By Joyce Armstrong
I have never been athletic. All through high school, I was the one picked last, who sat out, or didn’t make the team. I have also been known to make comments like “why couldn’t I be built like a gazelle instead of a hippopotamus?”.
A few years ago, I decided that I should start running. No, I still wasn’t athletic, nor was I suddenly gazelle-like, but even the hippopotamus runs on occasion. I could challenge myself and set a goal and at least get in better shape.
I set a goal of running 5K without stopping. Running 5K was challenging enough that I needed to put some effort into it, yet not too intimidating that it seemed unattainable. So I started running. At first, they were short: run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes. But gradually the running time became longer than the walking time.
Last year I signed up for a half marathon and found a training plan. I went out every Saturday for “long runs” and increased my distance working toward the goal of 21.1 km. Three weeks before the race I went out for my long run. When I reached the point in my run where I was furthest from home, approximately kilometer 11, I thought, “I don’t want to do this anymore, this sucks.” And the only thing that kept me running (besides the fact that it’s faster to run home than to walk) was that I had already paid for the half marathon and I wasn’t going to waste my money. So I spent the rest of that training run imagining myself crossing the finish line. I pictured the finish line in my mind, just in the distance, I could see it, and I could see it coming closer and closer. Knowing the end was there meant I could finish. And I imagined the feeling of crossing the finish line – the feeling of accomplishment – I was proud of myself, and I hadn’t even run the half marathon yet.
I did run that half marathon. I ran the entire thing. It wasn’t fun the entire time. There were a few times when I wanted to quit. I was so tired and the finish line felt so far away and I felt as though I couldn’t finish. Crossing the finish felt so good.
My favourite part of each race I run (besides actually finishing the race) is the moment when I see the finish line, the last bit of the road. I’m not actually done the race, but when I can see the finish I know I can do it because I see the end.
I’ve been thinking that this applies to many areas of my life. Some things are fun at the beginning when there’s not much effort and everything is new — like classes at university; taking children to new sports to practice; those band rehearsals before a concert; even the longer-term, life-long endeavours like marriage and parenting. At some point it becomes less fun, I have to work more and try harder. But often the pain and time and effort is worthwhile. Sometimes I want to quit, but when I catch that first glimpse of the finish, knowing the end is within sight, then I know the struggle is worth the effort.