A few weeks ago I sheepishly walked by a bunch of talkative, happy people who all had great legs, cute running shorts and shoes, and who genuinely seemed to care about one another. I longingly looked at the group and remembered how fun it was to be a part of a group like that. I was a Masters Swimmer up until last year when I lived in Charlotte, NC; and while I loved the camaraderie more than the practices, I continued to show up and eventually got in shape.

This group was different! They were runners! This was the type of group that has always intimidated me. But still, I wanted to belong and I knew I wanted to run.

That day, I happened to ask one of the trainers at the YMCA who that group was, and rather than just tell me, he WALKED me out to find the Founder of the group. Within seconds, I was being invited to join in on the fun. Of course, as with any goal that a person sets, there is a certain amount of fear involved, so of course the next day when I showed up, the intimidation welled up inside of me and I quickly ducked my head as I walked by John, the coach, and sauntered into the Y so I wouldn’t be noticed. As anyone who is crying out for support, I emailed John that day and explained my fear through excuse after excuse. “I’m not good enough, I’m out of shape, You’re all so fast, yada, yada, yada”. John, in his ultimate wisdom and brilliant coaching style, gently coaxed me into just showing up and doing what I could. But, he made me PROMISE to show up, and that was exactly what did it for me. I showed up! Now I was hooked!

The first few weeks have been hard. My body hasn’t worked this hard in a long time. I’m tired, but in a good way. I’ve even sweat so much that I had to ring out my clothes after I ran. I am starting to feel the strength build, and I have the desire to start eating better because I’m starting to notice how my body feels now. It’s strange, but when you aren’t in shape, you just don’t notice your body that much in how it moves and how it feels. When you start to notice it, and start to notice that the muscles are being worked, you start to believe that if you work it harder, it’ll continue to get stronger. So you push just a little more every time.

Over these past few weeks, I’ve had to face the disgusting fact that I let myself get out of shape. I have had to admit it to myself that I’ve succumbed to the horrible American diet which is carb based and that my body is probably not as healthy as it could be. I’ve realized that I’ve been lazy but I also now see that I can get support when I’m weak and when I’m around people who are better than me, who have achieved more than me, there is a certain hope that begins to emerge. After a few of these runs, just getting a “good job today Mary” from my coach keeps me eager to strive for more. When I hear from the other runners “keep going Mary”, I want to do better! It’s been their encouragement that has kept me going, even when I knew I was by far the worst runner in the pack.

This helps me understand how absolutely important that it is for each of us, as parents, to never criticize our kids when they really aren’t living up to our standards. We have to share with them that they can keep going, they can do it, they’re strong, and they’re going to be great. I understand now, because it’s the faith of others in us that literally carries us when we have absolutely no belief in ourselves.

My goal is to run a ½ a marathon. My coach believes I can do more. I’ve seen his faith and encouragement carry me to new heights already because today I ran a longer distance than I’ve ever run in my life…. even without walking!!! I ran with two amazing women, Juliette and Susan, (AKA, Grinner and Fluffy), who ran a slow but steady pace, but we ran just over 5 miles, which had been my previous record. We ran 5.3 miles today.

So today, I’m feeling great. I’m moving towards a goal that has always intrigued me, but terrified me. I knew in my heart that I wanted it, but that I didn’t have the mental toughness to do it. What I didn’t realize, is that I can borrow the faith and toughness from my new friends, and just count on my legs to do what my friends tell me they can do.

Today, I’m moving towards a personal goal and it feels great. I’m starting to have a tiny bit of faith on my own now, that I can continue to grow stronger and will be able to achieve my goal. I know that many hills, muscle aches and sweaty days are ahead, but if today is any indication, so are many inspiring conversations, goals being achieved and the incredible richness of having good friends.