Yesterday, I entered my first 5K race. The race was a benefit for Blanket Fort Hope, a wonderful organization combatting Human Trafficking of minors. I hesitated to join, at first, due to my inability to sustain a run. Challenging my self-doubt, I decided to enter. However, admitting that I could not actually run for 3.22 miles, I decided not to set my personal goal for the win. No, I set my goal to finish the race.
Arriving at the line up, I watched, apprehensively, as seasoned runners stretched their legs, hunger for the win evident on their faces. I wondered if they could read the anxiety in my face, as I slowly pinned the chip enclosed bib onto my shirt. Doubt creeped into my mind once again.
What was I doing here? I couldnt compete with anyone around me. What would they say about the one who would surely come in last? Although gratified to see friends also taking part in the race, I didnt expect (nor did I want) them to slow their pace to match mine. Realization sank in that it would be a lonely trek.
Steeling myself to keep going, I lined up with the rest. At the start, I jogged my 3 minute max (all I had worked up to in my prep). Then, I began walking. I observed all the other runners pulling away, leaving me. One dear friend matched pace with me until I insisted she go ahead.
But I kept walking. As I made the first turn, I saw another lone walker just a few paces ahead. Catching up to her, I introduced myself. I learned, she too, had been diagnosed with a medical issue. As I was working on the rehabilitative stage after my surgery, her journey uphill had just begun. She had signed up for the race prior to her diagnosis, and had almost decided to quit the race. However, she determined her new illness would not stop her life so she showed up. Full of admiration at her courage, I stayed with her throughout the race.
We kept up a decent pace for the entire course, laughing as other runners (now heading back) passed us. I called to them and joked that this was our second time around the course. On the last portion of the race, all the other runners were gathered around the pavilion drinking water and laughing together, high on their achievements. My friend and I drew no attention as we marched towards the end.
When we finally closed up on the finish line, two things happened. The friend,who had started with me initially, had finished, and came back to walk us in for support. And, as previoously discussed, my new friend and I linked arms and matched step for step so we could finish last together.
And we did finish last.
But we finished.
I cannot express the proud moment of accomplishment that travelled through my body after crossing that line.
No applause was heard. In fact, only the time keeper showed any acknowlegement that we finished.
But we knew.
How does that relate to Social Work? In working with others, it is easy to become overwhelmed at the journey befor you. The tasks sometimes seem endless. You watch while other, more experienced workers run circles around you, leaving you feeling inadequate and raising doubts about your ability to stay the course. The nagging voice in your head may tell you to give up. I challenge you to finish.
Three lessons emerged, for me, after my run yesterday.
- There will always be those more experienced than you, who make the task look easy. Remember, they were once in the same space you now occupy. Being the quickest doesnt always equate with being the best. We both completed the course. I knew that if I continued training and building up my skill in jogging, each race would see me improving my standing.
- There will always be those who are having more difficulty than you are. Focusing on your own issues could rob you of the chance to help them. Rremember how it felt when you were in that situation. Reach out to help them.
- True friends will come to support you when you need it. They remember what it is like and want to show their support. Let them.
So I completed my first 5K. Now, encouraged by success, I want to do another one. I am aware that it means I need to keep pushing myself and to not give up.
As I continue to build up my strength and stamina in preparation, I will remember that it’s ok to finish last.
The important thing is to finish.