As I came to the end of my warm up, I approached the track from a path that overlooked it slightly. The day was absolutely gorgeous, and I had already noticed quite a few other people out in the park enjoying the sunlight. I should add that my usual routine is to go early, around when the sun is rising- so not surprisingly there are very few other folks making use of the park while I am there. Back to approaching the track- I notice baseball practice is going on, so is softball practice, comparatively there are ALOT of people. I start feeling self conscious about the all out intervals I'm about to run- how silly I might look, how loudly I might gasp to catch my breath- than I see a large group of jr. high kids have walked over from the school next door and they seem ready to hang out at the track during their lunch period. Immediately I think, "GREAT. We're going to get in each other's way. I'm going to get heckled for being the crazy lady in purple lycra. Maybe this isn't a good idea." I'm already at the gate though, so I go in. I've also already got the interval times entered into my watch, so I hit GO and the beeping counts down..and I'm off on my first lap.
I take an outside lane and the pack of kids walking the track stays on the inside- we peacefully share the track for a couple more laps. Then the kids break into smaller friend groups: some hanging out on the benches talking, some playing football in the center field, several laying in the grass, a few still walking the track. So far, so good. Except that my mind is going wild with negative thoughts directed at myself: "Who do I think I am, trying to act like I'm fast? My legs are way too short and thick. I am too short and thick. My pants are too tight. Everyone can hear how hard I am breathing." and so on. And then my thoughts are broken as I run past a group of girls and hear one of them say in an admiring way, "She's so fast!". Now- that "fast" was all in the eye of the beholder, but today I was proud to hear it and claim it.
It went to heart- in a reality check type way. The past several weeks I 've struggled with a lot of really negative thoughts and self-doubt; today was no exception. Until I was there just running my little heart out in front of everyone on this gorgeous day at this really great park in my very own neighborhood. I had everything (and more) that I needed to accomplish exactly what I set out to do: the right shoes, the right clothes, the time, perfect weather, a fancy running watch, access to an excellent track- and yet I almost talked myself out of the whole experience because I was scared. So I am the one holding myself back these days.
I kept running: all out sprints then recovering. That one girl's comment successfully shifted my mind's gears. Not only did I badly need to get out of my own head, I needed to be aware of what these kids were seeing as they watched me. They saw a woman who does not have a perfectly lean, long legged runner/ model's body out there pushing herself. Choosing to work hard and not give up, despite the huffing and puffing or jiggly thighs and lots of strangers looking on. Not only did they see that- but at least a few thought it was even something worth complimenting. I can think of no better example I could hope to offer teenage girls in such a natural, simple way. I am so lucky to have the ability to be involved in the sport of running. I am grateful to be reminded that everything, even just a workout, is about more than just self, and that life is far too good to let fear hold you captive.