It's a week away from The Race for the Roses -Half Marathon, and the doubt started to creep into my mind this morning. I was really struggling with what should have been an "easy" 7 miles.
This will be my fourth half-marathon and I thought by now, the self-doubt would have been replaced by feelings of confidence and competence. Instead, I was questioning my decision to register for this event. I was questioning my ability, whether or not my foot is healed enough from a recent surgery, my training, and even questioning if I should retire from marathons and half-marathons and just hike for fun.
Every step I took felt awkward, heavy and even painful. I've learned from training, when you're feeling like this, it's best to focus on your stride, focus on your form and posture, be mindful of your foot strike, and then feel the transition as your body moves from the uncomfortable clunkity-clunk-clunkity-clunk, to that of a more fluid moving machine. The important thing is to be present and focus.
I was able to re-direct myself and things were just starting to flow when I had to stop at an intersection to wait for the crossing sign to change. This particular intersection is one of the busiest intersections in town and sometimes it can be a very long wait. The crossing signal changed and as I started to re-launch myself, I realized I had lost the flow again.
This time, I couldn't stop my brain fast enough. My mind took off from that present moment and before I knew it, my brain had gone back in time to a little kid's gymnastics meet that I attended several years ago. I attended the meet to support my dear friend's daughter, who is quite the skilled gymnast. My friend's daughter did fantastic but I remember a little girl who just struggled. She more than struggled. The little dear floundered. The poor little sweetie was painfully unskilled. I felt so sorry for her. I didn't know it at the time, but I had it all wrong.
Later, a friend asked about the meet and I told him about the poor little girl and how it had upset me to watch her struggling. I questioned how parents could "do" that to a kid, which caused my friend to question me. I explained that if I had a child, I would never want them to experience humiliation or failure. It was my position that maybe the little girl's parents should have encouraged her to pursue something else, something at which she could be good. Never being one for too many words, but always being the one with the right answer - his response was "fuck it."
I continued to have this internal debate for many years. Would I ever want to be the little girl gymnast? Would I ever want to do something at which I would never be a "winner"? Would I ever want to do something at which I didn't excel, simply for the love of it? Before I started this blog, and before I started doing marathons, my answer was always "no." I only wanted to be good. I only wanted to be a winner.
Just a few hundred yards past that intersection, it all came whooshing at me…I AM that floundering little gymnast. I am that little girl, doing something she clearly wasn't "made" to do, but I'm doing it and I love it! I'm growing and I'm learning and I'm discovering that we learn more from our failure and "humiliation" than we could ever learn from living a life filled with one success after another. Not only am I that little floundering gymnast, but here I am, encouraging you to do the same! I'm telling us both to get out there in that world! So what, if we don't stick our dismount and if we fall flat on our faces?! If we land on our face instead of our feet, then we will just pick ourselves back up again, put our little hands in the air as though we nailed a 10.0, and smile.
After channeling the little floundering gymnast, I regained my stride and my flow and laughed as I was hit with another memory, as a child, in ballet. I was such a big girl and probably painfully out of place. My tutu didn't match the other girls in our recital because I was so big that I couldn't fit the children's tutus. I had to wear a tutu that belonged to our teacher. I realize now that my own parents allowed me to flounder and "fail." That "failure" is one of my greatest memories and I'm so thankful they encouraged me, even when I did things simply for the love of it and even when my love of it was painfully awkward for others to watch.