Running for almost three hours gives you lots of time to think. Three weeks ago, during my half-marathon, I spent some of that time thinking about … well … running. Thinking about how much I used to dislike running, and thinking about why that was and how that changed.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a great athlete and never have been. Growing up, I enjoyed sports because I enjoyed being physically active and I especially enjoyed the social aspect of group sports. But competitively, I was always the weak link on the team.
I played church softball where they put me in right field because they knew I didn’t like to catch. If a ball was hit my way, I was more likely to duck and run than open my glove. In middle school, the tennis team coach needed one more person to fill out her team roster and asked me to join. I did, and that entire season I scored ONCE. Not won once, scored once. And that one score came when the other player double-faulted.
The thing is, I still enjoyed playing softball and tennis, but at some point with each sport I would get tired of feeling like the weakest player and move on to other pursuits.
Running was nowhere on my radar. I’ve never been fast on my feet and had zero endurance, so I counted myself out. But as I have now come to learn, you only have to be really good at running if you expect to win. However, if all you want to do is run a race, and if you’re willing to put in some training time, you can be a runner. You can compete. You can be slow, and you can still be awesome.
Once I picked a reasonable training plan, running became pretty simple for me. There was no racket to swing, no ball to hit (or more likely, miss) – there were just my feet and the pavement. As long as I stuck to my training plan, I just had to put one foot in front of the other and will myself forward.
And for someone who likes the social aspect of sports, running is a perfect fit. Runners are generally a supportive, positive group. Because most of us are competing with ourselves to attain a certain goal (distance, pace, etc.) and not competing with or against each other, there are no adversaries. And best of all, there are no weak links.
When I ran the half-marathon, I felt like I was part of one giant team of 23,000 runners. Except for the elite few who actually expected to win, the majority of runners were just happy to be there and hoping for a good race. They didn’t care if I was fast. I wasn’t going to let anyone down if I wasn’t good enough. We just had to put one foot in front of the other and will ourselves forward. And for that, we cheered each other on.
I think I finally found my sport.