“Everyone asked me what I got you for Mother’s Day,” my husband said the next morning. He’d been at work when most families were treating mom to a lovely late afternoon lunch. “I guess they thought I had a deficit to make up, leaving a 9 year old in charge of making the Mother’s Day dinner.”
“What did you say?” I asked, hoping he’d made up a story about flowers and jewelry.
“I told them you asked for a running coach. They thought I was joking, like that was as bad as giving you a vacuum or blender. I tried explaining that you wanted to take your running to the next level and be elite, but they didn’t really get it.”
I swallowed the knot in my throat before the embarrassment filled up to my ears. Elite! You told them I wanted to be an elite? No! An elite version of myself, maybe. But I’m not so delusional as to think I have any business calling myself ‘elite’! Now all your colleagues will think I’m ridiculous and weird and full of myself! What if they find out my times and see what a poser I am? They’re all going to mock me for hiring a coach!
Thankfully my husband isn’t a sarcastic jerk; when I expressed my dismay he resisted the urge to reply, “Yeaaah, they’re all gonna think you’re ridiculous and full of yourself….for hiring a coach, not because you just imagined everyone going straight home to look up your times and taking to Twitter to publicly mock you. Hashtag nobodycares.”
I’d been struggling for months with insecurity about my running, feeling silly for taking it so seriously when I wasn’t really all that fast–nowhere close to being a local elite. I hemmed and hawed about hiring a coach because frankly, I felt ridiculous. I was certain that when people found out, they’d laugh and say, “She has a coach? Oh, isn’t that darling. That washed-up old lady ran a couple of races and now she thinks she’s a real athlete.”
But now I only feel ridiculous about feeling ridiculous.
I’ve always been paralyzingly afraid of failure, a master hedger and sandbagger. Growing up, I was quite adept at avoiding any academics, activities or sports where I might fall short of an A+ or outright success. There was very little I feared more than “putting myself out there,” be it socially, academically or athletically. So keeping with tradition, as I grew to love running and racing, I downplayed how much I cared about reaching my goals and was quick to add self-deprecating caveats whenever the subject came up.
But somewhere around mile 7 of last month’s half marathon, I had a moment of clarity. It went something along the lines of this: I don’t give a $#*% what anyone thinks anymore. I do this for me and I belong here, suffering mile after mile and calling it fun! That moment of clarity was followed by many more moments of agony, but that’s what I get for thinking deep thoughts while trying to run my guts out.
So I’m putting myself out there and admitting it. I’m a 40 year old mid-pack runner, and I hired a coach. I want to push myself to be as fast as I can be, and I need some help to get there. Given the choice I’d rather have a real running coach than a real Coach handbag. And when I want to feel young I turn to the track instead of the spa. It’s okay if other people think that’s a little strange. And it’s okay if I’m a mediocre athlete compared to the local line-up, because the only comparison I care about is how far I’ve come and how much farther (and faster) I can go.
My old legs may not have a prayer of ever making it to the podium, but they can still take me places. And with a lot of hard work and a little help from my coach, they might even get me there in record time.
Do you train with the help of a coach? If not, what is preventing you from taking that leap? Have you ever felt embarrassed or silly for taking your running seriously?
This post was originally published on August 26, 2014.