About that half-marathon I signed up for.
I do not want to run. I want to sit, mostly. I want to sleep, too. I want to relax because life is stressful enough without setting goals for yourself.
And yet, I signed up for a half-marathon which I’m now three weeks behind in training for. It’s been really hot; I’m worried I don’t have the right shoes. I have other things I need to do on a Sunday, and also on a Monday. Tuesday gets really busy for me. Don’t even talk to me about Wednesdays – I’m running (well not actually running) from one thing to another. Thursday is already the weekend and before you know it, it’s Saturday night again and I have to figure out how to not go to a housewarming party in Koreatown.
I knew signing up for this was aspirational at best. When a few friends mentioned that they were registering for a half-marathon together, I didn’t want to be left out. And also, now that I’m in my late-ish 20s, I really ought to be completing something.
So, I charged the registration fee and told everyone I knew about my plans.
I’ve always told people – mostly first dates and doctors – that I was a runner. Probably once or twice a week, I’d say, I like to get out there and clear my mind, feel the rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement, revel in the endorphins and unlimited pizza that follow a great run.
Truthfully, I’m more of an occasional walker. Sure I’ll run across the street when a car is coming or from a squirrel that looks me directly in the eye. But more often than not, I’m happy to traipse along at the pace of a middle-aged woman who spent years raising her kids only to realize she had given everything – even her body – to her family and now she wants to do something for herself.
I ran cross country and track one year in high school – which was a great experience until I realized it was actually a horrible experience. At practice, I was routinely “lapped” by nearly everyone on the team because I was so slow. Our team captain once found me crying in the locker room and thought I was upset because our coach never put me in for meets. In fact, I was just a really emotional 15 year old. Competition was the least of my worries. When our coach put me in a low-stakes race – a real B meet – as a consolation a few weeks later, I fasted all day because I was so nervous. A friend came to cheer me on, and I waved to her as I ran by, as if I were on a leisurely jog around the block and not in the middle of a competitive heat against cross-town rivals the Walter Johnson Bobcats.
It’s a rude fact of life that in order to excel, you must work hard. Supermodel-producer-football fan- actress-U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bundchen explained her workout ethic to Vogue U.K in 2011: “Like I tell my five sisters, who don’t work at it very hard at all, whatever you put in, you get out. I’m not afraid of working hard at anything, whatever it is. I just always want to be the best that I can.”
And just like one of Gisele Bundchen’s lazy, uninspired, fat sisters, I’m worried that perhaps I lack follow through.
Sometimes I think all I have to my name are my many abandoned Tumblrs – each one a half-baked idea that I was sure could capture the zeitgeist, particularly when the zeitgeist was all about me using Microsoft Paint to draw on stock photos of baby animals.
I bought 1Q84 because I had hopes of becoming the kind of person who reads Murakami and casually brings it up at dinner parties or while waiting in line at the dry cleaner’s by my house which always has a line. While it still has a lot of shelf appeal on my bookcase, I don’t think I’ve gotten past page two.
I’ve also never finished a Malcolm Gladwell book; if I’ve spent 10,000 hours on anything it’s probably Instagram.
And occasionally, I feel bad about all these false starts. At the person I could have become had I managed to see some of this through til the end. God, I never even finished “Breaking Bad” on Netflix.
But I also take comfort in a belief that our failures are what bind us together. It’s the things you don’t do well that make you a relatable human – it’s the milk you spilled on the floor and were too lazy to clean up – not your elective dairy-and gluten-free diet that endears and connects you to others.
While we can root for success, we can surely celebrate small failures. All my favorite Twitter feeds do.
We start things we know we won’t finish, like we’re some Greek myth rolling a ball up a hill. We still begin Great American novels, start Duolingo courses in Italian, still try our hand at inventing light bulbs. Even in the face of repeated failures, we are foolishly hard-wired to be optimists.
I don’t know if I’ll show up on race day. I might have terrible shin splints and I probably will have an insatiable craving for dim sum.
This race won’t be the last time I’m peer pressured into doing something I hate; it won’t be the only endeavor I abandon without putting in any real effort. And let me tell you, I certainly plan on disappointing my mom again!
But along the long road of life — say, somewhere between terrible disappointment and astonishing success – I’ll find something to see through to the finish line.