Becoming Claudia

I so often think negative thoughts. I dislike so much about myself and it's something I constantly work on overcoming. I don’t know where these thoughts stem from…from childhood, from my ex-husband or simply, from me. But they exist.

I write often about running and how it relates so much to life. Through running, I've healed myself in many ways. It has taught me so many lessons and through miles of running, it gives me plenty of time to think. I wrote recently a blog called, "Chasing Claudia”. It was about that elusive runner/person who is, to me, perfection….the beautiful all around athlete/woman/mom/friend/lover who encompasses strength, grace, humor, and beauty who isn't afraid of anything. I see her when I run sometimes. Sometimes she is me, sometimes she is the person in front of me with her ponytail swinging and her long legs nimbly hopping up hills like they were mere ant hills. But recently, I realized that maybe my quest for Claudia is really a quest for inner peace….to quite the voices inside my head which say I can't do this thing (whatever that may be).

I've learned that everyone has a Claudia that they are chasing. We all have demons we face in the mirror. You may not be as vocal as I am with my inner dialogue, but I'm learning from talking to others that this inner dialogue occurs even with those I perceive as “fast runners”, “great teachers” or who "have it all together”.

We all doubt ourselves. We all see the flaws glaring at us in our reflections. We all want to achieve MORE.

And a Claudia to me can be someone who runs an 8-minute mile, while I may be a Claudia to others at my 9-minute 30-second mile pace (on a good day). And being a “Claudia” isn’t always about being fast. It is also about being human….being that person we WANT to become.

I’m learning that strength is finding those moments when we can BE “Claudia”. When we ARE that fast runner and are proud of our accomplishments for what they are…a private journey called life. Three years ago, I was asked by a dear friend to be her guide in the NYC Marathon. At first, I laughed…me? A guide? Surely you want a faster runner? A more accomplished runner? Someone who doesn’t walk in a marathon? Someone who is stronger? Someone who has run for many years? She smiled her sweet smile, and said, “No, I want you. I want your energy and your belief in me.”

To me, this friend is a true Claudia. She is slower than me due to a mobility disability she has had since childhood from a stroke at age 6. She walked with a cane 7 years ago and yet, she has run 9 marathons including Boston in the pouring rain last year with me again as a guide! Facing life with a smile and faith that she can accomplish great things. SHE is my Claudia.

So often on a run, when I'm feeling miserable and asking myself, 'WHY am I doing this?', she pops into my head and I'm reminded that running is about feeling alive. It's about the challenge and the inner peace a run brings. In some ways, it's like being at church because, in the end, you feel cleansed and fresh regardless of how difficult or great a run may be. This friend constantly reminds me to focus on the step in front of me. To focus on the moments. To me, she is a Claudia.

Recently, I was volunteering at a race at the registration table. An overweight man came to the table to pick up his race number. He smiled a warm smiled and said how excited he was for this race. He had been doing the couch to 5K program and this was his second 5K. We chatted and then he went off to run the race. After the race started, I moved to the water table spot to hand out water to the runners as they finished the 5k. It was a hot day and the runners came in drenched with sweat and wanting water. The man with the smile was the absolute last runner. I don’t know his time and I don’t know his name. I do know he finished dead last, slowly coming down the finish shoot with an incredible smile, beaming from ear to ear.

He took the water from me and said, “That was great!!!! I PR’d by 1 minute!!! I rocked this race!”. I was humbled beyond belief because THAT is what it's all about. Achieving what we think we believe we can. Pushing ourselves to BE more. Being in the moment and enjoying the sweat, the sun, the water, the race. HE was a Claudia for me that day.

I want to have his confidence and joy in the experience. I have run 8 marathons and this fall I'll be running Chicago for the second time. My goal is to run it in 4 hours 45 minutes! This goal is set and shared now (officially putting it out there!). But regardless of what race day brings me, I made a promise to myself to enjoy the miles, find moments to be proud of, and mostly, to simply find the joy in the journey.

From this stranger, I am reminded to be PROUD. To stand tall and say I set out to achieve something and I did it. So thank you to this man today. Thank you for being my Claudia.

Life is a race. We are constantly rushing, searching, and comparing. There are Claudia’s all around us…reminding us to push ourselves, to love ourselves and to believe in the moment. So thank you to my Claudias! You remind me to focus on the steps in front of me and to pause and see the baby ducks along the river.

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