I ran a 5k on Thanksgiving Day last year. Before I give the impression that I am more of a runner than I am – a 5k is 3.1 miles and that is about as far as I can run without stopping. It was my second year to do it and I felt like I was in good condition. I woke up on the morning of the race and oh, was I tired! I got to the starting line and my legs were lead. I changed my focus from how fast I wanted to run to getting across the finish line without passing out. I started with a very slow pace. Most of the runners passed me and I remember thinking, “What am I doing out here?”
At the halfway point of the race, the runners were to make a u-turn at the end of a street and run back the way they came. As I approached the u-turn, all the runners ahead of me were passing me on my left. What I did next wasn’t premeditated, but I am still surprised today by the result. I looked at each runner and smiled –you know a big, happy-to-see-you smile and a few times I said, “Good job!” I laughed at myself because these were the runners ahead of me.
I kept nodding and smiling and then I made the u-turn and braced myself for the slight hill. There were a few runners behind me and I kept smiling at them, too. And instead of feeling each heavy stride, I felt like I was gliding over the road. What I expected to be the hardest part of the run turned into the most enjoyable stretch. Cheering on the other runners changed me. I felt happier, lighter and physically better able to do what minutes before felt impossible. I finished the race, shaved a minute off my time from the year before, and I didn’t pass out. I also walked away with a newfound appreciation for the power of encouragement—receiving it and giving it.
So even though I feel like the new kid on the block today, this is me, with a big smile on my face saying keep up the great work you are doing. For those further along in their writing journey, I am happy to be following in your footsteps and for those just beginning, I am here to say, you can do it!