Be Willing to Suck At It

So yesterday I did my first real 5k. I’ve done exactly two before, but more in a show-up to get the t-shirt kind of way. Both times I ambled my way socially through the race course, and then deposited myself in front of the Krispy Kreme hospitality tent.

But this time was different. This time I RAN.

Lest you presume this means I must be fit or remotely athletic, let me clear that up now. Not only am I NOT fast, I am the exact opposite of fast. I’m a middle-aged office worker and I sit on my ass professionally for 9+ hours a day, and I’m still hauling around a substantial amount of extra weight that i’m in the process of working off. Rather than primates, i’m pretty sure my closest wild relative would be a tree sloth (or better yet a cubicle sloth, if there were such a creature). For the race, I carefully lined up in the back among the stroller moms and the paraplegics. My main, nay, my only, goal was to finish in an upright position.

So, you may ask, why on earth would a middle-aged cubicle-dwelling tree sloth attempt to run a 5k?

Allow me to explain. About five months ago I started on a personal journey towards better health and self-care. That itself is a long and interesting story for a future blog post. But the short version is, I was shocked to discover that I really, really, REALLY love to run. Which from what I learned in high school gym class 25 years ago, makes no sense. Running is what the gym teachers and later on drill sergeants did to punish us. Runners are lean, whippet fast, knottily muscled people. Computer geeks don’t run. And heavy people shouldn’t run.  We should walk slowly at a steady pace, preferably with an oxygen bottle and a heart rate monitor. Right?

But here’s the thing. I LOVE it. I love it so much I schedule my runs ahead a week and practically drool in anticipation.  As soon as I finish one i’m already looking forward to the next one.

I love the way it challenges me, that my legs start to burn and my heart pumps and my lungs breathe in and out.

I love the ecstatic glow that I get afterwards, the sense of well-being that is unlike anything else I’ve experienced.

I love the way that it has unlocked deep wells of stubbornness and determination in me that I didn’t even know I had. I love doing it even when I suck at it, and I love it enough to get my ass out of bed at 7am on a weekend. And believe me, there’s not much that will motivate me to do that.

Even in the moments I hate it, I love it.

So in short, i’d like to quote one of my favorite tidbits from Barbara Sher: anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Or, as my Martha Beck coaching friends say all the time, be willing to suck at it. I have decided that in the pursuit of doing something awesome, something that lights me up inside and out, I am WILLING to suck at it it. I am willing to FAIL. I am willing to do  and fail over and over again, even while I am discovering new levels of suckitude.

And yesterday I sucked at it in front of 1000+ people, photo journalists, and a news crew. Now, me and my running affair are officially out of the closet.

Even after three months of preparation, the race wasn’t easy. It was hot, & I was surprised when I started by how tired my legs were, & how much I felt like quitting. There was a huge hill right at the beginning that seemed to go on forever. But I kept going, & this is where the stubbornness comes in. By the end of mile 1 I was feeling warmed up & my legs were starting to move. By mile 2, I was feeling like an epic bad-ass.

I wish I could say I had an Chariots of Fire moment, that my adrenaline kicked in and I beat everyone else there. But, I finished 816 out of 864. In my age bracket of 40-44 year old females, I finished #46 out of #46. That’s right, dead last. Along the way I was passed by a 77 year-old woman, and a pregnant woman with a stroller.

But, I FINISHED. And you know what? I beat the pants off my self that was sitting on the couch just four months ago, wishing she could run. I had an awesome time, and I am ready to do it again.

So whether running is your thing or not, my hope for you is that you find THE things that light you up from the inside out. The thing you want to do so badly that you are willing to suck at it. And that, my friend, is something worth pursuing. no matter how bad you are at it.


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