Today is the Sun Run in Vancouver. One of the biggest fun 10K “races” in the world. It’s raining and I’m thankful that I don’t have to brave the crowds downtown. And while the weeks of physio have resulted in a green light to run again after injuring my knee it’ll be awhile before I am back to 10K. If ever.
I first ran the Sun Run five years ago. I wrote this piece afterwards but I’ve never shared it. Mostly because it is linked to my issues with food; which I rarely talk about publicly. Today seems like a good day to push through the fear and be proud of my story.
On April 20, 2008 I ran 10km in the Vancouver Sun Run. One of 59,100 participants. Maybe they all have stories of how they ended up there early on a cold Sunday morning. This is mine.
When I reached out for help in the fall of 2006 I was in a deep well of pain and hopelessness, looking up at a sliver of sky with no idea how to climb out. The food was no longer helping me cope with life and I was unhappy and in despair. With just over two years to go to my 40th birthday, I looked ahead to that milestone with dread and panic. I was barely managing my life now at halfway through. How would I ever manage the next 40 years – if I even had that long?
Gradually, as I began to find the help I needed, I began to have hope again. As I let go of the physical and emotional weight, I began to believe that I could actively live the life I wanted to live, rather than only dreaming about it.
I remembered how much I used to love to run as a child – the sense of freedom, of motion, of feeling how alive my body was. I had dreamt through my 30’s of running the Sun Run the year I turned 40 in April, 2009.
I began to think I could make my running dream come true as well. Having not run for over 20 years, I thought I’d start trying at 39, just in case I “failed” and needed a second try to make it.
It took me 3 days to sign up for the Learn to Run clinic at my local community centre. Three days of feeling the fear of potential failure, three days of berating myself for not doing it and three days of trying to be gentle and encouraging with myself rather than harshly self-judgmental.
The first night of the clinic, a friend had to “talk me in” as I headed to class – scared, nervous and unsure of myself. I worried that I would be the slowest person, that I wouldn’t be able to do it, that the clinic leaders wouldn’t want to stay at the back of the pack with me, that others would judge and think that I shouldn’t be there. I worried about how I looked, what I was wearing, what I sounded like as I was running and whether anyone would want to run with me and be my friend. Somehow, I made it through the first night.
In between weekly classes, I ran twice during the week on my own. I ran at night in the dark so that no one could see me. I kept to the back streets and off the main roads so that other runners and car drivers wouldn’t look at me. But, I kept running and I kept going to class.
One night, about 6 weeks into the clinic, I was really struggling with the group run. I had a cold and as I huffed and puffed along with all my fears and worries weighing me down, I just wanted to quit. To give up and not have to work so hard.
But, that night, in the sky overhead, there was a rare and awe-inspiring sight. A total eclipse of the moon. While we were running, the clouds had dispersed and I had a beautiful view of the full moon as it gradually turned red and darkened into the eclipse. A full moon is a time of energy full and rich with potential. And a lunar eclipse marks a period of profound transformational change that in the past, was viewed with fear.
As I ran under this powerful sign, I realized that my journey of running – as with my journey of healing – is one of powerful transformational change. And that it is often hard, sometimes really hard, and sometimes scary. But, that my running journey with its physical transformation and my spiritual journey, with its emotional transformation are both worth the effort because I am worth the effort.
With that realization, I took that giant bundle of fear and worry and self-hatred that was weighing me down and left it at the edge of the road and ran onward both lighter and freer. I ran for me, for the joy of running and moving my body, for my health and because I wanted to make this dream – and all my dreams – reality.
A few weeks later, a woman in the running clinic said to me, “I love running behind you, you set such a steady pace.” Surprised, and not realizing that anyone was actually behind me, I replied, “I just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.”
And at that moment, I realized that my method, which had lead to running success, was equally applicable to all the aspects of my life. Transformational change happens one small step at a time at its own pace. It is my journey, and it happens in my own time and speed and rhythm.
On April 20, 2008, I ran the Vancouver Sun Run. One of 59,100 runners, I ran it just for me, at my own pace, one step at a time, joyous and free.