Two nights before I ran in Philly’s half marathon, I had a dream that I was running in the Philadelphia Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon. And I was lost. I was running in all sorts of treacherous terrain and all different weather conditions. Running through congested traffic. Running up steep hills covered in ice. Running down dark streets slick with rain. This, actually, was a marathon of a dream. I ran through a subway and as I ran up the steps to the exit I thought to myself, “This is definitely a dream.” I answered myself, “Yeah, but I must need the sleep, so I’ll keep running.” Considerate of me.
On my run I saw my husband who waved enthusiastically, my son who offered me the stingiest sip of coconut water, a group of elderly marathoners with walkers--singing some religious song--and some kind-hearted people who directed me when I said, “Why aren’t there any signs telling us where to go out here?”
Okay, so, yeah, it’s safe to say that I was a bit nervous about running. In fact, on race-night I got about an hour of sleep. Only I could make something fun into something stressful. But why was I such a nutcase—besides the obvious status of my being a writer? My worries were based on the idea that I wasn’t ready. My husband had signed me up for the race a week and a half before. I had mentioned to him that someone I followed on FB—KyleCassidy—was running in the half marathon and that it was something that I’d like to do someday. He was confused about the word someday. That afternoon he sent me an email with the details of my entry into the R-n-R half marathon. I instantly began to panic. I wasn’t ready. I was recovering from an injury. I hadn’t had enough time to practice. I didn’t have the right shoes. I wasn’t familiar with the course. And where were we going to park?
I spoke to a few people about my worries. Okay. Everyone. Including the guy at the running store who took my worries in stride (pun unintended). He said, “How often do you run?” I told him a few times a week with long runs on the weekend. He asked how long. I said generally 11 miles, but that I had done thirteen miles a few days before--but only that one time and only after my husband had signed me up for the stupid race. He nodded at me, holding back the slightest smile, and said, “You’ll be fine.”
I wasn’t convinced. In fact, his show of confidence in me immediately made me doubt his authenticity as a running advisor. Forget the fact that he not only raced himself, and worked in a running store, and was some kind of official on the running circuit, if he thought I was going to be fine, he didn’t know what he was talking about.
I got about an hour of sleep race night. No kidding. At 4:45 I looked at the clock and seriously contemplated not going to the race. I hadn’t slept. I didn’t have the right shoes. I wasn’t comfortable not bringing my own water. I felt a twinge in my neck that might be a recurrence of my dual herniated discs. You get it. What got me up? Coffee. I had set the pot to go off automatically at five. I decided to get up and drink the coffee and if I still felt nervous then that was a sign. I got up. Drank the coffee and because it’s coffee, kids, not Sominex, I was ready to go.
The race? It was so much fun! The music was fantastic. They had bands playing along the route, and people--so many interesting, inspiring, and quirky characters--even some guy who ran while dribbling two basketballs! Soo much fun! I was slow finishing in 2:12, but there was no point during my run where I felt stressed. Not once did I feel like I couldn’t do it. In fact, when I got to the end and someone shouted that there was a mile left, I thought the person was joking. Someone a little further up said the same thing and I realized it was no joke. I was in shock. How could that be? I had so much energy. I felt amazing. I sprinted to the end. Because, as it turned out, I was ready. I had trained. I had been training for years. My nerves had come in part from never having done it and from an injury that had really scared me at the beginning of the summer. But, and here’s the point, I never would have gone to that race if it weren’t for my husband. Self doubt would've stopped me.
My husband is the guy that can’t just go for a hike. He needs to head off the trail to those steep places where we are crouched as we climb up. Where I am shaking as my feet slip under me, and I’m usually mumbling, “If I die, I hope you feel guilty” as I grudgingly follow. But I’m always happy when I’m done. Happy to have tried. It’s the recognizing I’m ready to try that alludes me. I’m lucky to have people who are braver than me, people who push me, drag me, cheer me on my life adventures. Because, I've learned, that’s what makes it easier to push, drag, and cheer on others. So the next time you hear that voice telling you you can't--you'll recognize it by the litany of very reasonable reasons that it gives you for why you shouldn't even try--don’t listen. Trust me, you’ll be fine.