Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Another weekend, another race

I remind you, gentle reader, that the term "race" here merely means that a group of people are running against the clock. I, on the other hand, am merely running at the same place, with these people, hoping to finish. Although I do enjoy an official time, mine is usually long after my friends have crossed the finish line and cracked open a cold beverage.

At any rate, this weekend the Schaumburg Six (plus one, my sister Kathie) headed to Yorkville, IL (to get there, drive toward the corn, turn left at the cow) for the Sweetness 5K, to benefit the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation. It was hot. For serious. But I was wise. In the cooler, I had packed water, Gatorade ... and water-soaked hand towels that had spent the night in the freezer. So I had that to look forward to.

The race kicked off at 8:15 a.m. at a balmy 80 degrees. We might have been out in the country, but the humidity felt like a good old-fashioned Chicago summer day. I was sweating while I stretched out.

This, ladies and gentlemen was going to be a tough one.

We met up, did our dynamic stretches, and chatted a bit. We introduced ourselves to Jarrett Payton, son of Walter, and got ready to run.

Us, minus Simone, and Jarrett Payton

Did I mention it was hot?

Soon enough, Connie Payton told us it was RACE TIME! Off we went, through the scenic rolling hills of a quaint neighbor hood. Yeah, those hills felt scenic and rolling on the way out, but on the way back? The sun was in our faces and it was uphill all the way, swear to sweet little baby Jesus. But we did it; finished the race with smiles on our faces. Not gonna lie to ya; it felt like an accomplishment.

I've been struggling lately to get back into "athlete" mode. I mean, when do I just let myself accept the title? Do I allow my slow pace to hold me back from feeling like I belong among the athletes? Do I let that shit go, and just run my own race?

My sister Kathie, who also ran this race (and beat Jarret across the finish line), asked me to consider where I've been. "This time last year," she said, "would you even have thought you'd be trying, much less finishing?" No. I wouldn't have. I didn't understand this thing you call running. I didn't see myself with a number on my torso and a smile on my face. I wasn't ... oh, hell ... I wasn't a runner.

Now, I am.

And it has made a huge difference in my life, my self-esteem, the way I feel about myself and my world. It has healed my relationship with myself, allowed me to let go of a lot of baggage, and left me a better person. So when there are moments when I doubt my progress, I'm going to do a little comparison. For example, the following:

This is me on July 30, 2010, completing the Muddy Buddy. (Yes, I realize it looks like someone tried to drown the Michelin Man in the mud. Shut up.) I'm not gonna deny that my face here is one of great joy. That's what it felt like to accomplish the impossible, and my lack of physical health should not diminish the accomplishment. But me, today? So much healthier, in so many ways.

This is me, left, with my sister Kathie, at the Sweetness 5K on June 4, 2011.

In closing, let this serve as a lesson: never doubt the human body's willingness to forgive you for past treatment. Never let anyone tell you, you can't do something. Never stop believing in yourself. Always know that you are so much more than your work, your relationships, and your bank account. Good health is your birthright … but you do have to work for it.

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