Days before running club practice started last fall, I thought about the 5K my daughter Molly and I would be training for, and I imagined myself crossing the finish line.
Having never run in a race of any kind (unless you count those three-legged races we used to have on field day in elementary school), the power of that visual nearly brought me to my knees.
The highly effective Stephen Covey thought up his “begin-with-the-end-in-mind” habit a long time ago. But it’s not something I’ve ever done much before. I either do things, or not. I sometimes imagine myself at future events—my daughters’ weddings, a parent’s funeral, that kind of thing—but I don’t spend a lot of time casting visions for myself or anyone else.
But that picture of me crossing the finish line—and what I imagined I would feel when I did—stayed with me for the next several weeks. It kept me going as I plodded through 90-degree temperatures, personally redefining what it means to “sweat profusely.” It motivated me as I wondered how we would ever survive a 5K when Molly kept missing school (and running club practice) because she kept getting sick. It gave me confidence, as race day approached, that somehow Molly and I could both jog the whole way even though neither of us had never continually run more than two miles outside before.
Two days before the race, after a couple of good practices, I strained to keep moving as we ran along the trail. I thought it was supposed to get easier, I groaned to myself. How am I ever gonna finish the race on Saturday?
But even as I struggled, something amazing was happening to Molly. After spending our late afternoon practices mostly walking with her friends and complaining about being hot and tired, she suddenly kicked it into overdrive that last week. She ran like she’d never run before. She peaked at exactly the right time.
And I thought, If she can do it, I can do it.
The day of the race was perfect. It was cold and dark when we boarded the bus that took us to the race site, and the atmosphere at the starting line was electric. And you know what? I loved it. Every bit of it.
I had not expected that at all.
I hadn’t expected how much fun it would be to weave through race traffic, holding tightly to Molly’s hand so we wouldn’t be separated. I hadn’t expected how thrilling it would be to jog past groups of walkers, beaming with pride that we were going faster than they were. I hadn’t expected how exciting it would be to see spectators all along the race route, cheering us on with signs and voices. I hadn’t expected how exhilarating it would be to have Molly actually running next to me the whole time.
After about 35 minutes, we started to see a few people who had already finished coming toward us, looking for friends who were still running. And that’s when it hit me. We were almost there. This thing that I’d put off for so long, feared so much, worked so hard for—it was almost in sight.
It wasn’t about the time, it was about finishing. Together. And we did. At exactly the same moment.
I love the video of us at the finish line. There was no big emotional release, as I had imagined there might be. Just a quick hug, and then off to find daddy and big sister. Subtle, like me and Molly, and perfectly priceless.
• • • •
The day after my 43rd birthday, I once again did something I had never done before. I made a pot roast. Out of a 3-pound hunk of beef. With potatoes and everything.
It tasted great. Better yet, it felt great. There was no cloud of witnesses in the kitchen, cheering me on as we took the first bite. But there was something just as nice. A husband and two daughters who are proud of me for trying something new, who will love me even if the next attempt at something new ends in dismal failure.
I could get used to this, this new habit of doing things I don’t know if I can do. I will get used to it.
It’s not about me anymore. And in this race we call life, that makes all the difference in the world.