Saturday morning, I went on my first run with my ten-miler training group. I walked up to the track at 7:55am bundled up against the 27 degree weather and waited for instructions.
I often think new things will be harder to do than they actually are.
On Friday night I almost psyched myself out to the point that I was just going to skip another Saturday morning group run. Instead, I decided I would set my alarm and see how I felt when it went off.
Showing Up: Most of the Battle
At 6:00 Saturday morning I made my way downstairs, started drinking water, practiced my centering prayer…and almost didn’t get off the couch and go to the track.
I decided then that my victory for the day would just be showing up. If I could just get my feet in my new shoes and put them on the ground outside with the group on the coldest day of the year so far, that would be a win.
Even if I didn’t run. Even if I overdressed and was too warm, or underdressed and was too cold, I would show up.
And I did.
When I got there, I realized I wasn’t that cold. I mean, I was cold, let’s be clear, but not unbearably so.
Were my toes a little numb as I made my way around the track the first time? Yeah.
Did my legs feel stiff and slow? Yeah.
Did I eventually warm up? Yeah.
Did I jog four laps without stopping or walking for the first time, maybe ever? Yeah!
I was on the phone with my dad after successfully running my first mile and he mentioned how running in the cold makes his lungs hurt.
It was only then I remembered that usually happens to me too. But Saturday? It didn’t.
It wasn’t even something I remembered to worry about (I was more worried about finding the right pace group, being warm, using my inhaler in enough time, eating the right breakfast, drinking enough water), I totally forgot to worry about this reality I usually face.
I definitely overthought Saturday morning’s run. I tried on multiple different outfit layering scenarios and almost psyched myself out of showing up at all when I couldn’t decide if my leggings were just right.
But I showed up, and was present to my breath and kept asking myself if I could jog one more length of the track. And then one more. And then one more. Until I was done. I said hi to some new people and thanked those volunteering to lead us.
No, my lungs didn’t hurt from the cold, but the arch of my right foot was cramping as I walked my cool-down lap. I found the coach and asked him what he thought. He watched me walk a bit and invited me to stop by his running shop where I bought my shoes so he could adjust the arch support.
After my coach finished fitting my new shoe insole he asked me what I ran. I said, “just a mile” and immediately wished I hadn’t. Of course, he didn’t let it slide. “Don’t do that! It’s not just a mile. Those of you in Group 1 (the newbies) actually are doing the hardest thing because you’re implementing a lifestyle change in a way those in Group 5 & 6 don’t have to.”
He’s right. It was a big deal for me to show up Saturday morning, and an even bigger deal for me to get out on the track and keep jogging until a whole mile was behind me.
I had to take it a step at a time. I had to pay attention to my breathing. I had to keep my pace slow and sustainable. But I did it. And it wasn’t just anything. It was a big step toward a dream I’ve had for at least a decade: being a runner. And I’m proud of myself.
The things I worried about ahead of time weren’t actually an issue; the thing I forgot to worry about wasn’t an issue; the only actual issue I had was solved within the hour because I spoke up and asked for counsel and help.
Thinking about running on Saturday morning was actually a lot harder for me than actually going and running on Saturday morning.
Practicing Presence On & Off the Track
In my centering prayer practice right now my focus word is “presence.” I’m always worrying and planning and trying to mitigate all risk. Running my first mile reminded me that when I am present to the moment I am able to do hard things, even when I haven’t planned for them.
It seems running may become as much of a spiritual practice for me as centering prayer has become.
Not only is my body getting stronger from the exercise, but my discipline is also strengthening, and I expect that over time that will flow into other areas of my life.
But that’s not really why I’m running. I’m running because I feel drawn to it and I’m finding that I enjoy it. I’m running because it is a little bit hard (though not in the ways I expected).
When I push past the hardest part—anticipating the run—I find it’s really a lot more fun than I expected. I would have missed out on that revelation, and all those yet to come, if I hadn’t laced up my shoes and shown up on Saturday morning and proven to myself that I could do the thing I’ve never yet allowed myself to try: run that first mile.
What about you? Is there something out there you’ve always wanted to try but fear of failure or lack of preparation are holding you back? What’s your first mile, and how can you take your first step toward it?