Fifteen years ago I bought a book about how to run a marathon, and I began to run almost every day. But then I stopped. I justified this up and down and sideways, but the bottom line was that I lacked the self-confidence to see my dream reach fruition. Around that time I met my ex-husband and got married, and my running dream was pushed further away as I tried to become the wife I thought I was supposed to be.
It turned out that my ex-husband wanted to run triathlons, and he set out to do so. I stayed home, though, because in his eyes I was too overweight to even attempt training for one. And since my self-esteem was already shaky, every critical word my ex spoke was like a nail in the coffin of my self-worth. He spoke aloud the secret thoughts I whispered to myself, so of course it had to be true.
If you have ever lived with a critical person, then you know what I’m talking about. Those ugly, belittling words became a part of how I viewed myself. As our marriage was ending, I thought my ex was right. I was overweight, unattractive and the choices I wanted for my life would always leave me alone, but some part of me knew that I had to get out if I was ever going to have a chance at living a life as myself.
At that point, I didn’t think about my running dream at all. It was buried with all the other things I figured I would eventually get to once I moved past the day-to-day-just-managing-to-hold-my-shit-together stage that many of us go through in the aftermath of divorce.
Two years later, my running dream returned front and center when two different men entered my life. I had mentioned my running dream in passing, never thinking that they would push it front and center again in my life. Although they had different approaches, they were my loudest cheerleaders. They both became part of the catalyst that made me pull on my running clothes again, and as I pieced together my self-esteem, they bolstered me with their confidence that I could DO this. Even when I thought running a half-marathon was impossible, both of them were absolutely certain I could accomplish this. And some days I believed them more than I believed in my abilities.
This past weekend I found myself awake at 5 a.m. and eating a Power Bar as LH made himself coffee. I felt giddy as I fumbled three times to get my timing chip tied in place on my sneaker. We watched the sun rise as we drove to where the half-marathon would start. It was perfect running weather, chilly and sunny with a slight breeze. I felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety and anticipation. I’m certainly not the fastest runner, but I don’t give up easily. I felt prepared, but I was also apprehensive about the last couple miles of the race. Miles 12 and 13 were uncharted territory for me. Although I had been hypnotized to help me break through a mental block I had about mile 10, I didn’t know what to think beyond that mile marker. I looked at LH and he repeated the words he had been saying since the beginning, “you can do this.”
In the television series Walking Dead, there’s a scene in the first season when a ‘herd’ of zombies comes shuffling down the highway. That’s kind of how it felt when the race started. I began towards the back of the pack. The fastest runners and those running the full marathon started at the front. Even after the shot goes off to start, it takes a little bit of time for everyone to get moving. And at the start, you’re shuffling around slower people to find your pace. At some point further along the race, someone had made a sign that said “RUN LIKE ZOMBIES ARE AFTER YOU.” Apparently I wasn’t the only one with zombies on the brain.
LH met me on the other side of the finish line to take pictures and congratulate me. I think my first words were, “that was the most terrible thing ever.” I was stunned and loopy at the same time, and part of me couldn’t comprehend what I had just achieved. It was later, after I had showered and devoured a plate of eggs and bacon, that it began to sink in that I had run 13.1 miles in an organized race. I had this uncharitable moment when I wanted to call my ex-husband and say, “Fuck you–I am more than you ever imagined. I am more than I ever imagined.” But the race wasn’t about him or his bad opinion. It was about me and making a dream my reality.
I know now, more than I ever did before, that I can do anything I put my mind to. Whether it be lose weight or sell a hundred books… I can do it. I’m only limited by my beliefs, and I’m through thinking I don’t deserve it or that I’m unworthy. I’m done living a limited life based on others’ perceptions of me. I have this one life, this one shot, and I’m going to do my damnedest to live it to my full potential. Watch out world, here I come.