"I don’t even know who I am. Ask me: ask me who I am and what I am about. I don’t have an answer. Where do I go from here?”. I sat on the therapist’s couch, surrounded by mismatched, tired throw pillows. Tears streamed down my face.
Ten years in an oppressive, sad relationship, that was suddenly crumbling, and I was clinging and pleadingly searching her eyes for answer.
She couldn’t give me an answer. It was up to me to find myself again, the girl who had gotten lost in a drowning marriage, the confident, strong girl who could have been just under the surface, but who was never brave enough to shine through.
Freshly divorced, twenty pounds overweight, and completely scattered, I sat on the cracked sidewalk and watched the 2006 Shamrock half-marathon. My emotions bubbled. Envy, awe, and frustration intensified as each runner passed.
It had been over a year since my last run and even then never more than three miles at a time. Yet these people, of every shape and size, were running 13.1; and all in one go.
Confidence had always been a fleeting companion of mine; I had longingly dreamt of being a girl who was outgoing and assured.
The girl watching the Shamrock from the sidelines, the girl whose life had been turned upside down believed that confidence was elusive, meant for others.
I'm no longer that girl
Quite by accident, that cool March day saved me. The next weekend, I laced up my running shoes again. I was slow and sluggish. But I was out there and found my stride. Or more fittingly my stride found me as I ran a block, walked a block.
Over and over, until eventually, I ran more than I walked. I didn’t realize what was happening then, but with each mile, with each interval, I was changing.
On one of our weekly runs my friend suggested we start training for a triathlon. I didn’t have a clear idea of what a triathlon was beyond swimming, biking, and running.
And even though I had never run or exercised for more than thirty minutes at a time, even though I had to hold my nose to go underwater and my only stroke was the doggy paddle, I surprisingly agreed.
Training for triathlons were more than just a physical endeavor. I was emotionally and mentally challenged to love and believe in myself, to push through pain and discouragement and to see myself as stronger than I ever imagined.
The journey of having to hold my nose underwater to swimming a mile in open water and the journey of being able to run for less than two minutes at once to running a half-marathon required patience and courage.
Alone with the Darkness
I had to face the darkest parts of myself alone on the trails or in the lap lanes, the parts that believed that I wasn't enough or capable. I had to fight back.
At the end of those trails and lap lanes, I found me: I found that confident girl who was lost behind the tears on the therapist’s couch. Those quiet moments, when it was just me and the road, me and the water; those moments were the ones that changed me, that helped me find peace with my life and that helped me to be comfortable with who I was.
Those moments are the ones that continue to define me, to teach me to accept myself and to help me believe in myself.
Every day, I meet myself on the pavement, on the trails or in the water. Fast or slow. Tired or pumped. I come as I am and run my race. Have I sometimes lost sight of the girl I really am over the years? Yes. But she's always out there waiting. Waiting for me to run (or ride or swim) to her. And I always do.
Heidi is a mom of three juggling parenthood, marriage, writing, and training for triathlons. She has completed several sprint distance triathlons, and is currently training for her first Olympic distance in June and then tackling a 70.3 Ironman in September.
She is an ambassador for GOTRIbal a community of women who are active or interested in endurance sports. She writes furiously as a contributor for Project: Underblog, and is often pushing her two year old in a stroller while running with her local chapter of Moms Run this Town.
When she isn't at kids' soccer practices, in the pool, or out on her bike, she blogs about her journey atwww.loveeachstep.com and can be found tweeting.
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