Thursday, April 7, 2011

I am not afraid. I was born to do this.

I wrote the following in response to an invitation on Kara Goucher's blog.  Let me know if you submit a story too - I'd love to hear it!

For me, running has been like a roadway on my journey out of fear.  It is the path that leads me further from the faulty behaviors and thoughts that have defined me and toward new opportunities and challenges and relationships.

Out of a perceived failure, my relationship with running was birthed.  It was my junior year of high school, and I needed to find a new spring sport.  I was tired of going to softball practice and trying my best, only to sit on the bench for the majority of every game.  My confidence in my athletic ability, and really my confidence in general, was pretty low.  I felt that I did not have any useful skills to contribute to a team.  In my search for another chance, a new opportunity, I decided to try track and field.  After all, there had to be something, some event, where I would be successful.  And there were no try-outs or cuts on the track team.

The first few weeks were really awful, and my first few races miserable failures.  I'm not quite sure why I kept at it, aside from a decision that I had made to not use my running performance, or my seeming lack of ability, to define me.  Somehow, at some point that first season, something clicked.  And I wanted to keep running.  This was a pivotal time for me.  I was growing in endurance and courage.  I was starting to like myself, maybe more for the fact that I faced a primary life fear - the fear that no matter how hard I try, I'm not good enough - and came out on the other side, than for my improvement as a runner.

Well, I've certainly had my ups and downs with running since then - opportunities to run at the Division I level in college and age group victories at road races, along with struggles with anemia and injuries and lack of motivation.  But running continues to be the pathway that God has used to help me to face my fears.  Over the past year, opportunities to run a marathon to bring running water to people in Kenya and to coach a team of elementary school-aged girls with all of their elementary school-aged issues and insecurities have forced me to take a good, long look in the mirror, the reflection revealing the lingering fears - that I'm not capable of educating or informing others, that I'm not really an advocate for those who have no voice, that I'm not interesting or fun.  I'm so grateful for second (and third and fourth) chances, for the  freedom to keep trying.  The sticking with it even when it feels yucky is what brings healing - and hope.  If I have a bad practice with the girls, if they tell me they don't want to run with me, I'm going to keep loving them, and running with them.  I'm going to be OK even if I don't have their love and respect in return for mine. 

All of this has taught me that my lack shouldn't keep me from trying things; just because I wasn't gifted with as much natural ability as other runners doesn't mean that I should quit running my race.  There are definitely days when I don't feel born to run, just like I don't feel born to do lots of other things that I obviously was born to do (like motherhood, but I'll save that subject for another time).  But in keeping at it, I know that I'm growing.  I'm more than growing, I'm really living.  I am not afraid.  I was born to do this.