Growing up, I was not exactly the most athletic kid. Throwing, catching, hitting a ball – not my thing. I didn’t fare much better in gymnastics; I still can’t do a cartwheel. I failed the last level of swimming lessons I was registered in… twice. My parents were very supportive of me trying various sports, but alas, no hidden talent emerged. I hated gym class because it showcased my lack of coordination and speed. The last time I played volleyball, which was in 9th grade, I distinctly remember a player of the opposite team yelling at me to “just get the ball OVER the net!!!”
I joined a gym toward the end of high school. This worked out well because you don’t need lightning-fast reflexes to lift weights. I eventually tried an aerobics class, which, remarkably, was not a total disaster. And then, one summer in college, I decided that someday I would run a half marathon. The idea of becoming a runner felt like the craziest concept I could dream up. Becoming an astrophysicist seemed much more plausible (and, to be frank, probably was). Initially, I persisted more out of sheer stubbornness than any real enjoyment. I liked the idea of being a runner. And, many of my friends at school ran. I didn’t want to be left out when we all discussed routes and times over lunch at the cafeteria.
Gradually, running went from being a painful chore to something more like a moving meditation. I finally understood what people meant by the “runner’s high,” or feeling like they could “run forever.” Slowly, I built my mileage up to distances that had previously seemed utterly insane. The first time I ran ten kilometres, I was by myself at the univeristy track in the evening. I remember digging deep to continue putting one foot in front of the other, telling myself I could complete just one more loop. Finishing ten kilometres felt like conquering the world. I was walking on clouds for weeks. Now, ten kilometres is a casual Sunday run. In recent years, I have completed three half-marathons and a number of 10K and 5K races. Most races, I tend to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack.
The biggest gift running has given me, beyond a more robust cardiovascular system, is the realization that so much of what we accomplish and how we see ourselves is a choice. There are so many things that make me think, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly…” or “That is SO not me…” Spontaneous dancing in public, putting together a well-accessorized outfit, and public speaking all quickly come to mind. Over the course of the upcoming year, I plan to challenge these and many other assumptions I have about myself. Running topped the list for a long time,. Now, it brings such richness to my life. Who knows what else there is out there for me if I just stay open to trying new things.