It’s pretty exhausting, walking around with a chip on your shoulder, trying to prove people wrong. It can even be pretty tiresome when you’re walking around, trying to prove something to yourself.
But it can also be extremely motivating…like a swift kick in the ass to get you in gear…as in “Oh yeah? Watch this.”
That’s what the last 15 years have been for me, athletically speaking.
Short version: I was the chubby sister, usually the chubby friend, and always the one begging the coach to sit out in phys ed.
Fast forward to my early 20s and a desperate need to get out of my house: I started running. (Well, I started walking and dabbling in a slow painful jog here and there).
When I first started toying with the idea of a 5k, the response was overwhelmingly “3 miles? You sure you can do that?” When I mentioned the possibility of a half-marathon, it turned into laughter and outright mockery.
Short version: I did several 5ks and went on to run two half-marathons (not to mention a couple of sprint-distance adventure races, complete with obstacle courses, mud pits, and mountain biking).
During all of those training runs, when it started to hurt…when I started to wonder if I could keep going…I thought about all of those people, the ones who thought I just couldn’t do it, the ones who said I was not athletic, the ones who--instead of supporting me from the sidelines--placed even more doubt into my already terrified heart.
And I thought about me. I, too, wondered if I could do it. I wondered every race, every mile, every step. More importantly than proving it to all those people, I needed to prove it to myself. Because the truth was that when those people doubted me and I fought back with anger and more mileage, I never admitted that I wasn’t really sure I could do it, either.
There was nothing like crossing the finish line and that feeling of: “Hell yeah.”
I will be running my third half-marathon next week. I am not running this one to prove anything to anyone. This one will be a celebration of the three boys waiting for me at the finish line, and a celebration of Me.
And I gotta tell you: as I logged in my last long training run yesterday, I realized: it’s way harder to put in the work when you’ve got nothing to prove.
When I hit the pavement for mile 1, I was slammed by the pain in my ankles and calves, caused by my insistence (and stupidity) on wearing heels to work for two straight days. I didn't know how I was going to run another eleven. By the time my watch hit the first hour, I was just forcing myself to move forward, to take one step and then another, to just complete the training session. As I struggled, I reached for something to get me through, to motivate me...an inspirational song on my iPod, a vision of myself crossing the finish line next week, some inkling of that desire, that anger, that need to show the world, to show myself that I could do more than I had ever thought possible.
But it didn't come. Instead, the realization hit me: I was no longer That Girl...the one who set out at the start line of her first 5k, more terrified than she'd ever been. After over a decade, I had finally let that insecure, uncoordinated, scared little kid behind. All the people who had doubted me so long ago had either been forcefully removed from my life or had seen me succeed enough times to finally realize that maybe they'd been wrong all along and they should just shut up and cheer goddammit.
As happy as this epiphany made me (I no longer had to do anything I sorta didn't want to just to see if I actually could...I no longer had to log painful hours on the road or the bike just to see if I had the stamina--mentally and physically--to do so...I no longer had to "prove them wrong"), I also felt slightly deflated.
Now I had to finish this damn two and half hour training run out of sheer will.
So now that I've "arrived" in this place in my life, I'm no longer exhausted from walking around with that chip on my shoulder.
Now I'm just exhausted from the damned running.