Starting What I FinishedYesterday I did something I have never done before. I ran an official 5k race while wearing a number tag with a chip for the computerized timing system. For some runners it was competitive, for others it was for amusement, for some like me it was a personal challenge, and for all of us it was a way to support a worthy charity.
I had set this as my goal a couple of months ago and started training for it. This was a part of my transition from couch potato to healthy, active man. From the outset I had my work cut out for me because I hadn't done much in the way of physical activity for a very long time. The first few times trying to run any distance were pretty humbling and underscored the need for me to continue. This simply was not an acceptable level of fitness.
I started to slowly make progress, alternating running days and weight lifting days. The goals I had set for myself required really pushing myself and it felt pretty good. Then I went too far. I overdid it on stretching on a weight day and my leg muscles were already a little strained. The next day toward the end of my run something was wrong. By the time I got home I could barely walk. I had pulled a hamstring.
It's amazing how much you can learn about something by injuring it. I found out all sorts of things about pulled leg muscles. One consistent thing I found about hamstring issues is that they usually take awhile to heal. My 5k goal was in serious jeopardy as this was only three weeks ago. I had to change my mindset completely about the big race. I was just going to have to see if I could heal enough to actually walk that far.
Having the setback in physical conditioning goals and seeing my weight jump on the bathroom scales from the inflammation and swelling was hard. It's pretty discouraging when you set out to do something and it just doesn't work out the way you hoped and planned. Only six months ago I had been the sarcastic guy about health and fitness "nuts" and now it seemed I was failing in trying to become one. Maybe sarcastic guy had been right?
This whole thing forced me to refocus on why I had started and what was compelling me to continue. It wasn't about a big race, or being competitive. I needed to get in better shape so I could truly live the life that God has given me. If I am to live a commissioned life it was going to take some initiative. Quitting was not an option.
As my leg muscles got better I slowly eased into walking and finally a little bit of jogging. By the beginning of race week I could go the distance again and that made me pretty happy. I was just going to have to take it easy to keep from getting injured all over again.
The race started very well and I actually had to force myself to be careful. I alternated jogging and fast walking and chewed up the first two miles in pretty good personal time. Reality reared it's ugly head at that point as I felt a little familiar strain. I stopped and did some easy stretching and decided I had better forget about time and just walk the last mile. By the time the finish line was in sight my leg was feeling much better so I was able to cross it running. It was a personal victory and the best time I had ever done in an official 5k race. It was the first one I had ever tried so a personal best was inevitable as long as I finished. I finished.
The funny thing for me mentally after watching the awards go out in all of the different categories and then going home was I actually felt really down. I was tired, my leg needed to be iced, and my dreams of personal triumph all seemed to have ended up a bit hollow. So I did the smart thing for that frame of mind and I took a nap.
As I sit here this morning contemplating the whole experience I find myself keenly aware of the dangers of comparing yourself to others and allowing negative interior dialogue to wear you down. The things that I was dwelling on after the race had nothing to do with my personal goals or the reasons I have for needing to be a healthier me. I can't realistically think that I am going to be competitive with people who are trained and seasoned athletes. My only competition is with myself. During and after the race everyone was very encouraging to one another. Why is it that I can't seem to be encouraging to myself? That's just dumb.
Yesterday I did something I have never done before and I am very happy about it. It's a personal victory and a goal accomplished. I am now going to continue moving forward, away from the proverbial couch. I have my own race to run, a life to live, and a gospel to share. The commissioned life initiative is who I am.