Settle Into Your Pace Within
Like most things, it started with insecurity.
I signed up for my third Bix 7 on our way home from vacation last year, after a week of comparing every little lump and bump on my thighs to the toned mamas next to me on the beach. I wore an expensive one-piece sucker-inner with cap sleeves, leaving me with an awkward farmer’s tan and constant squirming discomfort, while they appeared to be relaxing quietly and confidently in cute Target bikinis.
And if I’m being honest, in addition to wanting a change for my body, I think I was also looking to validate everything was still normal – or at least could be. I had run this race before, so I could certainly do it again, which obviously would make me the same person I was before life seemingly got the best of me. Clearly.
Do you ever do that – reach outside for validation of what you feel deep down inside? As if somehow you might just find relief and prove yourself wrong.
In my mind, if I could just get myself back in shape, if I could just complete this race again, then I would know I was still OK, despite … life.
Never mind the fact that I weighed 50 pounds more than the girl I was when I ran it seven years ago. Or that I hadn’t run in almost five years. Or the additional commitments requiring my time that happened to be the exact driving source of my current state. Forget the life-changing struggles and celebrations. This was my ticket back.
In the 12 months since registering in the truck on the way home, I’ve learned the definition of “normal” is ever-changing and means something to me now that will never again look the way it did years ago.
I have also come to recognize when life happens the hard way, I have a tendency to carry the weight of my world on my hips … and in my belly, thighs and arms.
For years, I’ve chased the allusive chicken and egg conundrum of the body and heart. Which really must come first?
I had long been in the camp of believing when the body is well the heart will follow, but somewhere in the past year, I switched camps. I cannot pinpoint the date, time or lesson, but it became clear size 8 American Eagle jeans could take off only the sting of what my head tries to process these days. They are no longer the answer to all potential happiness.
I’m adjusting slowly to the realization there simply isn’t enough room on my sleeve for my heart right now. This kind of fullness and emotion apparently requires an entire double-digit dress size.
So why bother to show up to the race, then? Why not just cross it off as a laughable intention to fool and motivate myself?
Well, deep down I know letting this body be still in her excess weight and worry – for me – isn’t healthy either. So in the last few months, just as my camp shifted, so did my mindset about this race. The goal moved from proving my worth to proving my will.
I will keep moving through whatever life is sending me.
I will keep going. I will continue to show up.
I will take one step, then the next, then the next – both in heart and body.
I will not settle into the comfortable discomfort of this pain or this weight.
For the entire morning of the race, I reminded myself of this goal: no need for nerves, just another step forward, movement, a great morning walk/jog. Momentum.
As the race began, though, I found myself quickly seeking someone to pace. Someone who might help me keep my cadence. I immediately fell behind. I panicked, pushing harder than I would normally on my own.
My brain started rolling – “You knew you weren’t ready. You should have trained more. You should have taken this more seriously. You should have been fully committed. You are going to fail.”
Then, just as my head was nearly bringing me to tears, there was a break. Most of the people in front of me turned right, and I saw they were taking the 2-mile route.
There it was – MY SPACE – hiding in the long haul of 7 miles.
I had been racing the wrong people all along. We didn’t even have the same goal.
Then, I looked back and started thinking about those behind me. I had signed up in one group of time, and personal, expectations leaving me struggling at the back of the pack. Had I signed up in another, I would have been leading.
That’s right - I got to choose.
You get to choose.
We decide which races to be a part of and where we wanted to be in them. The only person putting pressure on us to change and keep up is us.
As I walked through mile marker 2, the race leaders coming back in my direction, I realized it was all perspective.
I had gotten caught up in the pace around me, not in me.
The pace within knows when to push harder and when to pull back. The pace within understands the difference between moments of survival and moments of thriving. The pace within draws its strength directly from the heart. The pace within reminds us that we are doing it, that we will.
Those people I was pacing? They were running their own race. They didn’t know me, nor I them. Those mamas on the beach? Same, same, friend. That woman I am convinced has her shit together, the way I imagine I would have if I weren’t experiencing a, b, c? I think you see where we’re headed here.
So I settled into my pace within. I slapped hands of the kids along the race path. I thanked the volunteers handing out water. I did my best to soak up the smiling faces encourage us along the way. I sent pictures to my husband and kids as I passed mile by mile.
And after I finished that race, I packed up my bikini and headed to the beach.
One step at a time.