She is an athlete.

I’m signed up to run a race two weeks from Saturday.  A race.  Me.  A part of me is wondering what could have possessed me.  It’s a ‘fun run’–ha, 6 months ago I’d have told you ‘fun’ and ‘run’ don’t belong in the same sentence.  It’s only 2.5 miles, a run/walk with a holiday theme: running Santas, choirs every half-mile, etc.  I picked it not for the fun atmosphere, but simply because it was the very shortest race in my area at the end of 2010.

Back in August when I started running, I wasn’t convinced I could do it but really.really wanted to be a success.  I hoped with a race to run, I’d actually get out there and run, even when it was tempting to skip. And I have been getting out there, and I’ve been enjoying it, enough that I think I’d be running even if it wasn’t for the race.

But a few weeks ago it hit me fully that I’ll actually be racing with – against? – people. My sister is running with me, and my sister-in-law is running with my nieces.  A friend is running too, a natural athlete who has always enjoyed running.  That is so not me.   The only C’s I ever got in high school were in P.E.  I am not a natural athlete.

Problem is, I’m used to being good decent at most of what I attempt.  So as I get closer to the race date, it’s been hard to face reality. Yes, I’ve been working hard for 4 months.  But the cold hard fact is this: I’m not going to be competitive with anybody but walkers.  My goals are simple– that I can finish,  and that I won’t look half-dead at the finish.  Don’t laugh too hard, but I’d really prefer not to even look sweaty.

However in sorting out my feelings about this whole racing thing, and trying to figure out why I’m actually looking forward to it, I realized it’s not my friends or my sisters or a bunch of strangers that I’m racing against.  The person I am racing is my old self.   The self who always hated running.  Who didn’t think she’d ever run a mile without quitting.

I am running to prove to the old me that she was wrong about the ability of her body.  I want to prove to her that she can be strong, that she can grit through when the going gets tough, and that she can find joy the challenge of it.   The challenge of becoming a different person than she ever expected to be.

A year ago I couldn’t (wouldn’t?) run 500 feet.  Four months ago a mile took me 15:30.  Today I ran a mile in 10:44.  Not fast by most standards, but for me a rousing success.  Faster motion is only one of the benefits I’m seeing.  I’ve got more energy, looser jeans, a better attitude about life in general.  I’m waving goodbye to my old self.  And yet I am also bringing her forward into this new place, amazing her with the ability she possessed all along.

Because, even though she’s not the best or the strongest or the fastest, she is an athlete.


  1. Way to go!! I am just so proud of you, and I really don’t even know you!! 😛 I do know what an accomplishmemnt it is to go from a non-athlete to a runner. God has given you an amazing body and you are wonderfully and fearfully made. (That’s what I repeat to myself when I run!) Anyway, snow has brought an end to my running for now. I have told myself that 2011 is the year I will run a race. I’m both excited and scared! I look forward to reading about your run!

  2. Thanks for the inspiration. I was asked to be the aid in tennis, since I had no natural ability:) I’ve intermittently started working out and riding my bike in the last couple of years. You very eloquently express what I’ve felt about the intangible benefits that come from getting stronger. Thanks for continuing to chronicle your story.

  3. I think you’re going to do great. Your 10:44 might not be a world record, but it’s a whole third less than when you started. A THIRD. That’s impressive!

  4. I love your running posts. I have wanted to be a runner for several years. You have encouraged me to just get out and do it. You are faster (and older) than me. I often tell myself something from one of your previous posts. It’s just putting one foot in front of the other. I can do this. Good luck on the race! I’m looking forward to hearing about it.

  5. Mary, that is awesome and I am proud of you, as I am certain everyone else here is, as is your family.

    I love reading about how you are discovering your inner strength and going out there and doing it.

    You go, girl!

  6. Awesome, Mary. What an inspiration!! 🙂
    I’m looking forward to being there with you.
    And trust me, there’s no need to worry about
    running “against” me. 🙂 I’ll be thrilled if
    I can even keep up with you.

    Love, Rach

  7. Yes, you are an inspiration! After reading about your new endeavors a couple months ago, my 7 year old and I decided to use the couch to 5K program to prepare for our local Thanksgiving 5K that we’ve walked previous years. I never would have gotten up at 6 am 3 mornings a week to run if it hadn’t been for my your running partner (who is a very early riser. 🙂 And I haven’t run since before he was born. We didn’t get to the end of the program by the time of the race, but we did end up running it (with 3 1-minute walk breaks) and finished in 39min. 32 sec. – barely under our goal of doing it in 40 minutes! So when you say you are able to now run a mile in 10.5 min, you’d definitely beat me, and probably many other runners. Go and have a great time – you’ll probably surprised yourself, and you might get bitten by the road race bug.

  8. Hey Mary, keep up the good work and try not to worry too much about the competition aspect. Yes, people at the race are competing against each other but the bigger competition is against Father Time. We’re all trying to outrun him, and be here as well as we can and as long as we can for the people we love. So you are running with your fellow racers as much as you are against them. Have fun.

  9. Yes, SHE is!!! Woop, woop-so proud of you!!!

  10. Mary,Like others have mentioned, you are an inspiration and I really enjoy your running posts. A few weeks before Thanksgiving my older daughter and her husband told me that they were going to run in the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day. They were actually encouraging my younger daughter to run with them. Eventually my younger daughter and I decided to do it together and for the 3 weeks before Thanksgiving we got up 3-4 days a week and ran (jogged…slowly) for 3.1 miles. Then came the big day. I was sure I’d be the slowest person out there but to my surprise I actually passed a couple of people! Being out with all the other runners really gets the adrenaline flowing through your body and the run was easier than any other. Thanks for writing about your running journey…it’s nice to know that our bodies can do things we didn’t believe possible. I know you’ll do great at your race and can’t wait to read about it.

  11. When I ran my 5k, my friend said, “So you’ll be running with me?” I thought ‘with’ was too strong a word. I told him to run the course 3 times, turn around, and I’d be right behind him. His time was under 15 minutes. Mine was around 40. He won a medal. I finished. We both succeeded.

    Enjoy your race. I’m proud of you!