When I saw “Portland Marathon” on the back of her shirt I knew I’d made a mistake.
Six weeks earlier I’d signed up to stretch beyond my comfort zone doing something I’d never done before. I would complete a 5 mile run.
I put my plan in place. My first obstacle was verified in the headlines, “Spring Fails to Start in the Midwest.” What is ordinarily a season of cool mornings and evenings was instead a series of shivering rains, sleet, and snow.
Luckily, I previously planned a week on the beach with friends. I pledged a daily run. The cool and the rain followed me to the coast, but I made progress in my training. Upon my return, I plugged away with short runs, still falling behind my intended training schedule.
The morning of the run I arrived early, surprised by few cars. There was no waiting at the check in. As runners stretched and chatted, I studied their bodies. They had that lean, strong look of the people who do this sort of thing because it’s fun. Their smiles and laughter supported my theory.
“Come join us,” said a friendly voice. “We were just talking about how cold it’s been for all of the races we’ve done this year so far.” “So far?” I think to myself. They have been participating in multiple races already? It wasn’t even May. So out of my league, I thought.
I was accustomed to events that had lots of participants from all fitness levels, where my short legs and somewhat senior status could blend in. Those races where no one would notice the style of my running shoes or my tears of overwhelm. Not this day.
Off we went. I focused on being the tortoise rather than the hare. I paid attention to the blue of the sky and the green of the grass. I looked for birds. I paced myself behind other runners. I allowed myself an occasional thirty second walk break.
By the time I hit the half way mark I could no longer hear any runners behind me. Soon a man on a bicycle came from the opposite direction on the trail to check to see if any runners were still out. I wanted to shout out an apology but I didn’t have the breath.
As I approached the final mile I gave sincere thanks to the volunteers along the way. I distracted myself watching the soccer players who by now had filled the nearby fields. My mood began to lighten and I went off the trail for a moment to retrieve a runaway ball.
A few yards from the finish line I recognized my friends Rick and Mark. Avid runners, they had long ago finished but hung around to cheer me as the third to the last to finish.
One hour. Five minutes. Goal met.
Is it time to get outside of your comfort zone?
What will you focus on despite the obstacles?
Who will cheer you across the finish line?