I recently joined a half-marathon training group in town. The training schedule started last week: 3 miles on Monday (I made it 1.75 before I had to walk, gulping for air); 3 miles on Tuesday (I made it 2 before slowing down to a mere crawl); 3 miles on Thursday (I managed 3 on the treadmill in an air-conditioned gym, at a pace of 12+ minutes per mile). And then the kicker: a 5-mile group run on Saturday morning at 7am.
The night before the first group run, I was so anxious I could barely get to sleep. Who was I to join a half marathon training group if I couldn't even squeeze out a 3-mile run? What if I couldn't finish? What if I had to walk, or cut out a mile or two?
On Saturday, I crawled out of bed at an ungodly hour and faced the even more ungodly humidity of the morning. I met a group of about 20 runners in the park. We set out into the pudding-like air for five miles--a distance that, for most of the group, is a no-brainer, but for me represented a mile mark I haven't hit in over two years.
I told myself I could walk at the 3.5 mile mark.
The training coach beat me to it, though, circling back to run with the stragglers of the group--namely, me--around mile 3. He ran with me for the final two miles, and I, too embarrassed or stubborn or proud or what-have-you to walk, ran with him. I was the last person to return from our five-mile loop.
When we got towards the very end of the route, I said, "I didn't know I could do that."
He said, "I knew you could do that, I just needed to make sure you knew you could, too."
So. This is a post about running, but it's not really about running.
It's about being embarrassed to realize that a virtual stranger, this running coach I'd met only once before, had more faith in me than I had in myself.
It's about challenging myself and being proud when I rise to the challenge.
It's about accepting the fact that no one would have disappointed if I'd had to walk besides me, myself, and I, and understanding that showing up is more important than not failing.
And it's about mile six, and seven, and all the miles yet to come.