At times I’ve struggled in my life with feeling stuck, desperate, confused and overwhelmed by addiction and I have often kept it a secret. I don’t want to be judged for my past and so I have hidden it and have tried to control how I am perceived. I realize that this doesn’t help me or anyone else.
Often I have wished that I could fast forward to becoming the person I hope to be - someone successful and accomplished, although I am not sure what that even means.
Patience does not come easy.
Like many women, running again as an adult quickly became an integral part of my life. It has helped me deal with stress, have time alone and see what I am capable of when all other areas of my life aren’t going so well. It’s helped build my confidence to just try even if I “fail”.
I gravitated to the sport of running in grade school and started running in junior high and high school on both the cross country and track & field teams. Running, enduring the miles and being a part of a team became something I could build my confidence around as a young girl. I was a pretty good competitor.
I had no guidance around my running beside the general direction of the coaches in school. I always wondered regrettably what it could have been like to run collegiately if I had had more direction back then. Could that have been a possibility for me?
After high school, running faded away and I found myself struggling to navigate adulthood, hold a job and graduate college. I wasn’t very good at taking care of myself and I felt immense shame of who I was at a core level.
In general, I guess I felt like a fake, a fraud and not enough. I didn’t feel I deserved anything good and I just didn’t feel good enough. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I believed everything had to be a struggle. Even if I did find something I wanted, I would self-sabotage because I didn’t feel I deserved what I told myself I wanted.
I still ran here and there when I could manage it, mostly a few miles in an effort to make myself feel better and less ashamed. Running through my period of stuckness probably gave me a sense of control over my body and life.
One day, I was given the gift of sobriety and everything changed. Instead of looking at life and myself the way I wanted it to be, I started seeing things as the way they really were, without a filter. I must say, this is not easy and I struggled for a long time.
I started running again for fitness and eventually signed up for a 7km race. I didn’t even have proper running shoes. I ended up winning my age group. After that, I continued with more races because it was something that gave me confidence and focus. I am confident not because of my pace or my finish times, but that I have become someone who shows up, makes mistakes and learns from them and is open to always improving.
I completed more races at the half marathon and eventually marathon and 50km distance, intrigued at how far I could go. I have since then made the jump to triathlon and compete at the 70.3 distance with a full distance triathlon planned for 2019.
For years I wanted to try a triathlon but felt it would be too hard. I couldn’t even swim the length of a pool, and I didn’t have any bike skills to speak of. I had a lot of excuses, but I continued to volunteer at Ironman events and I was captivated by the determination of the participants. Maybe I could do this too?
I finally signed up for and completed my first sprint triathlon. It was a local race and I allowed myself to just go with the flow. It was something so new that I just went into it with the thought, “ok, let's just see what happens!” I was slow, I was constantly passed by other people and I had a blast! There was and is so much to learn and so much that can be improved upon.
I still race to finish (not JUST finish) and maybe beat my previous times, but for me, the thrill and experience of being on the race course with other people is what I love. It’s the feeling of racing. It’s thrilling to accomplish something you never dreamed you could do. Then, you’re like, “ok what else can I do?”
Many of us might hear amazement and incredulation when people hear that we race. However, for me and probably many other women, the event is only the cherry on top. Race day is simply executing our training. What drives me is showing up every day and executing what needs to be done that day. I don’t freak out about the long run or ride next week because that’s not here yet. I focus on today.
I consider myself a runner triathlete because although triathlon is my sport, running is something a little more personal to me.
So I have adopted the identity of a runner and a triathlete. I do the work and I show up. When I shrink down from shame and fear or embarrassment at work or in social situations, I can think about how I feel as an athlete and it carries me on. Running and triathlon have made me a mentally strong and resilient person.
I still struggle with feeling not good enough or wondering if I belong at a start line, but I have developed race strategies and mental plans for these moments. Winning or being the fastest isn’t really that interesting to me. It’s this journey and relentless moving forward step by step that I connect with. I keep going because I want to see what I can do. How far can I go? I haven’t reached my potential yet. I can go farther still. I can endure patiently.
*For more from Katherine, check out her blog Passion For Potential.