I started running this week with a youth program. We are doing a learn-to-run program with the goal of running a 10k in April.
It was a brutal first couple of runs. It’s been three years since I last did a run and, let’s just say, my fitness level has fallen. We are only running a few minutes at a time (with a couple of minutes of walking between each set) but everything hurts.
I decided during my first few seconds of running that my only goal was to run when they said run, walk when they said walk. I did not care about my speed.
I was soon a full half-lap behind the rest of the group.
As I ran I watched a little girl race to catch up with the others, clutch her side, stop and bend over, repeat. I dug deep and ran to come up at her side.
“Why don’t you run with me?” I gasped.
She looked at me suspiciously so I continued to babble through gasps of air.
“Did you know that it doesn’t matter how fast you go? It just matters that you are doing it. We can go slow together. We’ll get faster. We’re just racing ourselves, not them.”
She thought for a moment and then fell into step beside me. After another moment of reflection she said: “I didn’t know that it doesn’t matter how fast you go.”
“No, it doesn’t,” I replied. “All that matters is we are here and that we are trying our best.”
“We are gonna get so skinny!” she exclaimed excitedly.
My heart broke just a little in that moment for the nine-year-old child huffing along beside me.
“Hmmmm. I’m not here to get skinny.” I paused, trying to gather my thoughts. “I’m here to look after my body. It doesn’t matter what my body looks like so long as I am taking proper care of it. That’s what I want to do.”
She soaked that in for a moment, nodded slowly, smiled, and kept going.
I relayed the conversation to J later that evening, as we lay in our separate cities, phones pressed to our ears.
“Huh,” he said carefully. Then: “I’m going to remind you you said that next time you need it.”
Touche hon. Touche.
It saddened me to speak with a child, so young, who was already wrestling with the body image issues that have plagued my mind. My few words won’t really make a difference. They are a drop in an ocean. I hope that they sit at the back of her mind. I hope that she remembers them one day when she feels bad about herself. I hope that she continues to run by my side as we conquer this thing called fitness. We ran today and high-five’d each other after each set.
Having a group of kids cheering me on is really motivating. A young boy lapped me at one point this afternoon and called out “you are doing a good job!” as he flew past.
I don’t want to disappoint them. Most of all I don’t want to disappoint myself.