When I was a kid, I was physically able but not extraordinarily capable. I was never the last person picked in gym class but I was never the first. I could climb the ladder to reach the ceiling in the gym but couldn't hoist myself up a rope. I could do splits but not cartwheels. Perhaps because I wasn't naturally and immediately good at sports, I didn't pursue them avidly. But as I got older, I definitely felt myself yearning to be on a team. To wear a cute uniform. Other than the orchestra team and uniform. Or the newspaper team and uniform. Or the yearbook team and uniform.
You get my drift.
But by high school, I was so deeply entrenched in music and theater that sports seemed impossible time-wise. Plus, most of the kids playing sports had been in town leagues since elementary school (and admittedly, being on JV or serving as the team manager was not going to cut it for someone like me). When I got to college, I decided to reignite my quest for team sports and went to the first field hockey meeting (I heard that that might be a sport I could join in on later in life), but when I got there, I was overwhelmed by the time commitment. And probably also the fit, gazelle-like women in the room.
So I left and drowned my sorrows in pizza. And once again was relegated to teams of the orchestral and editorial variety.
Then when I was in grad school, a friend asked if I would join the psychology grad league soccer team. She assured me no experience was required; they were a fairly rag tag bunch. So I joined my first sports team at about age 26. And loved it. The team was a little odd personnel wise (perhaps because we were all psychologists) and we didn't have the much coveted cute uniforms (save the fact that we were told to wear gray t-shirts as Team Gray...blech), but in general, I loved the camaraderie and the challenge. And I ended up being pretty good at soccer. I couldn’t help but wonder how good I would have been had I started with the other kids in elementary school.
Grad league soccer was my ephemeral foray into team sports. And then, 10 years later, came Eat. Blog. Run.
Similar to my entry to soccer, I signed up with almost no experience. When Marie first approached me about running a relay in October, I had only recently started experimenting with running -- as in, the longest I had run at that point was 20 minutes. However, bolstered on by signed on teammates Kristen, Julie, and Heather (Kristen and Julie regretfully ended up needing to withdraw when the race changed dates and locations), I took a deep breath and said yes.
And for the next six months, I chipped away at running. I'm not one of those people who can decide to start running and run a half marathon a couple of months later. My knees are a trouble spot and I subsequently need to progress slowly. I started running 1-2 times a week, and gradually increased to 3 days a week, then 4 days a week in the weeks leading up to the race. However, with this frequency increase, I still moved slowly, only upping the mileage when the time felt right. I kept mixing up running with yoga to stretch things out and prevent injury. The week before the race I finally hit the 8 mile mark – a move that I’ve seen other people hit with far less training time, but I was hugely proud of the accomplishment. I moved from feeling petrified to feeling excited and ready for The Relay.
And the experience was amazing. Mind blowing. Life changing. Impossibly ridiculous at times and utterly comical at others. I will detail the adventures in a separate post, but my point is that it is never too late to try something new and push yourself. For so long I felt that running was impossible -- and I had pretty much given up on ever finding a team -- but I decided to approach running in my own way, at my own pace, and I reached my goal.
And more importantly, I reached my goal with my team. Because of my team. My grad league soccer team adventure was nothing to sneeze at, but this experience was hugely different. It was cultivated in a way that would have been impossible a decade ago. It was an intense 36-hour, 200-mile challenge, some 3,000 miles away from home, and I adored every single one of my eleven speedy, courageous, funny running mates (plus our spectacularly entertaining driver). I would run extra miles -- or throw myself in front of oncoming traffic on a winding, ill-lit shoulder -- for any of them. I miss all of these women tremendously already.
My team. I finally found it. And as if that wasn’t enough, we ended up with stinkin' cute uniforms too.