Last January, I was complaining to a friend about my weight. I had been exercising for three months like an obsessive-compulsive orangutan on anabolics, but not a pound had budged.
It wasn’t the weight that bothered me. It was how the extra pounds slowed my movement and placed unnecessary stress on my body. Worst of all, I knew my extra mass could ultimately torpedo my dreams of becoming an endurance racer.
I have no illusions. Having a mesomorph body type, I wasn’t expecting the gazelle-like speed of a smaller-boned, more petitely-musculed ectomorph. But any runner knows that a loss in weight equals a gain in speed. Granted the boost in momentum averages only two seconds a mile faster for every pound lost. But lose 30 pounds and your 10-minute-mile just dropped to a 9-minute-mile. Now that is some sweet math.
The thought of carrying surplus baggage for all the necessary training and racing miles ahead unsettled me. Every single pound of weight carried above the knee places four pounds of pressure on the knee. Losing 30 pounds would subtract 120 pounds of pressure per knee per step. With roughly 2,000 walking steps in a mile and 26,200 in a half-marathon, losing 30 pounds would reduce my walking knee load by 3,144,000 pounds over 13.1 miles. Not to mention that the rest of my weight-bearing joints would heave a collective sigh of relief at my diminishment.
I bellyached to my buddy about all my hard work without reward. I shared my fears of worn out cartilage, slow race times and of never becoming an athlete.
Cutting through my angst, my friend calmly asked, “Do you want to be standing at that starting line in August thinking, I’ve done everything I could do to be ready for this race? Or do you want to be standing there thinking, There is one more thing I could have done?”
Her words transported me mentally to that starting line. I stood on the asphalt a few dewy minutes before the 7 a.m. start, surrounded by racers stretching and zipping in anticipation and preparation. Amidst all the movement and energy, I stood frozen thinking of traversing the 54 miles ahead with the extra 30 pounds I was carrying. I felt dread and panic and an overwhelming sense of shame. I had months and months to prepare for this challenge that I claimed was so important to me. But in all that time, I hadn’t found the courage to tackle my poor eating habits. I had not made myself accountable to build a foundation under my castle in the sky and now it was about to come tumbling down on my head. In this Scrooge-like vision of one possible future, I had not taken the initiative to cultivate a healthy relationship with food. I would have to carry that burden like heavy, clanging chains across the roads, hills and waterways of this race.
My friend’s question threw down the proverbial gauntlet. It haunted me and grew larger in my mind. It no longer applied to just this specific race, but to life itself. Did I want to find myself at the starting line of each day feeling queasy and unprepared? Or did I want to be standing there confident, eager and ready?
I realized that each moment is a starting line. Was I willing to do what was necessary to feel strong and capable for the next second’s starting gun, or would I choose to coast and complain?
My friend’s question ultimately fueled me to make the changes necessary to be ready for the rapidly approaching Tango starting line…and all other starting lines to come.
Thanks to her question, I can honestly say that for the first time in a long time I am proud of myself and of what I have accomplished so far. Proud that I found the gumption to pay the price attached to my goal. Proud that I have friends who love and challenge me. Proud to share her inspiring question in hopes that it might support others in their own starting line quests…literal or metaphoric. And proud that – though I will set no land speed records on August 7th – I will be standing on that asphalt one week from today confident that I have done everything I could do to be ready for this race.