The First Mile…

Today, I ran “the mile”.

Hearing “the mile” instantly transports me to my 9th grade gym class, which is likely the last time I ran.

Nearly fifteen years later I still have a visual of our gym teacher Mr. O’Meara standing in all his glory at the finish line with a stopwatch in his hand.

He shouted our times into thin air as we passed through two orange cones, signaling another lap.

The public display of my athletic abilities was an obnoxious reminder that I wasn’t cut out for the track team. The stagnant, dewy smell of Mills Pond on an early fall morning still clogs my nostrils and in my mind, I can still see the wet, freshly cut grass beneath my feet – it ruined my perfectly new white Adidas.

It took me by surprise that I would ever want to relive this experience. I had no intentions of running today, tomorrow, or ever for that matter… running isn’t my thing. But today, for just one mile, it was.

I had just finished my workout, an hour incline walk, and some light weight lifting. I was standing at the water fountain when out of nowhere I was t-boned by a series of negative thoughts that sent me on a mental spiral.

In the background, Pandora was still playing but the lyrics were blended together. My thoughts were so loud I couldn’t focus. There had to be a trigger, I thought long and hard about what could have possibly sent me to this ugly headspace.

I got so angry I ripped out my headphones and jumped on the first treadmill I saw. I pressed a preset speed of 5 and took off. All I could hear was “can you though?”

Those three words swirl around in my head every time I revisit the last weekend I saw her. Can. You. Though. Question mark. Those words, still cut as deep as the first time I heard them, three months ago, one week before our prodigious blowout.

At only a 10th of a mile I started to have doubts – with every step I took, I too questioned myself, “could I though?”. My breathing was already labored and I knew that if I didn’t get it under control I wouldn’t make it to the halfway mark.

The anger propelled me into a furry of motivation. If there’s one person in your life that’s supposed to believe in you ( besides your parents ) it’s your best friend. Yet, I found mine criticizing me, in many of life’s fickle categories, including body image.

I can’t recall a time I had body issues. I mean, I’ve never looked in the mirror disgusted. I’ve never fat shamed myself, and I’ve never stopped my weight from doing something, wearing something or being the person I wanted to be.

I wish everyone could feel that way. Every body is beautiful, and everybody can be healthy. Healthy doesn’t come in a one-size fits all look.

Once I got to .4 I felt my anger subside and my excitement grow. I thought to myself, I’m going to do this! I felt the corners of my mouth turn up and I wondered why I had ever doubted myself.

I’m positive the audiobook I’ve been listening to“Girl Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis had something to do with my unprecedented confidence. If you’ve ever questioned yourself, about anything, ever; you should read (or listen to) her book. All I can say is thanks, girl.

At .6 the crippling fear came back, accompanied by its new friend, the leg cramp, which I have since accredited to my daily walking. I hobbled, while still running at a decent speed for the better half of a minute. I pushed through it, and when I found myself at .7, I thanked God it didn’t turn into a full-blown charlie-horse. That would have been an epic scene.

Somewhere after the cramp, and before I reached .8, my inner monologue became crystal clear. Something bigger than me was driving this mile. Adrenaline? God? A disgusting desire to be right? Most likely the latter, I can be pretty juvenile. But whatever it was, it was pure magic, and magic, even as an adult is always an acceptable answer to me.

You know this isn’t about the fact I ran a mile. (Though I’m shamelessly proud of my accomplishment). Every day, millions of incredible people run 5K’s, 10K’s, half marathons, marathons, hell, triathlons! Who am I to gloat about making it 5,280 feet? Yet, my mile and someone else’s marathon has plenty in common because today, at this moment, it has nothing to do with distance.

At this point, I wanted to increase my speed but I considered that I might overdo it. I forced myself to believe the saying “slow and steady wins the race”, yet I knew it wasn’t true, you’ve heard of Usain Bolt, right?

Good thing I wasn’t aiming for an outstanding time, instead I shifted my focus to my thoughts and the fact that I could feel every. part. of my body.

On the home stretch, I sprinted to the finish. I had proven to myself that I could do it; not just run a mile, but anything I set my mind to. I discovered how to get out of my own way, to displace negative thoughts as well as the thoughts of others which do not serve me.

Upon the completion of that mile, her words no longer haunted me. Her words, “can you though” were would never hang over my head as I turned her question into my personal statement: Yes. I. Can.

This powerful little victory is an example of something I set myself up for every day. No matter what challenges are put in front of you, regardless of how big or small they are, or what they are, the value you assign them is the only thing that matters. Do your best, because as you achieve these little victories, you’ll find they are the substance that fuels and propels you towards your bigger hopes and dreams.

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