Trust me when I tell you I haven’t received a lot of trophies and medals in my life celebrating my athletic prowess. Nary a one. The proverbial last-picked-for-dodge ball, I never had a lot of confidence in my skills and ability. I can still hear the PE teacher screeching at me as I tried to finish one lap: “Don’t you know how to run? You look ridiculous.”
I didn’t want to look ridiculous. I never tried to run again.
For years the only exercise I got was racing from a bus to the train station to get work in downtown Los Angeles. I’ve been behind a desk most of my life. I didn’t earn a lot of medals there either.
A few years ago I decided to do something resembling cardio activity, so I started a walking program. I remember exactly how it felt when I first started. It seemed impossible to develop any speed at all. Short-legged, I don’t cover a lot of ground easily and it seemed like it took forever to log a half a mile.
I entered a 5k not even knowing what one was. It was in Dallas, the Susan G. Komen Walk for a Cure. I went to support a friend who was battling breast cancer. There were over 10,000 entrants and I was way out of my league. By the time I was done there wasn’t anyone at the finish line… or the parking lot.
This morning I participated in my second 5k event for a group called Mujeres Unidas, a domestic violence shelter/agency here in the Valley. There was a strong breeze blowing all morning, so it was comfortable even though the temperatures are already in the mid-‘80s.
I caught up with the friend that had promoted the event on Facebook. We walked the race together. When we reached the end of the course – not the first ones to finish (nor the last) we received our times and a commemorative medal. We finished the three plus miles in under an hour. That may not be anything to brag about, but it’s way faster than my time eight years ago.
I really wish I’d learned sooner in my life that it’s perfectly okay to do things imperfectly. To be sure, I wasn’t the fastest entrant in this event and I don’t think anyone will be modeling my technique but I finished. I got up, got out, supported a worthy cause, reconnected with a friend, met some new folks, got some exercise, kept my word, and finished the course.
And for that I got a medal. I’ve hanging it up in my writing room too – just to remind me that when you put yourself out there, when you try – there are all kinds of rewards awaiting you. It really doesn’t matter at all how fast you finish, so long as you do!