Team 4all will be a team of ten blogger brand ambassadors who will help spread the word about 4all. Here is my submission about how I was motivated to get out there and get fit after decades of cheering from the sidelines!
I remember the very moment I decided, as an almost-56-year-old wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9 and retired high school teacher to begin what I could never have anticipated would happen. Can you follow that? Here goes.
It was September 2008. I was standing in a crowd of hundreds of people at the Finish Line of the CVS Downtown Providence 5k. I had been there before. Many times. Always at the Finish Line, behind the tape and barriers… as a cheering spectator. Each of my 4 children and in-law children have run the CVS 5k, sometimes all of them on the same day. Thousands of runners participate in the CVS 5k, and that year was no exception. The ’08 race day was on a beautiful Fall day, with a brilliant sun shining through the rush of excitement that filled the crisp air. It was mesmerizing. As each runner came up the last hill to the finish, I cheered loudly alongside a total stranger who was standing next to me. She looked to be about my age. We chatted a bit about kids and who we were there to cheer on.
Then the moment happened. Almost in passing, I said to the stranger, “I’d love to do a race some day… and she answered, “Well, why don’t you?”
That simple question, those 4 simple words, crawled into my psyche on that September day. “Well, why don’t you?”
I could have thought a million reasons for why I don’t. Um. I don’t run. I don’t own running shoes, never mind running gear. I’m too old to start. I’d look funny. And hundreds more reasons/excuses. Instead, I went home that same night, found a pair of my daughter’s old running shoes, and I RAN. Not far, mind you. And I thought I was going to die. But I never thought I’m not going to do this. My goal was to surprise my kids and grandkids by running and finishing my first 5k, which happened to be a Halloween 5k, in October, in our son’s neighborhood. Oh, good. Costumes. No-one would know who I was!
I ran each night after that initial run. Each first step was challenging. But I ran a bit further each time. I could feel myself getting stronger. I didn’t even know what a mile felt like, and I didn’t want to get discouraged, so I just ran. Slowly. Methodically. Always making sure I could smile when my run was done. On the day of the Halloween 5k, I felt more nervous and frightened than I could ever remember. There were so many people; not just me and the road. But I did it. I finished right alongside my daughter-in-law Nicole who stayed with me the entire race. Her moral support was a gift. When I crossed that finish line, my FIRST finish line, I thought I was all that and the whole bucket of Halloween candy! And my husband, kids and grandkids were so proud.
That run gave me the confidence to try another 5k. Then another. And another. By the time spring rolled around, I wanted to challenge myself to a Sprint Triathlon. What was I thinking? I didn’t swim. I owned an old bike. But I knew I could run 3.1 miles. I headed to our local YMCA and brushed up on my swimming skills from way, way back in my childhood. I was able to work up from 2 hard laps to 100 consecutive laps… in about 4 months time. I rode my bike all over my town and I printed out a training guide on-line. The training guide (HalHigdon.com) is what made all the difference. I knew when to swim, bike, run… and how far each time. I registered for the Falmouth Sprint Triathlon and began to check off each training day. One day at a time. In July of ’09, I finished my first Sprint Tri to my amazement and to the loud cheering of my family! It was one of my greatest moments to see my husband, kids and grandkids cheering and clapping and yelling, “Go, Grandma, Go!” I must say that I cried tears of joy as I crossed that finish line.
The words of that total stranger at the ’08 CVS 5k began to ring even more loudly in my ears and I registered for a 5-mile run. Then a 10k. Then a Half Marathon. Then the Amica Providence 70.3 Half Ironman. What was I thinking? By then, I was thinking I will do it! And I did. Every one of them. I’ve had my husband and children and grandchildren supporting me in every endeavor. And my Mom, who is almost 86 years old and still walks a mile each day with her walker, up and down the corridors of her senior complex… who waits by the phone to hear every detail after each race is finished!
What I have discovered in these past 2.5 years is that I can do anything… if I train properly, nourish properly, wear the correct gear for what I’m doing and follow a guide that is specifically at my level. I know what this body of mine can do, and I also know what it cannot do. That is my #1 rule: Do What I Can and Love What I’m Doing. Two and a half years ago, if anyone had ever told me that I’d be training for a Full Marathon… 26.2 miles… I would have laughed. Seriously.
But I am. I am gaining power in the New Year by training for the Cox Providence 26.2, on May 1. I still have my little print-outs that I check off each day. I still consider myself a novice. Sometimes I don’t wear a watch. Sometimes I’m not sure of my miles. Many times I don’t wear my iPod… so I can enjoy the beauty and sounds that surround me. Birds. The harbor. Boats. Horses neighing. Kids laughing. Cars swishing by. Passersby who smile and say, “Good for you!” And every single time I go out for a run, even now, the first step is the hardest. The first mile is the hardest. But I know that by mile 2 or so, I will hit my stride. I always tell people my age, who’ve never run before, to take the first step. That’s the challenge. The next step is motivation from taking the first step.
I know now the feeling of confidence in my body. I know the confidence of my mind. I know the feeling of great personal accomplishment. I know when to stop. But most of all, I know the cheers of my family from behind the tape and barriers shouting me on. That cannot be measured!
And I now know, and tell everyone who has ever thought about getting started in a fitness program, that if I can do it, anyone can do it. And all from a stranger’s simple question: Well, why don’t you?
So I ask, Well, why don’t you?!