Lessons from the trail: Arriving

arrived

I started running 22 months ago. When I started I was 235 pounds and couldn’t run a lap. I am now 190 pounds and have run a half marathon without stopping. My pace has fluctuated but has consistently increased. It’s been a long haul, but I have not quit. I have laced up those running shoes no matter what almost every T,TH,S for two years. When I started I thought if I could just run a 9 minute mile, I’d be happy. I was lucky to get a 14 minute mile back then.

Last week, I had a really great “I’ve finally arrived” moment. It went something like this: I was trudging along the trail, doing the best I could and running at what I thought was my typical 10-11 minute per mile pace. I glanced back (as I typically do in case there are any rapists following me) and saw three serious running ladies running towards me all in the latest running fashions. Their fluorescent colors were a dead give away that they were out to own that trail.

I knew they were coming for me. I steeled myself for the assault. Even though they were a good half mile back, I just knew they would be running past me any second. They wouldn’t be sweaty or even winded…they would just fly on by like all the real runners so often do. I told myself for the thousandth time that it didn’t matter. I was on the trail just like them. I was a runner just like them. Heck, we were all wearing the same long distance runner’s water belt and I even had on a fluorescent pink shirt. Showing up is what really mattered, but then something magical happened…they didn’t pass me. I kept on running and forced myself not to look back again. I focused and ran my little heart out. My running app alerted me that I had run another mile. My pace was 8 minutes 30 seconds. What??? No wonder they hadn’t passed me. Several more minutes went by before they finally did pass me. I snapped the above picture (mentally and literally) as the moment was a beautiful one for me.

I took off my headphones and hollered, “I’ve been waiting for you guys. You better pick up your pace, it took you a lot longer than I thought it would. You must be at the end of your marathon.” Yes, I haggled them. I’m obnoxious like that.  I think it is always a good thing to show the skinny runners that us fat runners are serious about our sport too. They chuckled and passed on by as I slowed to snap their perfect silhouettes against the sunset. One lady took a second to turn back and say, “We just started, you’ve probably been out here longer than we have.”

I put my phone back away and ran along behind them for a long time. I ran right behind them for another mile until it was time for me to turn around. Tears came to my eyes as I couldn’t believe that I somehow managed to run at the same pace as the ladies in the big league for several miles.  I didn’t know how that could even be possible. My feelings of pride and self-satisfaction alone powered me the two more miles home when I was stunned to see I had run seven miles at an average of 9.3 minutes per mile. Those girls had put a little pressure on my mind and my body and my legs had responded with ease. I had upped my pace by about a minute per mile and I had gotten pretty dang close to my original “I will have arrived when I get there” goal.

A few days later I ran five miles in a row with my coveted nine minutes per mile pace and last Thursday I ran another four at a 9.5 minutes per mile pace. As I go out and work hard on the trail to keep a hold of this faster pace it is challenging. I am at a new level of competition. It’s competition with myself to see if I can perform at my fullest every time I get on the trail without other runners chasing me and putting on the pressure. I can’t stop thinking of those three runners and thanking them for the push that I didn’t even know I needed.

And my lesson from the trail: I arrived but the fierce sense of satisfaction only lasted for a short moment. I now have a new arrival goal, so I plan to try and just enjoy the journey, it lasts a lot longer than the arrival.

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