There is a popular quote attributed to Henry Ford that says, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right.”
The mind is definitely a powerful thing and what I’ve learned is that if you set it to something, you can do whatever you want. Not saying it’s going to be easy but whatever you think you can do can be done.
When I turned 43 last Jan. 19, I gave myself some challenges. By the time I turned 44, which happened Monday, I was going to accomplish two things. First, I was going to finally write a book - something I had been wanting to do for years - and second, I was going to run a half marathon.
As a writer, one would think the book would seem to be the most logical, simplest thing in the world for me to accomplish. And you would be wrong. I am not a fiction writer and never wanted to be so the book isn’t fiction but I’ve found that even though I have most of the content written up in various forms already, it isn’t as easy as I would’ve hoped. It is hard to sum up your life, the people you’ve met along the way and how you became who you are now without reliving a lot of those experiences. That can be both a blessing and a curse, I’ve learned, but it has been a mostly rewarding yet grueling task.
Good news is, it does have a working title - Growing Up and Becoming Me - and I have a publisher for it already so hopefully later this year, it will be widely available for you to read, should you be interested.
On to the goal of completing a half marathon. Now, let me preface this by saying one very important thing; I dislike running so when I made this bold proclamation last year that I wanted to do this, I had one singular reason for doing so and that was to trick myself. See, those who know me fairly well know how hard I can be on myself and that I tend to doubt what I am capable of sometimes so I decided that if I could do something that I disliked for 13.1 miles then I could never tell myself I couldn’t do anything ever again.
All that said, in April, I signed up for the Disney Half Marathon in Florida and invited my family to drive up from Miami to come and watch me run and cross that finish line in Orlando. The race took place Jan. 10, thus achieving the goal of being done before my 44th birthday, and also gave plenty of time to train...or so I thought.
Like it always seems, life can get in the way and our best intentions become our biggest obstacles. Not making excuses because we choose what to prioritize but I wasn’t expecting to have to move (though that was a good thing) and I wasn’t expecting to get slapped with some defeating disappointments along the way either so by the time I rededicated myself, it was almost too late. Then, two weeks before I left, I got a sinus infection and, making matters worse, there was a timing/pace requirement for the race so while I had no doubt I could finish, I just didn’t know if I could finish in the required time.
On Jan. 8, I boarded a plane headed for Orlando and the “happiest place on Earth” a.k.a. Disney World and told myself I would do the best I could and let the chips fall where they may. By Jan. 9, however, the day before the race, panic was setting in and that voice inside my head - you know the one that tells you you’re crazy and have no idea what you’re doing or why you’re doing it - started talking to me and it took everything I had not to find a million reasons to not compete. I finally closed my eyes to sleep at 9 p.m. and woke up at 2:15 a.m. to board the bus to Epcot at 3 a.m.
It was a brisk 39 degrees when I arrived and the staging area for the race was outside. With the starting time not until 5:30 a.m., let’s just say I was a little numb. Actually, because I was in the last starting group, I didn’t begin the race until 6:30 a.m. but I didn’t know that at the time. Huddled with those around me, we talked about why we were running, if we had raced before and basically got to know each other.
Finally, it was time to get to the starting line and when the fireworks went off, there definitely was no turning back. It didn’t take long to warm up and for the first 3 miles, I was 30 seconds ahead of pace. A bathroom break and lack of training caused me to fall behind and, unfortunately, there was no catching up. I was “picked up” at mile 5 but I can say it took five Florida State Troopers to make sure I got on the bus. OK, maybe not, but they were there beside the bus ensuring we didn’t get run over by oncoming traffic as we loaded. We were then ushered back to the finish where we did get a finisher’s medal, despite not actually crossing the finish line.
In the moment, I admit I was disappointed that I didn’t get to cross the finish line and I was sad that I didn’t accomplish my goal. But as I look back, I am proud of myself. I am proud that I didn’t quit, even when I knew I was behind. I am thankful for all the volunteers and well-wishers who cheered me on when they didn’t know my story or who I was. I am more than grateful for my family who not only supported me but who made all the hotel arrangements and even held up a homemade sign for me when I arrived at the finish.
To all of my countless supporters on Facebook and in the community, I say a heartfelt thank you. I read each and every text, Facebook comment and checked who each and every ‘Like’ on my half marathon posts were and my eyes filled with tears knowing I had all of you with me. Believe me, I thought of you when I knew they weren’t going to let me finish and I considered telling the race officials to call me a ride before they made me stop. But then I remembered those words of encouragement and I told myself there was no way I was going to post that I had given up and go back home a quitter when all of you were rooting for me.
So, Henry Ford, while I thought I could, I didn‘t accomplish exactly what I’d hoped but I now know I can. Thanks, though, for helping me convince myself I was right.