Driving on the expressway on my way to Miami Beach almost 6 years ago, I saw a billboard advertising the Tropical 5K. It was the kick off event traditionally held the day before Miami’s enormously popular ING Marathon and Half Marathon race. It occurred to me that, although I’ve never been very athletic and until that point I had never run more than the mandatory 10 minute mile in middle school gym class, this might be something I’d like to try. Maybe it was the fact that I subconsciously felt stifled in an unhealthy relationship or maybe it was just that I was entering my mid twenties and had never really stretched myself to do anything outside of my obligations to school and work but, regardless the motivator behind what I believed to be a crazy decision, I signed myself (and a few girlfriends) up for the race.
Running a race, for those of you who have never done so before, is both exhilarating and addictive, even if you are the last to finish. The crowds, the cheering, the seemingly imperative task of finishing strong, it all goes to your head… and believe me, it went to mine. I needed to race again and I needed to be better! My sister and I entered and ran in a race about every 2 weeks that season. After that, I found a local running store that was hosting a training group and joined.
Who knew that a billboard could have led me to run dozens of 5 and 10Ks, 9 half marathons and one full?
I quickly came to realize, however, that although the feeling you get when achieving a new goal or crossing that finish line is priceless, not every part of the race is fun and almost no part of the race or the training season is easy. I began to repeat mantras to myself to keep focused and motivated. They’ve changed with every stage of my life since I started running… sometimes a phrase, sometimes a prayer. My first mantra, “I may not want to but, I can, and I will,” was something that my sister and I would giggle about but repeated loudly together as we would really start feeling that lactic acid build up towards the end of our races that first year. My mantra last year, however, has been “This is for me.”
On a personal level, last year was one of the most difficult yet formative of my life. I had suffered a miscarriage and, soon thereafter, ended the 8 year relationship I had with my now-ex-husband. Suffice it to say, however, that the sequence of events that transpired had hit a SERIOUS restart button on my life.
I was no longer someone’s wife and I was no longer going to be someone’s mother. I had moved to Boca Raton to be close to my parents for their support but, this meant that I was no longer near my friends. I was overweight from the pregnancy, so I no longer felt attractive. I felt confused, betrayed and deceived. Everything I had attempted to create had been taken from me.
I still believed on a very fundamental level, however, that the life that I wanted for myself was a possibility for me. It just wasn’t going to happen the way I had planned. I guess that’s what faith is, though. It’s belief beyond reason and peace beyond understanding. And from MY understanding, the only one that rebuild and recreate my life was ME.
The first step would be to redefine, or maybe just more correctly define, who I was. I needed to feel liberated and open myself up to the possibilities of whatever this new life had in store for me. I needed to realize that, although recent life events had left me feeling betrayed by them, my mind and body WERE capable of achieving great things, things that most could not achieve. I needed to run, and I needed to run for me.
I joined a local running group near my new home in hopes that I would make friendships and get a jump start back into being healthy and happy. Every bit of endurance I rebuilt to run one mile further was for ME. Every friendly conversation or kind connection I encountered while on a run was for ME. Every step closer I got to the new definition of who I wanted to become was for ME.
That’s why running is beyond sport. Just like any life altering event, it is the opportunity to prove to yourself that you can achieve or overcome anything. No matter how slow a pace or short of a distance, it’s all about that inner monologue that either strengthens or weakens your mind-body connection. I found inspiration in my faith that life has something better for me than I can imagine. I believe that I have to be the best possible version of myself in order to own my own happiness. That is why “This is for me.” What inspires you?