The other morning I set out for a 14 mile long run much later than I usually do. I woke up with the kids around 6:00AM and let Robert sleep in for a little while longer, easing into our Saturday morning for a change, since tee ball season is finally over. I liked the relaxed morning – it was so nice – but it meant that I would be running in the blazing sun on a 90 degree day. Trade offs.
I hit the trail at just about 8:00am and was determined and ready to make it a solid run. After my half marathon that *didn’t happen* in Annapolis, I saw this as a sort of “redemption run” – a chance to really put that race behind me and run hard before my official marathon training starts up on June 16. A chance to prove to myself that I am ready for the challenge ahead this summer. That I’ve been smart this spring and have made gains in my fitness and my mental toughness too.
I have a lot of goals for my upcoming marathon. I want to train smart and push myself. I want to stick to my paces and be intelligent about my recovery and building my mileage. I want to PR, which will mean running faster than a 3:34. I believe it is realistic and achievable for me to break 3:30. And what’s more, I believe if all goes well and I accomplish all I am truly capable of this season, I could run even under 3:25 and closer to a 3:20. My spring races, including my 10 miler in April, indicate that I’m fit enough for that if I train right and all goes well. I’m not quite ready to etch a specific time goal in stone as I want to see how the next few months of training progress, but these are the thoughts that I’m having now and I hope to solidify them by Summer’s end.
My long runs this cycle are going to be done somewhere between an 8:08-9:08 pace. Last cycle I hit them all right around an 8:30 on average, so this time I’m going to try to run faster on average and come closer to an 8:15 ideally as long as it feels right. Saturday, in the heat of the day, I nailed it.
Mile 1 – 8:05
Mile 2 – 7:58
Mile 3 – 8:12
Mile 4 – 8:09
Mile 5 – 8:07
Mile 6 – 8:13
Mile 7 – 7:55
The effort was comfortable despite the heat. I wasn’t breathing heavily. My legs felt good. This is a good long run pace for me.
As I approached the halfway point of my run I passed a woman who was running with no shirt – just a sports bra and shorts. She looked happy and she looked free. She didn’t have rock hard abs or sun kissed tan skin. She wasn’t moving like a gazelle. She wasn’t in her 20s or even in her 30s. But she looked happy. She looked comfortable. She looked confident. And I envied her. I didn’t necessarily want to look like her. But I wanted to FEEL the way she looked like she FELT.
It got me thinking about a goal I have had for a long, long time. Every summer when the heat rises I see people out on the trails – men running shirtless and women running in bras – and I am jealous of them. Not because I want to have their shape or their six-packs, but because I want to have their confidence. I want to FREE myself from self-judgement. I want to not care what other people think about my stretch marks or my “jiggly bits” as my friend Dora says.
I started thinking … I have a STRONG body. It has given me three healthy and beautiful babies. It has endured long pregnancies and hard labors. My body is beautiful — stretch marks and jiggly bits and all. Look what it can do! My body allows me to carry my children up the stairs when they are tired, even when they are 6 and 7 years old and weigh over 50 pounds. It has taken me across finish line after finish line, long run after long run, interval after interval. It has fed and nurtured all three of my children through infancy. My body is my home. I should love it and care for it the same way I do all things I cherish and I should be proud of it. My body is mine and I should celebrate all it is capable of. I should not feel ashamed or embarrassed of any piece of it.
Why have I never taken my shirt off on the hottest and steamiest of runs? Why don’t I free myself from thoughts of judgement or fear of other people judging me? How GOOD would it feel to let go of that fear and RUN in this weather with no shirt on?!?
In that moment I decided that I would give it a try. I took my tank off and tucked it into the back of my shorts. And I turned around and started to run home. And you know what? It felt amazing. I didn’t care what people thought as I ran past them – I felt too good to worry about that. I smiled. There was a breeze and I could feel it rush across my skin as I ran.
It was LIBERATING.
Mile 8 – 7:55
Mile 9 – 8:04
Mile 10 – 7:46
Mile 11 – 7:47
Mile 12 – 7:55
Mile 13 – 8:05
Mile 14 – 8:06
Running without a shirt on was a major breakthrough for me. A symbol of how much running has helped me grow into a strong and confident woman. It took COURAGE to do that — and a lot of it. When I got home from my run I texted my friend Dora about it, because we have talked about this a lot and she truly understands where I am coming from. She wrote me back that she was proud of me and said CONFIDENCE IS THE NEW BEAUTIFUL. I think she is SO right.
I have struggled with self confidence for so much of my life. I admire people who have it, and I strive to truly believe in myself every single day. Running gives me so much joy – it helps me to appreciate my body for all it can do. I am a work in progress on every single level of my life. On Saturday, I made progress in ACCEPTING me for me, in LOVING me for me, in CELEBRATING me for me. I was blissed out over my run – I executed it exactly as I hoped I would, nailing the paces and feeling great along the way. But more than that, I was proud of myself for mustering up the courage to take my shirt off. I know to some of you this may sound completely silly, but it was a big deal for me. I totally went outside my comfort zone. And I am so glad that I did.