So, I did it. I ran a 5K. It's just the latest in accomplishments that I'm crossing off my birthday list, but this one is a little more special. It represents all sorts of weird things for me: getting healthy, and reaching a goal that I've blabbed about for years, and doing something that doesn't come naturally to me, because running does not come naturally to me. And I think about that sometimes, if I get a compliment about writing or having patience with young kids, that it's almost like cheating because those are natural gifts that I'm somehow lucky enough to have, but it's not something that I really created. It doesn't exist out of sheer will. Running 3.1 miles on a July morning at the weight I am is something I could only do out of sheer will, and for that reason, I'm seriously proud.
I remember being whatever age you are in 4th grade (9?) and having to do the Presidential Fitness Test, which, for a girl like me, was truly a course in humiliation. We had to try to do pull ups and push ups and sit ups and then, oh my god, the mile. At the risk of painting a pathetic picture, I'll admit that I was easily the worst at every single section and I dreaded gym class with a passion. It might have been the reason I tried to go home sick every single day of elementary school- I'm not sure. But I remember huffing and puffing and HATING myself and hating the stupid mile around the stupid track, and always being the last one. I remember- will never, ever forget- the kindness of my patient, encouraging gym teacher, who I doubt wanted to force little bookworm girls with glasses to run a mile four times a year (thanks, President Clinton), and who always clapped, and told me I could do it, and kept impatience out of his voice when I was still going, still the last one on track. His name was Mr. Howard, and I think he might have been friends with my dad, and he is always the teacher I think of when people ask about the pivotal figures from your childhood, even though he taught my least favorite subject of all time.
So today, when I ran 3.1 miles of my own volition and crossed the finish line and grinned at the strangers who told me good job and felt like a rockstar when Milo patted my leg a good five minutes after I was done and said, "You did a good job, Mama," it was really Mr. Howard that I was thinking of. I don't waste time worrying about the kids in my class who were bored waiting for me to finish. I think about Mr. Howard talking to me like an athlete, telling me to pace myself and cautioning me to keep walking, even after I was done ("Are you kidding, Mr. Howard?!) to ward off muscle cramps, and never letting me feel less than any of my classmates. I realize that I extended that same kindness to myself today, when people would pass me or I needed to walk or wanted to sip my water- I knew I could take those breaks and still treat myself like a serious athlete, because I had been taught how to be kind by a serious athlete.
Today I did a run that is shorter than most people's rest day workouts, but I feel like I won the Boston Marathon. I said I would do something, stuck with the training, and beat the imaginary goal time I put in my head. I'm not going to lie and say that I'm a runner now- it's not my favorite form of exercise. My knees hurt. But I'm so happy that I took this THING that I've been remembering crappily from my childhood and then obsessing over in my adult years, and finished it on my own terms.
Thanks for putting up with Facebook updates and Instagram pictures and my years of saying, "I want to do a run!" I don't care if it sounds silly, but the encouragement that I get from old friends and far-flung family members on the internet strengthens me, and I'm so grateful for all of you.