I am in such a strange mood since yesterday. It is starting to sink in that I am 2 days away from my very first half-marathon. It has made me nostalgic, philosophical and nervous all at the same time. I just need to get out some of my thoughts.
Last night I got my final run done before Sunday. I ran a 2.83 mile loop (which I thought was 3 miles even until I mapped it when I got home) at a pretty good, consistent pace. No real walk breaks, other than for stop lights and one time to let the feeling back into my right foot. It may have only been 2.83 miles, but I did 13.1 miles worth of thinking during that time.
First, let me rewind to a couple nights ago. My family and I were leaving one of our favorite restaurants, that happens to be in a strip mall near our house. As we were pulling out of the driveway of the strip mall, we had to wait for a runner to cross.
This isn’t unusual in our neck of the woods this time of year – there are typically many people out running, jogging, walking, biking etc. But it was the particular runner that was different.
It was a man – maybe late 40’s or early 50’s. He was a large man. How large, I can’t venture a guess, but he wasn’t petite. He was dressed in all black – sleeveless shirt and knit shorts. He had a black armband with an MP3 player strapped to his arm. He topped off his ensemble with a black sweat band to catch the sweat pouring down his face. He was different from most of the other runners I usually encounter.
As we waited for him to shuffle across the driveway (and yes, I mean shuffle – however, it is descriptive only – no negative connotation) I said to my hubby – “Now I actually think I could beat him.”
Hubby responded: “Well, at least he is out there running” to which I immediately explained that I was in no way ridiculing or poking fun of this man. On the contrary, I explained to hubby that this particular man was more inspiring to me than any runner who could knock down a 7 minute mile without thinking. My comment was meant to be more self-depricating, in fact, as I am fully aware that there aren’t many people that run slower than me. With that cleared up, we drove home.
Fast forward to last night: I am about a mile and a half into my run when my right foot goes numb. So I stop at a corner to stretch it out and let the feeling come back. I am almost ready to continue when I notice someone coming up the other side of the street, toward the corner where I am standing.
It was the same man.
I know that he saw me standing right under the street light, yet I started to wave and I noticed he had his head down, eyes down, and slightly pointed away from me into the bushes. I stood there for a second or two, waiting for him to look up – but he never did. He reached the corner and continued shuffling down the street. I could hear his feet on the pavement as he rounded the corner and went on his way.
I started running again, and my brain was flooding. I was disappointed that this man wouldn’t acknowledge my presence, when all I really wanted to do was encourage him with a “hey, how ya doing?”
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. This man reminded me of someone. Someone I haven’t seen for a very long time. Someone that used to run at night…wearing all black (despite the safety issues)…..shuffling down the street and refusing to meet the gaze of any passers by. Someone that used to run at night, in all black, simply to avoid being seen and acknowledged by others. Someone that was so embarrassed by their running ability (or lack thereof) that this was the only to keep their new hobby “secret.”
This man reminded me of MYSELF.
Even down to the sound of his shuffling feet – it was ME.
Lisa and I even talked about this on our Monday night run. We have both been closet runners, in the dark of night all because we were embarrassed or ashamed. I think there are others too – maybe Jeff, maybe Dan…..any of us who struggle or have struggled to balance being an overweight, rookie runner.
Yet there comes a time…..somewhere, some time….when we finally get the courage to let our guard down….let our insecurities fade away….and let our running abilities (or lack of) hang out there for all the world to see. We enter races, we find running groups, we run during the daylight hours on a public street….and we make our running, joggling or shuffling a public sport and say screw anyone who tries to bring us down. We become confident and determined no matter how slow we are or how much overweight we remain. Somewhere, some time, we decide that we are RUNNERS.
I can’t pinpoint the day or time when this happened for me, but it did. And my thoughts immediately shifted to all the great things that the future holds for this Man in Black who has the courage to get out and run. Someday he will run during the daytime, maybe even with another runner. Someday he will wear an appropriate night-time color – even like my white running shirt that is disgustingly the most UNflattering thing I own. Someday he will meet me or another runner on the street and not look the other direction. Maybe he will even wave and say hello.
I got teary thinking of this Man in Black as I went on my way, mostly because he was a reminder of how far I have come. I often tend to focus on where I am NOT….instead of where I AM and how far that is from where I STARTED. Those are the things that should be important to me and my running.
Big Sur has made me nostalgic. I re-read my race reports from my very first 5K race, and the 12K race last September. Those reports remind me of how far I have come; Big Sur is here to remind me of how far I have to go. I want them linked to my blog “for the record” so I never lose sight of my running past.
Micheline and I have spent the last couple days talking about all the logistics of this weekend, and it has finally sunk in. I am running a Half Marathon on Sunday.
It has potential to be cold, rainy and wet.
It has potential for me to spend quality time with my buddy who I don’t get to see nearly enough.
It has potential to kick my butt as my longest run ever.
It has potential for me to give my kids something to be proud of their mom for.
But it is CERTAIN to be FANTASTIC!