“I could never do that.” The limitations of this statement alone speak volumes. How many times have you said this to yourself? I admit it. I was guilty. “I could never be a runner.” These are words that have been said to me more times than I can count. What many people don’t know is that these words used to slip right off my own tongue.
Whenever my high school softball coach made us run a mile before practice they bounced around in my head, my decision solidified. I was not a runner. It hurt too much. It seemed impossible. I never understood how anyone could enjoy such discomfort!
So what changed? Fast forward about 16 years from my high school softball days and there I was. A lucky mom of two little boys, 5 and 8 years old. Both were involved in wrestling, spending countless hours at practices with the club, working out in the garage, doing far more push ups, sit ups, and conditioning exercises than most adults I knew. Their dedication at such a young age always made my heart burst with pride. We had our share of wins and losses and lessons learned on the mat. Talk about blood, sweat, and tears! At such a young age, learning to handle your raw emotions, no matter what the result of a match, is especially difficult. I spent many a Saturday afternoon watching my child sob uncontrollably, crouching in the corner of a school hallway, defeated and spent. I learned to give them their space, and tend to their needs later once they had been coached by Daddy on how to recover from this defeat. Get back up, dust yourself, off, and work harder next time.
My boys continued to inspire me. Hunter, just 8 years old at the time, qualified for MAWA’s, the Mid Atlantic Wrestling Association national tournament which is a coveted goal for many elementary wrestlers. To help him stay in shape during the weeks leading up to the competition, we thought he should add some running into his workouts. Enter me. Thirty-three years old, ex-soccer and softball player, previously athletic person who just had not made exercise a priority in my adult life. My husband’s knees are not the greatest, so by default it was up to me.
I still remember the afternoon Hunter and I laced up our Nikes and headed out the door for “just a mile”. Everything was going great…for the first quarter mile. And then my lungs started to hurt. I couldn’t breathe. I was uncomfortable. The struggle was real. My child ran effortlessly ahead of me and I had to stop to catch my breath. I started up again, but soon realized a mile wasn’t going to happen. Not for me. Not that day. I continued alternating between walking and trying to run until we completed our mile.
Frustrated and angry with myself for not being able to run a mile without stopping, I realized that this was my chance. My opportunity to practice what we preach. Get back up, dust myself off, and work harder next time. The stubborn side of me had reared its ugly head and I was not a quitter.
The very next day Hunter and I laced up our Nikes, and set out down the road. I had decided to start with small reachable goals. Run the quarter mile I had been able to do yesterday, then go two driveways farther. Each day we set out, we ran another driveway, telephone pole, or mailbox farther. Eventually I reached a mile and we didn’t stop there. A runner had been born. Although I didn’t consider myself one yet (it’s funny how we do that), a fire had been lit inside me. Before I knew it, Hunter and I were running a 1.5 mile loop without stopping, crashing onto the front lawn as soon as we arrived back home. Together we would look up at the sky, trying to catch our breath, with satisfied smiles on our faces.
Not unlike wrestling, running comes with its share of triumph and defeat. The difference is, I am not standing on a mat in front of hundreds of people when a run does not go my way. Hunter went to MAWA’s that year and lost all of his matches. However, 5 years later he stood on that podium in Maryland with a hard earned plaque in his hand. Wrestling is the toughest sport there is, hands down. I am inspired everyday to work harder in my running because of my boys. I have miles to go for them. I will never reach the same level of grit and determination as they have in their sport, but with each mile I get a little closer.