This morning I did something I thought I could never do. I ran a race. A 5K race, to be exact (3.1 miles). If you followed my blogging over the Lenten period, you may remember that I have had a fear of running - or, more accurately, a fear of FAILING to run. I had a dream in April that turned the light bulb on those shadows of fear (see my 4/19 blog post), and since then I have been training to run a 5K. This morning was my chance to kick that fear in the face once and for all. And let me tell you, it was exhilarating when I crossed that finish line. But I didn't get there without crossing over some obstacles.
The race has just started. I'm not a fast runner, so I try to stay away from the front of the pack. Even so, lots of people are passing me. It was discouraging, to be honest, to see so many others running at a faster pace than I could maintain and leaving me behind. But I've learned something from all these months of practice: my mind will make or break the race. So I pull my thoughts back and decide that I'm going to endure and keep my pace and race against MYSELF. Because honestly, that's the only race that really mattered to me today.
During my childhood years, we owned a recording of the tortoise and the hare story. I listened to it many times while reading the accompanying storybook. Imagine my surprise when my discouraged thoughts turned to a line from that old story: "Slow and steady wins the race. Slow and steady wins the race."
I'm nearing the finish line. It's less than a half-mile away. Suddenly, I have thoughts of wanting to quit. Physically, I felt good. I had maintained my slow, steady pace for the duration of the race. But my mind and emotions were ready to burst, even though I knew the finish line was a short distance away. I've noticed this phenomenon before.
When I was laboring to bring my daughter into the world, I felt productive, somewhat in control (only somewhat) and excited. Excited, that is, until the final contractions left me reeling and all I wanted to do was give up and find relief. I didn't know it, but I was minutes away from birth. Minutes away from the moment that would end several days of labor. At the point of breakthrough and relief, I almost didn't make it across. But the support of my husband and those present with me in the delivery room carried me through the point of no return.
I thought about that experience today when I felt like quitting so close to the finish line. I told myself to remember that this is what it can feel like. I knew that my emotions and mind were already at the finish line and wanting a release from the pressure. I worked to bring them back to my physical reality - I wasn't finished yet. I remembered how much support I had from others to stay in the moment and give birth to my daughter.
And just then, I saw my husband and son up ahead on the course, wildly cheering me on. Can I tell you that I erupted in tears? Joyful tears?
I finished the race with laughter in my heart and joy on my face, my spirit soaring! I can't think of a better way to cross a finish line.
And, incidentally, I finished a full 1.5 minutes ahead of my previous training record. Take THAT, fear.