I have never been much of an athlete. Sure, I participated in plenty of athletic pursuits; I have played soccer for as long as I can remember (some of it even on a competitive team), I have figure skated, I was a pretty good basketball player until all the other kids hit their growth spurt, too, and more recently, I took up an interest in both ultimate frisbee and running.
But even while doing all of these things, I never really felt like an athlete. Athletes, you see, are lean, graceful, and purposeful. They train hard, they work towards goals, they love “the burn,” and they look good while doing it. In short, they belong in Gatorade commercials.
I, on the other hand, belong on the couch. Preferably with a baked good at my side (or in my mouth).
When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I had to give up sports where contact was a possibility. So, pretty much all team sports. But my obstetrician also told me to stop running (advice that I now know is not exactly great), so I did that too.
Honestly, at first I was a little relieved – running isn’t all that much fun.
But as I found myself becoming wider and wider – and thus harder and harder to move around – I was surprised to find that I was envious of all those fools I saw outside running. “Look at how swiftly they are moving their bodies! They are masters of their own worlds! They have poise! They have endurance! Running looks fun! I want to run!”
I vowed that as soon as I got the go-ahead from my doctor after the baby was born, I would go running and try to really appreciate what my body could do.
So, with a bit of encouragement from my husband, I signed up for a 5 km race yesterday. Besides a quick break to tie up my shoe, I ran the whole way without stopping (quite a feat, really, given that I haven’t ran in a full year).
It felt terrible.
I was not graceful. I certainly lacked poise. I did not feel like a master of anything. And my husband has photographic proof that I did not look good while doing it. I placed 83rd out of 98 participants and ended a full five minutes over my personal best.
If that run had been an audition for a Gatorade commercial, the producers would have laughed in my face and probably snickered about it for years to come. (I am possibly unfairly assuming that Gatorade commercial producers are not unlike the cool kids in popular television shows aimed at insecure teenagers.)
But today? Today I woke up to burning thighs. And that made me smile and feel proud.
Today I feel like an athlete.