As a kid, I loved running. I felt powerful with every foot-thumping stride. Of course, my natural inclination was to join the cross country team, and it was great. Our practice runs and warm ups, our chatting during stretching, and our relaxing water sports on those "off" training days, all made it loads of fun. It was pure--not "exercise" at all!
Then, there was a regional race. I was terrified. Loads of kids from schools all over the city, and I was there amongst them! What was I even doing there? I'd played sports my whole life (never really well, but always eagerly!), and I suddenly felt like a fraud. People would know I wasn't really this "athlete" if I gave them the chance to see me run. As scared as I was, I followed the crowd when the race was about to begin. On the verge of panic, the gun sounded and I was off running with everyone else! There I was, actually running, not just at practice but in a race, and I couldn't get the words "fake" and "fraud" out of my head. Not even realizing that I was running the race relatively successfully (I hadn't passed out or fallen yet), my panic reached the next level and I found myself hobbling off to the side, tears in my eyes, as one of the spectators asked me if I was alright and "helped" me to my coach. I can't remember exactly what the excuse was that I gave. Maybe a pulled hamstring or shin splints or a sprained ankle. Regardless, I was out. I was out before I was ever even in, and all because of that stupid fear.
That was 20 years ago, and I've done quite a bit in my life since then, but it was always one of the things that I felt defined me, and I always had the desire to "undefine" myself and "undo" that moment. I realize I can't change what's passed, but I can continually redefine myself in every new moment. So, here I am, with nothing to prove to anyone but myself, and I've signed up for a 5km race. It's in 3 days, and I have no idea whether I'm even remotely ready for it, especially in the allotted time, but I'm doing it. This time, no sprained-pulled-splinted anything. I'm going to run.
Slowly, perhaps, but for the adolescent me, and for the me I am constantly developing, I am doing it.