“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward
A letter I’d write to myself in March of 2012.
Click…you did it. You just hit the submit button on the online registration form for your first half-marathon, as you’ve decided to try to take up running. You’ve always envied runners, but memories of struggling through the four laps around the high-school track to complete the one mile test have always held you back; and now you need a quick convenient way to get a workout in and burn some calories.
You have no idea that what you just committed to is actually about to transform your life. Here are a few things you should know as you struggle through these first few months:
This run, which will initially be so taxing, will soon become a necessity. It will no longer be about a workout for your body; it will become an exercise for your mind.
You will never regret a single run. Some runs will be ten miles and feel like a skip through a park, others may be 3 miles yet be difficult with legs that feel like lead beams and side stitches that make you practice your lamaze breathing to get through. You will not regret a single one. Many a times you will trip and fall… one time you fly a few feet before landing, scraping off a layer of skin off your entire left side body. You’ll get up and keep running the 3 miles back to home while passers by stare at your bloodied legs and arm. When you walk in the door, your daughter will retreat at the sight of your bloody clothes and body while your husband gasps, “what happened?” You won’t regret that run. You will go to work the next day in your pencil skirt and heels, and when asked what happened to your legs, you’ll just answer, “Oh, I fell while I was running.”
You will sweat in buckets, more than you ever thought possible, enough to fill pools and solve California’s drought problem.
Thoughts and memories that you had forgotten or suppressed will suddenly resurface on your runs. You’ll remember being 11 years old and in love with your ballerina teacher. You’ll recall her telling your mom right in front of you that although you are a good dancer, you are gaining weight as your body is developing, and it is “not a ballerina’s body.” You become cognizant that you must have been carrying those words for thirty years. You run with those words and permanently bury them into the pavement.
You will read essays from Kristin Armstrong, a runner and a writer, and her words will impact you and inspire you to keep running and growing as a person. You will feel like she is directly speaking to you. You don’t know who she is now, but one day she will sit by you, her eyes locked on yours, as you tell her how running has changed you.
You’ll start to write again. You’ll find your voice. You’ll realize that the reason you started to write before and stopped was because you were writing about the wrong thing. Writing honestly about what moves you will make you start to listen more. You’ll hear everything that everyone says differently. Nothing around you has changed, but your senses will be awakened to a new world.
You’ll give up sleeping in ever. Your husband will sometimes groan when your alarm goes off at 5:30 am on a Sunday, but then he will watch you run and read what you write. He will see you with new eyes. Despite continuously worrying about your knees, he will be more proud of you than anyone else as he sees you increase your miles and improve your times. While reading your words, he will tell you with tear-filled eyes, that after almost 20 years together, you still surprise him with what you can do.
Running will be the gift that keeps giving, as running through your mental clutter makes you happier than you’ve ever been, gives you the confidence to test your limits and try new things. It will make you start looking for ways to give back.
And each time as you sit to write, you will question yourself, you will struggle for a topic. You’ll sometimes miss those days when you used to just run and NOT write.
Just when you think that you don’t have another single word to say, a silent follower, a sweet young shy girl from 2,983 miles away, will send you a private message saying that your posts have impacted her, made her think, and strive to be better …that you have become her Kristin Armstrong.
That single private message will make every drop of sweat and every mused over word worth it. This post is for you. THANK YOU.