker would--and tell her that she needed to commit and then decide.
WHO IS GOOD AT ANYTHING IN A FEW DAYS?
I mean, what would happen if, as a toddler, within the first two or three days we started walking…we fell to the ground and our parents were like "Nope. Not a walker. She's just not a walker. Too wobbly. Too darn wobbly that one. She shall remain a crawler."
Crazy talk. Right? YAH. (I didn't tell Jen that then but I'm telling you that now. Because, it's true.)
I did, however, tell her that at the beginning of the year, I couldn't run one mile without stopping regularly, gasping for breath, hunched over, and scanning the track for the closest trash can. (I never did yak, but it was always comforting knowing my options). It took time. Because no one becomes good at anything over night. Not walkers, not runners. Anything. Within a few months, I ran 5 every morning. It became as routine as brushing my teeth and eating breakfast. I don't talk as much about running anymore--though I still certainly believe everything I preached on the side of that mountain to my sister.
By the way, six months later, she ran her first half marathon. HOLLLLaaaaaHHHH!
And now she runs five every morning. And she got a friend to join her. A friend that said she wasn't a runner either.
Ok. I say all that to say this--last Monday, as I sat in traffic on 5th, [ a pre-SOS ritual], it dawned on me that I'm doing the exact same thing.
HOLY COW. I'm pulling a Jen. I'm totally pulling a Jen.
I shouldn't make my sister a verb. But it makes sense here. So go with me. You know what MY narrative has been since I've been coming to SOS?!
I'm just not good at The Course. It's too much strength, power, high intensity.
It's just not me. Nope. I'm just always going to struggle with The Course.
…and Clocked. Yup. The good Lord just didn't build this body for that.
And the bricks hit me. I’ve been Jenning my classes away at SOS.
BUT as far as The Course is concerned, I'm still a toddler learning how to walk. I can't decide anything yet. I haven't even really tried.
I’ve only attended that class a handful of times! I’ve been walking for like four days!
It's amazing what happens when you have that shift in narrative. And so when I stepped foot into the Grandview studio, I had a different mindset...and was pretty darn excited. I was much gentler on myself. I changed my internal dialogue.
Just keep moving.
Modify the shit out of this class if you need to.
Learn to walk. (Not in front of Gabe, of course, never walk in front of Gabe. The ‘walking’ is metaphorical. Just wanted to be clear on that one).
And you know what? It was my best Course performance yet. I really think I killed it.
It was killing for me.
For others, it may have been an Elaine-shove from Seinfeld. But I thought I slayed. And I was definitely wobbling like a toddler….wanting to suck my thumb from time to time and hide under the ropes and blocks.
When I wanted to stop, that’s when Kimmy and Co. (you know, our amazing trainer who is teaching and ready to pop...and demos all the horror that is The Course WHILE GROWING LIFE INSIDE HER) comes up to me and says “I love that you’re here right now. Because I know this isn’t your thing.”
Or something like that. It was along those lines. I was seeing two of her at that point….or, three since she was growing life. Would that be four? You understand my point.
Panting like a Bernese Mountain dog on a summer day in Arizona. Panting. (Really). I would have lapped up water out of a bowl. Throat’s dry.
And she wasn’t saying ‘You can’t walk’ what she was saying is ‘I know you’re learning how to walk’...and I think it’s amazing. She gave this wobbling dog a wink and left me stronger.
Her words, Gabe’s words, my Course partner, the slight head nods of others, the eye contact during the hard (you know what I’m talking about), the we’re-in-this-together look...it made it feel less like The Course and more like a good ol’ five miles.
For the first time I felt like I was supposed to be there. Not that I was the best, fastest, strongest. But I wasn’t timid.
Now, not every week is going to be a Chariots-Of-Fire moment. In fact, because of the two feet of snow in last week, I had to do my pace run on a Radisson-hotel treadmill in Rochester, New York (glamorous, I know.)...ten feet from the indoor pool...80 degrees, chlorine, and a college basketball team staring at me as they ate lunch and discussed defensive strategy.
What is that lady doing?
Is she only wearing one sock? Where is her other sock? (I forgot it. I came with one sock.)
Won’t she get blisters. (Yes, yes I will).
She doesn’t look well. (That’s how I usually look on pace runs. If I see you next year around this same time, hotel, and treadmill, you will learn...and, if you would pass one Dorito over to congratulate my finish, that would be great).
There will be days you’ll feel like people are staring at you like a zoo animal, or you’ll be running on a relic from the 1980s in imperfect conditions. Taking many walks to the water cooler to refill your paper triangle cup. And those are kind of cool days too because you still made the decision to do it and finish.
When no one was looking…….except some Division II basketball team from Long Island.
If you’re a toddler at running, I encourage you to not give up, to give yourself grace, and to find the strength to continue when things get hard.