Me running

Rachel the runner, Grade 7 (1980), Merrickville Public School, Ontario

As some of you know, yesterday I made a big decision:

I am going to train for a 5K race. Then I am going to run the James Page sponsored “Blubber Run” in Minneapolis on September 11th.

It’s a big decision for me because I haven’t run anywhere, for anything (except maybe to save my son from running into the street) since 1988. That’s 22 years. A long time.

But there was a time when I was a runner, and I competed in long distance running. I actually came in 6th once at a meet. Since my career was short, and I was only 12, I was pretty pleased.

I loved the tranquility of running the trails through the woods behind my elementary school in rural Ontario. Setting my own pace, focusing on each point along the path, reaching the end and feeling that sense of satisfaction; it was all so wonderful that I didn’t even need anyone to know that I had done it.

As opposed to group sports like baseball (hiding waaaay out in the outfield during PE class so that I didn’t have to try to catch the ball) and volleyball (covering my head since I was terrified of getting hit), and pretty much anything else (always getting picked last for teams and being made fun of throughout every single class),  distance running was my saving grace in elementary school.

When I entered high school, gym was optional. And since I felt much more confident about my skills in academics, languages and art, and I didn’t relish being mocked any longer than I had to, I eliminated organized athletics from my life. I began to feel that my identity was almost exclusively about grades and good behavior. While my siblings were successful in many sports throughout the years, I acted disinterested in pursuing anything myself. Because I believed that I was actually not capable of it.

My lack of confidence physically has made me sad over the years, and I have felt that I was missing a really important aspect of my whole self. I have tried a few activities (80s aerobics, anyone?), but nearly constant depression and anxiety, pregnancy and postpartum, and the impact of being a mom while working long hours outside the home conspired against being consistently active. Energy to do anything was (as my friend Margaret would say) “scarcer than a hen’s teeth.” And, taking anti-depressants combined with the natural effects of aging caused me to gain weight. None of which made me want to put on a tight outfit and go out in public.

Now that my moods have been so much better for a couple of years, I stay pretty active with daily gardening during the summer months and I take a yoga class at least once a week year-round. I will continue to enjoy and challenge myself with yoga for the rest of my life. It is so good for me.

But I am yearning to push my nearly 42 year old body further. I want to give that 7th grade girl a shot at being a runner again. By stepping out to do this, I am staring down a long-held lie (the one that says that I am simply not athletic) and laughing in the face of my sports-related insecurity and fear of public failure. I am taking back the joy I once had.

Though clearly I know that not every minute of this process is going to feel joyful.

Why do I dare to think that I can do this?

Because my heart tells me that the time is right. Because I am well for the first time in years, and I want to celebrate my life and my body. Because I’m 40, not 80, and I still have the opportunity. Because I’m grateful. Because once I set my mind to something…

Because I am determined to find new ways to be me in the world.

new ways to be me in the world

The title of a scrapbook I created about 5 years ago. Inside, I expressed my desire to rediscover my sporty self.

The details of my plan:

I found out about the online program, Couch to 5K, and that’s where I will get my training schedule and links to podcasts I can download to guide my alternating jogging/walking/running program. Couch to 5K promises that only 30 minutes, 3 times a week, for 9 weeks will get me where I want to go.

My ultimate goal is to run the Get Ready to Rock race on September 11th. I’ve picked this one simply because it’s a local race that has a 5K option and is closest to my 9-week ending date (I’m starting Monday), with a bit of a buffer for a training day missed here or there.

I am going to further motivate myself and ensure that I don’t back out by running to raise funds for my Michelle Project sisterhood. If you would like to sponsor the MP through my run in some way, that would be great!

An unexpected bonus: Four of my girlfriends say that they are going to run it with me, and we are going to reward ourselves with something fabulous once we reach our goal. Way to go Lea, Anna, Michelle and Lizzie!

If you want to come on September 11th, you can see me, running.

Just one more question: Does anyone have an 80s vintage Adidas tracksuit I can borrow? I can take care of the pigtails myself. After all, if I’m going to be 12, I plan to look the part.