This past weekend I lined up with 3200 other runners in my home town in Winter Park Florida and set off to run a 5K. There were champions from afar and new runners such as myself, old people and children, and everyone was giddy with the prospect of racing together. It was a brisk morning in Central Florida, but the kind that makes you glad you don’t live anywhere else.

For me, it was facing a hurdle to overcome that had blocked me in my mind for years. It was the statement in my mind that told me: I am not a runner.

It all started for me in 9th grade. I was on the track team and raced in the sprints and the hurdles. One day in a track meet, I “hit the wall” and my legs wouldn’t carry me. I kept telling them to move but I saw them slow down almost to a stop and my body wouldn’t move faster than at a snails pace. I didn’t know how to explain to myself, to my coach, or to anyone what had happened, so I naturally assumed that I wasn’t cut out to be a runner.
I’ve carried that mindset with me every day since then.

Fast forward through the years, I watched idly from the sidelines during road races and wished I could be in the game instead of being a spectator. Somewhere inside of me was a deep longing to be a runner, and to be the athlete that I thought I had the potential to be. But when I joined a running team this past fall, I continued to manufacture numerous excuses about my missing the practices and not working hard. It wasn’t until I was running with a more mature runner by the name of Grizz, who told me his story of “hitting the wall” on his 18th marathon 50 yards from the finish line. He explained to me that he got dehydrated and his body shut down and it took several minutes to gain his bearings to be able to reenter the race.

When I heard his story it sunk in that all of those years before I too, had “hit the wall”. I had an immediate vision of what my legs looked like at the moment they stopped performing and the horror that I felt when it happened. Now knowing that I was probably dehydrated and could have fixed that scenario by drinking more liquids, I now knew that I was holding a belief about myself that was based on an untruth. When I look back further into my childhood, I was an outstanding athlete and runner, but having one bad experience made me change my belief system. I went from being a strong and secure athlete to a wimpy and weak minded one.

After I realized that this belief has tarnished my view of myself for all of these years, I realized that the only person holding me back from having a great and in shape body was me. I knew now, that only showing up and putting in the work would get me to the place where I wanted to be. I knew that I had a great team of people who I ran with and a supportive coach who gave me guidance, but it was me who would have to do the work.

I was up for the challenge so I set my sights on the 5K in my home town as my first race. I trained several times a week by running a 3 mile path regardless of how I felt. Finally, I got to the level of endurance where I could do the whole run without stopping. That in itself was a goal that I had.

On race day, I had a goal of coming in under 30 minutes and secretly dreamed for a time of 28 minutes. Sure enough, when I passed the finish line, the time was 28:54 and when my foot hit the pad at the finish line, I put my arms up in victory. The victory wasn’t that I won the race, but only that I had conquered a fear, and had now entered a new phase of life with a new mindset.

Knowing now what I know, that my body is strong and can compete, I’m not satisfied with my time. Being a competitor, I now see how hard I’m going to have to push myself to get my time down to a respectable time. I’m now motivated to become more lean and to build more endurance. I have another time goal in mind and I’m giving myself a year to get there.

This time, because I believe that I’m now a runner, I know I can do it.

What a difference a conversation can make; and what a difference an attitude adjustment can make! Thanks Grizz!