Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Finding Forty: Redemption Run

It's 1984, some random spring day.  I'm in 9th grade and our school, Elysian Fields High, is hosting a track meet.   Always wanting to be a part of the mix, I'd signed up to run track, despite having zero aptitude for competive running.    My event:  the 3200m run.

While I loved the workouts and being with my best friends, I hated the track meets.   I wasn't good, had zero faith in myself, and felt embarrassed and horrified every single, slow, laborious step around all 8 laps of the track.

On that particular day, I was feeling worse than usual.   It could have been teenage angst or the fact that my heart was about to beat out of my chest because of the diet pills I was taking in an effort to lose weight.   Regardless, on that day, I was miserable.

The race was like all the others in my track career.   Painful and humiliating.   I hated being so slow, feeling like all eyes were on me, pitying my performance.   Rather than endure and perservere, in a moment of impulisivity, I stepped off the track, mid run, and quit.

As soon as my foot hit the grass, I instantly regretted not finishing the race, not seeing through to the end something I'd begun.   I was ashamed and felt like I'd let people coach, my parents, my friends, and more importantly, myself.

Over the years, I've never let go of that moment, despite having now run a full marathon, six half marathons, and a thousand more miles on the streets of my neighborhood and around Austin.

In a moment of self revelation and introspective talk with my oldest son, I told him the story of me not finishing this race and how I'd always regretted that decision.

Without blinking an eye or hesitating, he said, "Well Mom, I think you should run those two miles again the next time we go visit Aunt Michelle."    And I knew that he was onto something.

Fast forward 28 years and I'm standing on the starting line of the Elyisan Fields track.   It's a humid Friday morning in August and this time I'm alone.  I'm 42, not 14 and I'm scared.   I've run two miles a ton of times, but I feel nervous.   I wonder if my legs will be lead, if my self talk will remind me of my failure, if I'll flashback to those moments of loathing and insecurity.

I start my RunKeeper app on my phone and set off.   There will be no wind assistance, but I do get to listen to some of my favorite songs on my running playlist.    Mostly though, I'm listening to myself.

And what I hear is amazing.  

Instead of self hate and doubt, I find that I am awash with love and respect for the woman I've grown to be.

I have a friend who teases me about making everything a metaphor for life, but in this moment, I can't think of a better example.

With each step I take, I am more sure of this.

I'm jogging 2 miles, determined to finish and give it my all.   I have 3 amazing children, 1 marriage that has 'run' it's own beautiful, bittersweet, heartbreaking course,  a heaping handful of regrets, and a lifetime of infinite possibilities.

In this moment, despite the sweat that's pouring into my eyes, salty and wet, I am okay.  Dare I say, even happy?

My life is much like a long distance run.   There are periods of anguish, dull aching pain, free spirited leaps and bounds, and the elusive 'runner's high'.     There are a series of starting guns and personal bests, but also days when walking, crawling, or even staying in bed are the choices I make.

I've learned that there's not just one finish line.   As soon as you cross one threshold, life presents you with another opportunity to decide which path you will take, which course you will traverse.   

My path has been varied, full of moments of heartbreaking pain and happiness so intense you think you can't breathe.   I've known love that overwhelms and overflows.   I am blessed.

The finish line for this particular race on this day looms ahead and I surge towards it.   I know that I'm doing well (for me) and as I step across the line, I'm quite pleased.

I've just run 2.04 miles in 17:06.   Not too shabby for this old girl.   I smile, big and beaming, and pretend I"m 14 again and I've just finished that race, the one I thought I couldn't handle all those years ago.   

There are more finish lines in the distance, more running to do, so much more life to live with all it's pain and glory.

And there I'll be.   Taking it one step at a time.   Moving forward, not stepping off.   

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