Where Do We Find Courage?

Posted on May 31, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


“I really like to run,” the woman at my elbow was saying.  I was only half listening.  The 3rd Annual Girls on the Run Cupcake 5K Fun Run, our annual fundraiser sponsored by Kate’s Frosting, was about to begin and we were gathered at the start line.

Was everyone here? Did they know where the start line began? Was the water stop ready?  Was it 8:00 yet? My attention was divided between too many things to listen adequately.

“I really want her to like running,” the woman nodded toward her 10-ish daughter who was pacing the curb, drawing a line on the pavement with her toe, “as much as I do.”

“Yes,” I murmured, still distracted.  Kate was setting up the tower of cupcakes at the finish line.

“You know I’ve run 14 marathons,” she said nonchalantly, as if she declared she’d eaten 14 cupcakes instead.

For perhaps the first time during our conversation, I looked straight at her.  She was shorter than me, the top of her head reaching maybe my chin.  Not muscular or runner thin.  Plump, to be precise.

I closed my gaping mouth before a fly landed in it, acutely aware and somewhat ashamed that—blink—just like that I had made a judgment about this woman and her ability or propensity to run. Unconsciously, I had observed and assessed her.  She didn’t look like a runner—whatever that means—to me.

Two seconds, Malcolm Gladwell contends, is all it takes for us to decide.  In the blink of an eye we make up our minds about what something—or someone—is or is not.

Fourteen marathons.  Four. Teen.  Never in a million years would I have guessed.  I must have looked as surprised as I felt because she smiled wryly and nodded.  “I’ve done a half Ironman too.”

“No way!” I blurted, no longer able to contain what by now had become excitement.

When I closed my gaping mouth I fortunately opened my mind.  Standing here in front of me was true inspiration.  If she could do these things, then why couldn’t I?

It’s been in the back of my mind for years that maybe one day I could do a half Ironman.  Maybe start with an Olympic distance tri.  I’ve still never run a marathon.  Trained for 2, but stopped by injury.  What was I waiting for to try again?

Inspiration.  Courage.

I have had neither, and didn’t even realize it until I met the marathon woman.  I haven’t lived up to the message that’s been posted on my refrigerator since January 15, 2009, the date on the tattered calendar square that states:

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

–          Anaïs Nin

This square of paper has stared me in the face for four years in two different homes. The message travels with me, so that I don’t forget it. Some days I stop as I’m rummaging through the fridge and read it.  Other days I don’t see it at all, hanging amid the Mickey Mouse and bluebonnet magnets.

For the past 3+ weeks, however, I have seen it. Read it anew.  Each time, I think of this woman and her fourteen marathons, her half Ironman, and I see my own possibilities expand.

I am excited to try something new.  And when I think about this woman, I remember her daughter tight-rope-walking the curb and think what a lucky girl, to have a mom who can show her so many things.


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