“Nothing will work unless you do” – Maya Angelou
Today, as I crossed the finish line and completed my first 5K in Battery Park, I heard Maya Angelou’s voice in my head: “Nothing works unless you do.”
She was right. But I wish I had known this a bit earlier in the week. Let me back up some.
Every night this week I have cried myself to sleep with the fear of the unknown. I felt that things weren’t going as smoothly as they should at work, on social media I was seeing close friends pick up new jobs at impressive news organizations and I had an upcoming 5K race that I was terrified for. BTW, it’s critical to know that I’m not a runner in any sense of the word.
The week required me to make important decisions. Yet I couldn’t because every decision could take me down a path that led to more uncertainty. Every decision could end in a potential slip-up that I couldn’t bear to face. For example, if I pitched a story to my editors that I was excited about, it could be turned down. Or if I started going to the gym this week to prepare for the race, I could find out that I wasn’t in good enough shape to run three miles by Sunday. I opted instead to not make any decisions and to just wonder what the outcome could be for every scenario.
It went on like that for seven days. I’d stress myself out, think about what I should be doing to move forward and then go to sleep doubtful. Being suspended in uncertainty, though uncomfortable, feels like an easier route than knowing for certain and not liking the answer.
On Sunday, after days of doubt, I finally made my first decisive decision. I decided follow through on my commitment to run the 5K. Granted I didn’t want to nor did I feel prepared. I definitely didn’t feel adequate enough. I was going to be racing against my peers, several of them who regularly run 5Ks and had even run a marathon or two. Meanwhile, my daily existence consisted of just trying to make it through three miles on the treadmill.
But of all the things I had questions or doubts about this week, I felt the most urgent feeling of knowing if I could actually run three miles or not. Could my legs and decision and sinew carry me through my first 5K? I had to find out – tepidly.
Because even as I stood in line waiting for my wave to be called, I still hadn’t fully convinced myself that I’d run the full 3.1 miles. I left myself an out as to shield myself from disappointment. I told myself it would be good enough to just finish the race and not run it the full way. One way I did that was not really telling people I’d be running the race. I just said I had Sunday morning plans. And when my friend who was running with me asked what my goal was, I said, “To finish.”
But in my head it was to run 3.1 miles. Not walk. Not stop. But fully and with all my heart run in. I wanted to prove to myself I had the fortitude to follow through on something I said.
As these thoughts raced through my mind, the herd of runners with their bibs and headphones started to move forward. I joined along with.
Very early on, I lost sight of my friends. They had darted right past me. So now I really had to finish the race so I could find them at the end, after we all finished. I’d see bobbing heads in the distance every once in a while. But soon I saw no familiar bodies. For the most part it was just my thoughts and I during the run.
By myself, in my head, I told myself that since I started the race running, I’d finish it that way as well. I wasn’t yet brave enough to let others know that was my goal yet.
I ran around the pier and past Chinatown and toward the Statue of Liberty in the distance. Then the path took me past police officers and cheerleaders lining the route and rooting us on. I ran past strollers and walking participants that was a good reminder that I was pushing myself, no matter how exhausting, out of my comfort zone. I kept running even when every muscle in my body told me to stop, slow down, rationalize that it was alright to go half-way. Accomplish some of the dream but not all of it.
As soon as I let those thoughts in my mind, my side started to hurt, I felt dehydrated and my pace slowed.
It’s a lot easier to convince yourself you can’t do something than exert the effort to make it happen. It feels easier not trying than knowing what you’re capable of. In the end, though, the paralysis created by the fear of failure hurts much worst than the actual failure.
This is because when you don’t try, you’ll always wonder what you are capable of doing. Once you attempt to do something, even if you fail, you know your limits and what it takes to go to the next level.
Jordyn, just keep running. Maybe you’re almost there, I told myself and tried to push the compromising thoughts out of my system. I said I’m running this whole thing and that’s what I’m going to do.
I had no idea how many more miles I had to go. About 10 minutes before my side started hurting it said I’d made the two-mile mark. I had to be done soon, right? I had one more mile or so and if it really got bad, well, I’d stop then.
Finishing the race was enough for my first try, right?
At this point, my arms were barely pumping back and forth. The sweat on my forehead was just dewy now.
Then I turned a curve.
The blue finish line was right there. I made it work. I let out a deep breath. I kept running. I kept breathing. I kept to my goal and crossed the finish line, having run the entire time.
I guess all that really stood between me and that finish line was completely throwing myself into trying something new. Now I know.