I suck at running.
I really wish I could tell you that I’m exaggerating, or that it’s not that bad, but it really is.
We used to run to start our dance team practices in high school, and I was always at the back, always huffing and puffing, always humiliated. I would dread it all day – every moment that I wasn’t running, I was dreading running.
I signed up to run the Color Run months ago, thinking that it would be just the thing to get me motivated.
And it did – about two months after we signed up.
I bought new sneakers, a membership to the gym, and avidly watched the Biggest Loser for inspiration. If they could do it, so could I. I was ready.
I worked my way up to about a mile and a half and couldn’t have been prouder. I never threw up (although I wanted to) and I kept going, consistently.
And two weeks later, I stopped.
I didn’t mean to – life just got busy – and much to my frustration, I haven’t figured out a way to be strong and busy all at the same time.
So the week of the Color Run showed up and I hadn’t run in at least a month.
Everyone told me I’d be fine and that the adrenaline and music and people would be enough to get me through.
I sure hoped so.
The day before the run I went to Chick-fil-a with Kacie and Carl (roommate and boyfriend) and between our meal and our milkshakes we began discussing the next day’s run.
We all agreed that we wanted to take it easy, but as Carl said something about ten minute miles, I almost burst into tears.
At my “peak” of running, I was averaging about a 13-minute mile and I knew that there was no way I could do ten.
I was instantly angry. I felt beaten by something that I’d tried over and over to conquer.
I want to be one of those running people– the kind that talk about their runners high and have the stupid marathon stickers on the backs of their cars.
I want to be the kind of person that can run without stopping – not the one who’s winded and angry in the back, wondering why I still suck after so long.
But still, I was decently optimistic.
There would be music, I thought, and adrenaline. There would be people everywhere and every reason to keep going. Plus – I never run with people and so I thought that the peer pressure in itself would be enough to keep me going.
As the gun went off I felt good – I was keeping pace and feeling optimistic. Maybe if I thought positively or prayed really hard I could run the whole thing. I began picturing my celebratory beer and how I would tell people that I never run but that something just changed that day. “That would be the first day on the way to my marathon”, I thought.
And then we rounded the corner to the 1st kilometer marker. My legs felt like lead and my lungs were burning. I could barely lift my arms and my brain stopped working right after the word “marathon.”
I wanted to keep going, I really did. I’m not a quitter or someone content with a C average. I’m a mind over matter girl, the kind of person that sets high goals and then insists on reaching them.
But as we ran through the orange station, drenched from all sides with orange powder, I started to slow down. And as we emerged from the orange haze, I finally slowed to a walk.
I ran 1K.
I was about to cry. I didn’t want to ruin anyone else’s day and I couldn’t imagine what the others were thinking.
I wanted them to leave me behind. I wanted to finish the race by myself, at my own pace, walking and running the best that I could.
But they didn’t leave.
They slowed to a walk too, and we walked/jogged the rest of the race, talking and laughing the whole time.
As we rounded the corner to the last kilometer we decided to run – to finish out strong. But even with the finish line in sight, I seriously wasn’t going to make it. With a few yards to go, I slowed to a walk and felt that unmistakable shame of not being strong enough.
But within seconds Carl bounded up to me, a swirl of energy, and kissed me – a powdery, sweaty, proud, kiss. He wasn’t at all ashamed to be running (or walk/jogging) next to me.
None of them were.
We crossed the finish line in an explosion of color and then proceeded to have the biggest, messiest dance party with all of the other Color Runners. We were so dirty, so colorful, and so free – dancing and laughing and really living fully.
I’ve never done a 5K before. And running has always been a sore subject for me – that one thing I’ve always wanted to be but have never been able to reach.
But I did have a victory that day.
I ran a 5K, and I walked a 5K. And I danced and played in swirls of color with three of my favorite people in the world. And it was really, really fun.
I guess success is all a matter of perspective.