Saturday, September 12, 2009

Strong

This morning I ran my first 5k {3.1 miles} race in almost two years.

And I seriously rocked it.

Most of the exercise I have been doing in the midst of this lifestyle change has been power walking. But sometime in the last few weeks my body has nudged me towards running. Even though I was managing a rather brisk 12:40 minute mile, my legs wanted something faster. So I would run and it felt good. It felt easy. It felt familiar.

You see, I used to be a runner. I begrudgingly ran cross-country in high school but it wasn’t because I enjoyed it or was any good at it. My only thoughts were of college applications and what would look good on a transcript. So I suffered through a few seasons, enjoying the camaraderie of the team but not the fact that I was always one of the last runners to finish a meet.

It wasn’t until the summer before my senior year of college that I began to run just for me. Not for the hopeful approval or connection with my father, not for a felt cloth letter to go on a letterman’s jacket, not for an additional activity to add to my personal resume. I ran just for me and for the strength and confidence it gave me. I grew to love running that summer- the speed, the feeling of pushing my body past what my brain said it was capable of, the amazing accomplishment of miles behind me. I can vividly recall the 5k race I ran at the end of that summer, my first since high school, the Brenner Children's Hospital 5k in Winston-Salem, NC. It ended on a hill and my sister {a gifted and talented runner, a natural} had already finished the race but came back to run with me to the end.

She ran beside me and cheered me on, telling me, “Ok, Lu, you attack this hill like something you hate. What do you hate?”

Giant spiders,” I gasped.

Ok, then,” she replied, “You stomp this hill, you squash it like a giant hairy spider.”

And I did.

That wasn’t the last time she talked me through the end of a race. In 2007, as a 30th birthday gift to me, Allie trained me and gifted me with the opportunity to run in the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, CA. But you can read all about that on my other blog.

I hadn’t really run since completing the marathon. Burned out, weighed down with more trials and transitions than I could count, caught up in self-pity and struggling just to make it emotionally day to day, I lost sight of one of the main things that brings me joy and strength. I let running fall by the wayside and the results have been disappointing on so many levels.

But not anymore.

This morning, I set out to run my first 5k race in two years and to simply finish. The course was deliciously flat and I deliberately paced myself to run ten minute miles, not really knowing what my body was going to be capable of. I had no ambitions to pass folks, to achieve a certain time, to win any sort of prize.

Until I started running. And it felt good and I felt strong and before I knew it, even with my ten minute mile pace, I was steadily passing folks who had sprinted out in front of me at the start of the race. My body was tall and sure, my stride comfortable and the tunes on my iPod were seriously kickin’. Before I knew it, I found myself wanting to pass people. I set my sights on a few runners ahead of me and I picked them off one by one.

{I’m going to take a vanity moment here and tell you that I took great delight in picking off chicks younger and skinnier than me, a high school boy who had boasted at the start and some older gentleman who seriously need to reconsider wearing so much aftershave to a race.}

I hit the last four tenths of a mile and it was like I couldn’t stop my legs. They pushed out in front of me, an automatic response to the strength in me that I wasn’t fully aware was even there. Those last tenths of a mile, my body was on automatic and I don’t know when I have been so keenly aware and in awe of what my muscles were doing. In those moments, I experienced running in an intensely spiritual way that I never have before.

And I think it has changed me.

I stuck around after the race, wanting to hear the results and my official time but not really planning or expecting to have any part in the awards ceremony. But when the overall winning female’s time was seven or eight minutes ahead of mine, I wondered if I might actually place in my age group.

And in the thirty to thirty-four age group for the females, second place goes to Leslie Petree from Signal Mountain.”

So what I’ve learned is that being over thirty has finally paid off. Not just with a red baseball cap with a race logo embroidered on it {which has to be the most random race award I’ve ever seen}, but with a newfound knowledge and awareness about myself that I couldn’t find in my twenties.

I am strong.

I can do hard things.

I will be kind to myself.

13 comments:

  1. Love this. Love you. Proud of your persistence and strength. Seriously AMAZING. :)

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  2. Awesome! So proud of you! I just signed up to run the 1/2 marathon in Memphis in December- hopefully the rear-end will be all healed up by then! Congratulations on the second place- simply awesome.

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  3. AWESOME!!!

    Congratulations!

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  4. That is completely amazing!!! Good for you! :)

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  5. Great post! I, like you, loved moving up to the 30 year old age bracket. There is something that is just not fair about being 29 competing with 20 year olds.

    I'm proud of you!!!

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  6. Congratulations!!

    I like what you said - I CAN do hard things. Awesome!

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  7. So proud of you!!! you've inspired me to increase my own efforts to find strength within my body!

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  8. AWESOME!!!!!! I love it!

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  9. I wish I could've talked to you on the phone longer after you ran this but it was great to read the story here! I might even have a little tear or two in my eyes. :) Love you so much! You never cease to amaze me with your strength!

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  10. LOVE this post. Proud of you, girl!
    You are an inspiration to rest of us who may not feel up to the challenge.
    Hope you are still basking in the glory...

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  11. That is freaking awesome. I'm so glad it felt so good. I'm missing running hardcore right now, and so looking forward to sharing running with my little one next summer. So, when's your next race? :)

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