Tomorrow morning, I’ll run my first half marathon. Something that thousands and thousands of other people have done. I will be a part of a team, running for several reasons, all combined into one event. I will be a part “of,” yet running is also one of the most solitary and personal things I’ve ever done. Not personal as in private– it’s very public actually– as I plod down the streets in my town night after night. But personal as in learning things about myself I never would have allowed before.
When I was trying to “be a runner” years ago, I had many obstacles I had created myself, that prevented me from becoming so. I would sign up for 5k’s, full of good intentions, then not prepare for them… and not run them. I stopped telling people I was even trying, because I no longer wanted to admit I hadn’t actually followed through. So when I began something different that included a new way of running, about a year ago, I hesitated to share that I was running in a Thanksgiving Day race. I figured I’d rather tell people after; that if I told people before, it might not happen.
At a school orientation I was at recently, we were asked to go around and introduce ourselves, say what had led us to be sitting there that night, and one interesting or unexpected thing about ourselves. Quickly realizing I was to go third from the end of the group, I knew I had some time to think.
I sat quietly, smiling, listening to everyone talk about their chosen “thing” they deemed “fun” or “interesting” about themselves, yet appropriate enough to mention with a cohort of adult students that they’d be spending the next nine months with. Really, the key was not to scare my classmates off– I knew group work was inevitable, and certain “fun facts” would have a self-pariahing effect, I was sure. I raced through the filing cabinets of my mind. I thought of old information, outdated trivia about myself, or overused. And a lot of things that I wouldn’t (shouldn’t) mention. I usually have an 80’s sitcom theme running through my head. I once caught a thief with my bare hands. Sometimes it looks like I’m concentrating but I’m really deciding whether or not I’d kiss you. I once went a really long time without showering. My dogs sleep on my bed with me. I talk to my plants. I love photographs of abandoned places. I have been known to stockpile products that are expired.
So yeah. I decided that my best option was the mention the ½ marathon.
Some people mentioned former jobs they’d had, planes they had flown, artistic forms they had mastered, such as calligraphy or scrapbooking. Others mentioned socially acceptable topics such as children, former careers, or sports-related interests.
But it was the man sitting two down from me, the only one, in fact, who’d made small talk with me before the start of the evening, who boldly announced that, this past year, just before his 50th birthday, that he’d run his first marathon. As in, FULL marathon. All 26.2 miles.
Everyone gasped. They ooh and ahhed appropriately: a marathon? How long is that? 26 miles right? Running? Wow, that’s amazing.
I felt the Kermit-face come over me, I felt like my big unique story, that thing that was gonna make me “me” had just been reduced by…exactly half…before I could even tell it! DAMMIT.
So there I had it– everyone’s first impression of me would be “the girl at the end of the table who only was training– not even completed, a HALF marathon!” Mine was still in the future; his was accomplished. His glory HAD existed already. He had bragging rights. All I had was my claim to my plan.
And so I claimed my plan. I got some laughs and all smiles when I told my Interesting Thing, in light of the other guy’s story. In fact, many were kind, even approaching me afterwards, offering words of encouragement, as did the marathoner. So many things can bring people together, total strangers, who sit in a room for an hour and learn about their possibilities and connections.
As for today and tomorrow, it’s much like the race. No matter what crazy thoughts are bursting from my brain, I will and can only do one thing at a time, moving forward with the next step and part of the trip. I’m neither greater than or less than anyone else; neither more special or more plain, I’m just another runner. I need to remember I am only a participant in something that is much bigger than me. And that is really amazing.