I am not a Runner. I should clarify that I define a “Runner” as someone who does it at least semi-regularly, and somewhat enjoys it. I don’t really enjoy running for the sake of running, and this is largely to do with my huge sense of practicality. If I have somewhere to go, yes, I could run there, but it is faster to take the car. Also, usually where I have to go is to Costco to get groceries, and that involves having something to transport them with. Thus it never usually seems like a good idea to run.
But when I heard back in February that my workplace was sponsoring a corporate team to do the Vancouver Sun Run, a 10 kilometre run through the streets of downtown Vancouver, I thought — hey! That might be fun! Also, I realized that I would get a free shirt out of it, and that they would be paying for it (there’s the appeal to the practical side) and I was quite sure that by April I would be fit as a fiddle based on my strict regimen of occasional yoga and sneaking my kids’ Easter candy, so I decided that of course I should run the Sun Run! In fact, it made no sense NOT to!
When I shared my exciting news with my family and friends the response was largely the same: something along the lines of “Will you be READY to run the Sun Run?” Of course there were some congratulations too, and some, “good for you!” and “you go girl!” encouragements sprinkled in there, which was nice. “I will go, girl!” I thought happily to myself.
And I planned to train, I really did, by specifically running. I thought, well, I’ll just run in the mornings! I’ll wake up at 7 AM and run and shower and be all bright and bushy-tailed to get the kids ready for school and out the door. But on very cold, wet, February days it is next-to-impossible to get out of bed in the morning, let alone contemplate a pointless run to nowhere. So I didn’t get around to it in February.
March brought a bit better weather to the nice Greater Vancouver neighbourhood in which I live, but that did not bring with it any more incentive to run. I thought several things like; well, I walk the dogs every day! I do yoga! I’m pretty fit! I’m good, bro! These were the lies I told myself.
When the weekend of the Sun Run came, I started getting really nervous. I was having anxiety dreams — nothing to do with running specifically, just the straight-up anxiety nightmares one gets when something significant that generates stress is quickly approaching. The expectations people had of “what it takes” to run 10 K were getting to me, and my head was fun of self-doubt to the tune of thoughts like; “Who am I to think I can run this!? I’m not a RUNNER! What was I thinking!?” People would tell me about the crowds and I’d think “Ew, crowds.” I kept looking at maps to see what 10 K actually looked like, and it looked far. I was thinking, “Maybe I’ll plan to be sick that day,” because I actually did feel kind of sick about it. Plus, it came on a weekend where there was already lots going on, at the end of an already busy week. I considered that that nice morning could be spent doing something fun with my family, like a form of exercise that actually appealed to me. I considered the fact that it wasn’t really me, doing something like this. Those words echoed: “I am not a runner.” And identity is a strong motivator, or non-motivator, as in this case.
But then I decided something. I decided that I was just going to do it. I thought to myself; it is going to be a beautiful day in downtown Vancouver, and I am going to have an experience, and I am going to make sure I enjoy it. How did I make sure of that? By deciding to take all pressure off of myself. Every time one of those thoughts came up challenging me I would counter them: Juli, you are pretty fit, and you like to have fun. You like sunshine, nature, and people. You like doing things on your own, and feeling the peace of that moment in your head while you are doing it. You know how to listen to your body and take care of yourself, but you also know how to rise to a challenge. You have determination and resilience. And we are going to DO this, and we are going to make it the funnest run ever — that’s our actual goal.
And so I went. And I ran. And I listened to my body; when I needed to walk, I walked. When I got a blister on my foot, I took it a bit easier. And I focused on bathing in the sun, and in the cheers of the crowd, and in the camaraderie of all of my fellow shirt-wearing sun-runners. I ran with 41,000 people from all walks of life and all levels of fitness, from the very young to the very old, and it was entirely lovely. I enjoyed every moment of the beautiful city, the wonderful and encouraging people in it, and the feeling of the wind on my face, the sun on my cheeks, the music in my ears. And when I crossed that finish line, I was SO proud of myself. I did it. I did the whole thing. Me! And I’m not a Runner.
My family came downtown to meet me afterwards, and my kids just fell into my arms, telling me how proud they were of me. “Did you win, mommy!?” asked my eight-year-old.
“Yes! I did!” I told him.
And I meant it, too.