Talking to a friend recently about our personal best running times for a weekly public event, I moaned about the resulting painful back making sitting near impossible for a few weeks. My first attempt of the 5km circuit was completed in 35 minutes. I had intended to power walk it in about 50 minutes.
I started off quite far back from the start line, happy to be apart from the throng of runners crowding it like jittery, competitive F1 cars waiting for the start flag to drop at Monza.
Amongst us walkers, there was an uncertain yet relaxed and friendly camaraderie as we waited until we were able to move forward past the electronic start line tracking every individual’s time.
I began my brisk walk pace savouring the trees lining the route, clear blue sky, the summer warmth, the play of shade and dappled light reflecting on surrounding nature, the firm ground pressing into my trainers with each step.
I then changed pace to jog, intending to return to power walk after a couple of minutes. It was all going so well until I reached a part of the route where a flash flood of runners were shouting at their teenage offspring to keep going as the finish line was nearly upon them. My pace went from civilised jog to a near panicked run (my version at least) as we were almost there, weren’t we?
No we were not, or rather, I wasn’t anywhere near the finish line. I still had another loop of the circuit to do, yet I felt I couldn’t slow down as the invisible yet palpable velocity propelled me at the pace of the others panting and dripping around me.
Looking back I see, that the invisible force was, in fact, my own fear. Of what, I am not sure exactly. Fear of being true to myself, to a pace healthier for the long suffering back? Perhaps. All I know is that morning’s run became a metaphor for my life.
How many times have I set out to do things in a way that is just right for me, healthier, saner even only to be hijacked by the throng of age-old (though not necessarily wise) standards, opinions, pace, rhythm, views, patterns just because everyone else is doing that? It seems to happen unconsciously, invisible yet steady bombardment of information and beliefs that bolster the status quo of living life as its always been done.
It’s easier to go along with the crowd, be swept away competing with the next person for some kind of recognition, be accepted by others by adopting similar patterns of being and thinking, become a shinier, happier person on the outside while your dreams shrivel up on the inside. This keeping up comes with a hefty price tag.
It takes courage to do the right thing by you, to heed the stirrings of your own heart and also have a sense of community, of belonging. Psst. Guess what? You can belong – there are others like you who are also willing to be steered by their own heart. You just have to venture out there and you will find them.
Meanwhile, I resolve to be brave and power walk my way around the track with a personal best that is healthier for the back and slower than almost everyone else.