Courage, Dear Heart: Fear and Running Anyway

It started with sixty seconds of running followed by ninety seconds of walking, back in the spring and summer with my first series of runs. Having no idea what I was doing and with the courage of a snail, I stepped into my running shoes that very first evening to go and join my running group, anxious about so many things, and scared of failing and falling and finding out that I couldn’t do it. Fearful thoughts almost stopped me many times, but for the friends who were waiting for me like clockwork by the side door of the Talbot Street Church: would I live through it (a very real worry I had); would I be able to breathe while running; if I could not breathe, would I have to stop while the whole group waited for me and maybe even have to stop the run? And even if I could breathe, would my side cramp up, would I trip and fall, would I have to talk to my fellow runners when I barely had enough breath to keep my lungs going? Would my feet hurt, would my legs ache, would I have enough energy? Would I know how to be a runner? At the core of all my fear was this gigantic question: could I do it?

Here I am five months later, having now run in three seasons: summer, fall, and winter. I am still putting on those running shoes. Not winning races, not running 5 km straight, but improving steadily, joining 5 km races, and running 3-4 times a week in the fresh, now cold and snowy and wintry air. Sixty seconds turned into ninety seconds, which turned into two minutes, which turned into the length of a song on my playlist, which turned into two songs, which turned into five minutes, which turned into longer and longer runs.

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Everything is a process, and we all have to start somewhere. Tying up our laces is a good place to begin. There are days where the last thing I want is to get out there, and there are days where my body is biting at the bit. Taking that first step was the only way I could do every run for months, and even today, I am doubting myself–right now eating Roasted Red Pepper Soup, drinking a warm English Breakfast tea, looking outside at the snowed-in sidewalks and grey skies and there is more snow in the forecast, and thinking ‘do I have the courage to face those roads again?” I know once I get out there, adrenaline and wonder and lungs full of fresh air and pine trees covered in snow and white flakes falling in front of streetlamps and other runners and people walking their dogs will all encourage me (got huge hugs from a massive dog named Brutus the other day), and the spirit of running and euphoric energy will take over my heart. But for now, all I can think is: how am I ever going to do this?

Courage, dear heart. It will happen the way it always happens. One step will turn into sixty seconds which will turn into ninety seconds which will turn into two minutes, and then three songs and four songs and a whole playlist and before I know it, I will be wondering how I ever got through the day without being out there, and feeling like the luckiest and happiest and most blessed person in the world. The rush of wind and nature and wonder will overtake me, and I will do it.

Until then, I will remember what has gotten me here: never giving up, taking one running step after another, and always trusting that my steps in snow so deep I can’t see where I’m going will get me home again.

Courage, dear heart: you can do it.

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(Header Photo wth thanks to Dominik Martin)