It’s funny that such a straightforward statement about my ability to run can still make me feel like I must be kidding myself or, at least, fooling everybody else. Because after almost nine years of running and training AND completing my first ever marathon, I still can’t quite internalize that I am an athlete. That I am a runner. That my sport of choice is endurance events. Maybe it’s because I started all of this soon after turning 50, after years of being the high school nerd, the college smoker, the doughnut-eating pregnant lady, the sedentary working mom.
Yet here I am, almost a decade of running, swimming, biking and multiple 5k, 10k, half marathons, several triathlons and a duathlon plus the aforementioned 26.2, still not quite sure I can own the moniker of Athlete.
What’s that about? I think it has to do with reconciling the self we created as an adolescent with the adult we are. Underneath all of our growing, learning, wisdom and life experiences — which accrue to a current sense of self — is the initial model we created once we began the individuation process. It’s kind of like comparing the final painting to the original sketch. There are similarities between the two versions but, because that initial raw sketch was your first attempt at getting the idea on paper, there is some truth that feels real in it even if the final version has changed substantially through constant adapting, layering and learning which has modified those first rough lines.
So it is with my sense of self as an athlete. There were no athletic role models in my childhood and adolescence. We were a cerebral family, interested in debates about the daily politic, doing well (perfect) in school and being accomplished. So I had never drawn athlete lines in my self portrait. Until I turned 50 and decided I could.