We pulled into the parking lot brimming with cars and joined the drones of athletes flocking to the bouncing music. I put on the “right” face, but I really did NOT want to be there. Yes, I was the one who registered and paid my 60 dollars and yep, I was also the one who bought the t-shirt and bandana and tank.
But I didn’t want to be there. I was destined to display messy, obnoxious colors in ways I wasn’t ready to expose. Fake it ‘til you make it I guess.
We came up over the edge and could see the masses, loads of people, excited people, happy people, fit people. I was not that person. I was certain I had failed long before this sunny morning. I had planned for this day, I had paid to be here, but I couldn’t face myself in this challenge. I couldn’t do this because I had failed all the way to this point.
We meandered through the crowd and found a spot worthy of waiting. I let the sights and sounds surround me. But not penetrate. All I could see were all the ways I had failed. I had missed trainings and not met a single fitness goal over the past 10 weeks. Not a single one. Being here somehow felt like cheating, like a false win.
The starting line approached. We jumped in line and crossed over. The race began with a splash of color, like the beginning of a painting. And so we put one foot in front of the other, keeping pace with the rhythm of friendship. She invited me here and no one could resist the look of joy on her face for simply being in this moment right now. Ok… Ok… I’ll savor that joy. But only that one.
We ran some, we walked some. Keeping one foot in front of the other. And each step of the way seemed to peel away another layer of calloused misperceptions. I am not one to go get messy for fun. I am the prissy one who brushes her hair to improve her mood. But I found with each obnoxious splash of color there was a new life-giving giggle. That one joy of a shared smile soon multiplied like abstract art on the canvas of my soul.
I found myself enjoying the journey, almost moved by this art.
And then the finish line approached. Looming tall and bold right in front of me. Strangers all around cheering and watching. It was awkward. It was real. It was raw.
We picked up the pace (one has to, it’s a law of nature) and grabbed hands, thrust them into the air and ran across the finish line. The words: “We Did It”, We did it” echoing off our lips and the words: “I did it” found their way to my tongue. I. Did. It.
Three mind altering words.
I don’t think I have ever let myself cross the finish line before. Ever. Even if I had finished a task, any mishaps along the way, any missed marks along the journey nullified the finish and thus it was labeled a failure. If it wasn’t a bull’s-eye then it wasn’t an accomplished goal.
But today… today changed all of that. My goal was to “Finish a 5K” and today, today I did just that. I ran some, I walked some, I finished it all. And every step, every moment, every struggle, every trip-up, every laugh-filled-colored flail, EVERY FAILURE – they all counted. Each one a step towards the end.
Sometimes the journey looks absolutely NOTHING like we picture it, or even plan for but that doesn’t discredit the destination. Crossing the finish line can be just that, one step in front of the other, keeping pace with the rhythms of life, pressing on towards the goal. Your failures count. Keep going.