Remember the first time you ran a mile?
Neither do I. It must have been in gym class. I was probably the last kid across the finish line. I probably walked for 1/3 of it. But I do remember that I always, always, always sprinted to the finish.
Remember the first time you ran two miles?
I do. It was only a couple years back, actually. I couldn’t swim because my shoulder was injured and I had taken up running to stay in shape. I remember running two miles. I remember it was hard. But the first mile felt easier and I didn’t have to walk. I remember the hill I went flying down toward the finish. I always sprint to the end…
Remember your first race?
I hated the idea of running a 5k. I have always rejected anything remotely typical. I chose a 4.4 mile race instead. My name was second to last for finishing. I’m sure I sprinted to the end. After all, that’s what I do.
Remember that great run you had when you didn’t want to run at all? How about the one where you thought you might throw up? The one that brought tears to your eyes? The one that made your lungs burn? The one that surprised you with how smoothly it went? That best personal record? The worst possible run you ever had?
We mark our way forward with milestones. This is how far I’ve come. This is what I’ve done. I will leave my name as a mark and a memento. Data on a stone along the road.
I found myself wondering about milestone zero last night. Why did you want to run a marathon, Bethany? Where did you begin? Are you running away from something? Or were you just running toward something else? Was it out of something beautiful that you began? Or out of a neediness within you?
I realized that I don’t have much of an expectation about that first marathon at all. I want to run the whole way, but I don’t need to. I realized I’m not as interested in running the marathon event as much as I want to discover each milestone along the way toward it. I want to get to know myself along this journey. It’s an unnatural place for me. I’m not comfortable running. I want to find my feet. I want to stay healthy and strong and still be athletic even in the midst of swimming injury and burnout.
I want to run a marathon, not because I love running, but because I love me.
Each milestone, right now, seems terrible and painful and uninspiring. I collect them for my little data collection and I work at not getting discouraged. It’s not spectacular. It’s not grand or glorious or exciting. It’s not an overnight success story or any kind of impressive speed time. Goodness knows, there won’t be a book or a movie.
It’s just a girl who never thought she could run changing her mind.
Finding her feet.
Being who she is.
Becoming everything she can.
One milestone at a time.