I have always had a story about myself called “I am not an athlete”.
Growing up I was not only small for my age-group, used an inhaler, broke bones easily and ran away every time a ball came flying towards my face, I also just seemed to lack a competitive gene. I’m fairly certain that even as a five year old I was pretty content to let the other team win. As a result, gym class was paramount to torture and nobody ever wanted me on their team.
In the seventh grade (after catching a volleyball and sealing a loss for my team) I confirmed that athletics in general, were just not for me.
So I turned to the theatre and fell in love with dance as I could argue that the athleticism it required was simply an expression of my being.
At 21, when I heard about this cool company called lululemon athletica (whose focus was on clothes made by athletes for athletes) my background in dance and my training as an actor helped me bullshit my way into a position.
After spending years bitching about the arts getting the shaft because the jocks got all funding, I suddenly found myself working with two dozen athletes. Aka, people who really like winning and getting sweaty.
I was pretty intimidated by their sheer awesomeness, so I labelled myself a yogi and therefore got out of having to participate in things like running and crossfit. The great thing about yoga is that it’s actually impossible to be bad at it (it would be counter intuitive to the philosophy) so nobody could look at me and go “Wow. That girl is a shitty yogi” when I failed to do a headstand or couldn’t put my leg around my neck. Plus, yoga didn’t require me to break out my puffer every ten minutes.
Which is why, whenever I’ve cheered people on at marathons, I’ve sworn that the person crossing the finish line would never be me.
The funny thing about the stories we have about ourselves is that we write their conclusions before we’ve lived out the endings.
See the crazy thing is, I ran 21km yesterday and I loved every single minute of it. Seriously. Every single minute.
I loved the excitement and the sweat. My sore knees and the concrete beneath my swollen feet. I loved the crowd and every single one of the other 10 000 athletes. I loved that every time they passed me I felt inspired to press onward. I loved the music of pounding of my heartbeat. I loved having to dig deep and fight for the next kilometre when I felt like my calves were going to give up on me.
When I crossed that finish line, for the first time in my life (and pardon my french here), I felt like a fucking athlete.
In the grand scheme of things, crossing over that finish line yesterday wasn’t really a big deal – I mean, I was one of 10, 000 people to do so. On the other hand, crossing that finish line meant absolutely everything.
I wrote a new ending to my story.
Which means that all the other stories about myself I’ve written the conclusions to? They might not be true.
I could write a novel about how amazing the SeaWheeze was and how grateful l am to have run it with a few of my best friends in the world, but none of my words would do justice to what it feels like to shatter everything about yourself you thought you knew.
I’m not sure I’ll ever run a half marathon again – although I actually kind of want to – but whether I do or I don’t, what I know is that I’ve got a whole lot of stories to write new endings to.