Friday, March 26, 2010

The Symbolism of Start

Hello, Dear Readers.

I know I've been absent for some time now, but hear me out.

Some interesting/panic inducing events have transpired in the last month and for the life of me, I just couldn't write about them. All these thoughts and emotions and opinions have been like bouncing rubber balls ricocheting off the walls of my brain and I haven't been able to collect them all, sort them out and make any sense of them. I'm trying though, and I'm feverishly writing a whole string of posts to explain the goings on of the last month.

But before I delve into all of that (which, believe me, is pretty interesting stuff) I'll start off with a post about how the word START took on a whole new meaning in a very unexpected way.

Me, the most nonathletic person you've never met ran a 5 mile race through the streets of downtown Chicago; sweating, panting, and almost crying to the finish line.

A few months ago I signed up for Chicago's Shamrock Shuffle 8K. This, my friends, was huge since I am not an athlete at all. But in the dead of this Chicago winter, I was running along the lake in 20 degree temperatures with wind chills in the teens, and I loved it. Sliding over ice, running in snow, and with each time I ran I saw myself accomplishing more and more. And I also got to do this amongst my incredibly supportive and wonderful running partners/friends.

Running became a very clear and definable accomplishment. I was able to measure my progress by city blocks. On my first day, I barely made it one block without having to stop and walk for a little while. On the next day, I was able to go 2 blocks. And before too long I ran a whole mile without stopping.

So on race day, I was not only proud that I was actually there, ready to reach a goal I worked very hard for, but I felt a different kind of pride I didn't expect. When I was standing in the Start corral amongst the nearly 30,000 people waiting to run, I felt the race take on a symbolism that I hadn't been aware of until I caught sight of the giant, red Start banner in front of me, the city skyline behind it, the lake to my right; when I saw that word, Start, I started to get teary, emotional, choked up and then I felt this huge smile cross my face and for a moment I thought,

"How the hell did I get here?!"

It's almost as if I was outside myself, looking down, and trying to recognize the person standing there, in Grant Park, with a number pinned to her shirt, wearing a pair of uncharacteristically professional running sneakers, about to careen through the streets with a bunch of strangers.

I never would have thought I would do anything like this a year ago. Or even at any time in the last 10 years of my life. And that's the thing that was so surprising; I always wanted to do this but I never believed that I could.

I always wanted to be a runner. I remember driving along Lake Shore Drive on my way to school and seeing people happily jogging along the lake and thinking, "Oh, I wish I could do that. I want to be someone who does that." But I never did.

I always wanted a supportive group of friends that genuinely encouraged me, and me them. And I'm slowly building that.

I always wanted my own musical tastes independent of my ex. And that's evolved too.

Somewhere deep down, I also wanted to write. And here I am.

And as superficial as this sounds, I wanted to be the kind of girl who could effortlessly apply eyeliner in a super 60's cat-eye fashion and rock a red lipstick. And now I do.

It's as if, for the first time in a long time, my identity is really coming into focus. I'm picking and choosing the things I want in my life and I'm getting them. I'm not just wishing and hoping and thinking and sitting on the sidelines and imagining some kind of vision of myself that I wish I was. No, I am that person now. Or at least I'm beginning to be.

And so, looking at the Start line was like looking at the start of something bigger, like the beginning of myself and I think the emotional swell that I felt at that moment was very mixed; it was happiness and pride in what I've been doing this year, seeing it as the start of my life, and mixed with some sadness too, sadness that it took so long for it all to actually START.

When I crossed the finish line I was exhausted and relieved. Relived not because I finished, but because I finally started.


  1. I am so unbelievably proud of you and inspired by you!! Well done. And I'm really looking forward to reading the next few posts!

  2. As a converted runner myself- welcome aboard!
    and congratulations on your first race! Running is a great parallel for changes within and without. You should be very proud of all those changes!

  3. Wow! It must feel pretty fraking good to be you! You also simultaneously put me to shame and inspired me. I have not logged a single mile since mid December. My excuse? 77+ inches of snow fallen this winter (all time record!). I would kill to have your winter running gear.

    You could not have said it better. This is just the start. Imagine what lies ahead! mindboggling when you consider it is the rest of your life.

    I endured a similar period right after the end of my one year marriage. It took me almost a year and a half to get to the start. Once I did start the ride has exceeded all my expectations.

    This last break up the hardest of them all, taught me what I was made of, but the journey continued.

    Your achievement lies not so much in that you finally got started. It lies in the fact that you have the inner strength to start, over and over again. That takes courage, spirit, heart, perseverance, commitment and a noble mind. They were all inside you all along.

    You have finally harnessed them.Congratulations!

    ...Pretty proud of you too! ;)


  4. You are truly an inspiration... I am so impressed that you ran at 8k. Congratulations... and three cheers for "starting"!! (And awesome on rocking the red lipstick!)

  5. "When I crossed the finish line I was exhausted and relieved. Relived not because I finished, but because I finally started."--That's some pretty powerful stuff, friend. Good work.

  6. I'm so proud of you! What an inspiration. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Now you know how it feels to face your worst fear, one step at a time. Good job, well done. I ran back in high school track, from Hyde Park to McCormic place. So I know how fierce that lake in winter can be. I ran distance, I was fast. I took that focuss to many different activities in my life, you will too. Its not so much the runnung as it how you have to push yourself just that litle bit further. Each time you make that goal you reset the goal. I don't know if your born with that drive or you develope it, but it sure feels good. Keep on keeping on.



Related Posts with Thumbnails