Today, I want to tell you a story about a race I never wanted to run, and a life I never wanted to live.
Made to Mother
I’m not athletically inclined. It was determined early on that I was better suited for artistic pursuits.
I tried playing soccer as a child, but there was entirely too much running involved. I wanted to stand still, so I did, hoping that the ball would find its way to my general direction. It did. The ball found its way to my stomach, kicked with such an alarming force that I folded like an accordion as the air seeped out of my windpipe in a pathetic array of mismatched notes. The rest of my very short soccer career was spent running from the ball.
In high school, I tried powder puff football. Once. I got tackled in the first play. I thought tackling was against rules, thus the “powder puff” that precedes the term football in this particular variation of the sport. Apparently, some buff, linebacker wannabe made her way onto the girl’s field that day. I spent the rest of practice running from her. Then I never went back.
These meager attempts at team sports taught me that I could run, just not in the right direction.
My lack of athletic prowess makes the fact that I ran a half marathon all the more impressive. Especially considering how much I hated running. Without the incentive of a black and white projectile hurdling my general direction or a burly powder puff player hunting me down, running held little appeal. Actually, it held less than that.
I despised running. With the kind of passion usually reserved for political discussions, grave acts of injustice, or American cheese. What is up with American cheese? It isn’t cheese. There is no dairy in it. At all. But I digress . . . Whenever I ran more than a few dozen feet, I would collapse with a mind-numbing pain in my side as I gasped for breath like an opera singer after competing in a battle of the long note. Only there was no beauty in it. And no victory.
If someone had given me twenty physical activities, insisting that I must do one of them, running would have been my twentieth choice. Even if synchronized swimming and sumo wrestling had been on the list. Mmm-hmm.
At least with soccer and football there is an objective, a point to all the running. You get to score a goal or make a touchdown. You get to win! What is the point of running a long distance? The bumper sticker?
So, how did this athletically un-inclined, running-adversed woman complete a half-marathon? Interesting story. One day I was sitting across from a friend at lunch, and she said, “I ran ten miles this morning.”
My initial response, internally, was “Why would you do that? Why would you run ten miles this morning when you could have read a book, or performed Shakesperian monologues for your dogs, or painted a wall and watched it dry?”
I didn’t say that though. I just said, “Oh. That’s nice.”
Then she did something surprising. She dared me. “Do a 5k with me.” I did not see that one coming. I did not expect her to challenge my complacency and threaten my muffin top.
“I hate running,” I moaned.
“Anyone can do a 5k. Seriously. Like, my mom could do it.” she countered. That . . . got me. I may hate running but I am very competitive. I don’t want anyone’s mother out there showing me up. And I love a good challenge.
Still, a good challenge doing what I hate—nah. No thanks.
“Come on, what do you have to lose?” she pressed in seeing my resolve weaken. I looked down at the top button on my pants, straining to keep it all together.
Why not? Why not do what anybody’s mother can do? Why not get in shape doing something I despised for five hours a week, just to say that I did and earn a bumper sticker?
I could hardly believe the words coming out of my mouth.
“Ok. I’ll do it.”
The next week, I started training. It was rough going at first. After fifty feet, my chest felt like it would burst. I was gasping for breath. A lot of air that was entering my mouth but not finding its way to my lungs. And then the stabbing pain in my side came and kept coming. It begged me to stop.
Now I may not be athletically inclined, but I am not a quitter. I am good with the follow through. And I know I could’ve walked the 5k, but there’s no glory in that. So, I pressed through the pain, forcing my body to do what it was not inclined to do. And a funny thing happened. After a couple of weeks, I no longer fought for air, and the stabbing pain in my side subsided. I still didn’t like running, but I didn’t loathe it anymore either.
The morning of the big race finally came. The adrenaline coursed through my veins like a natural drug. My friend left me in the dust right out of the gate, but I kept on running, finishing the 3.12 miles in a very unimpressive 29 minutes. I never stopped, though. Yep, I ran the whole way. Like a big girl.
And I kept on running. Three miles became five, and five became seven. And somewhere along the way, some insanely early morning or drizzly night, I experienced what they call the runner’s high. I was between four and five miles into a good run, and suddenly my body kicked into another gear. There was no pain, no tension, no resistance even. My breathing was slow and steady, and my limbs moved in a rhythmic dance that might have been graceful. I was on cruise control. Auto-pilot. I sliced through the air like a I was made to run.
And all of a sudden, after many months and hundreds of miles, a crazy thing happened. I fell in love with running. I loved what I once loathed. I loved what I made my body do. I loved the runner’s high. I loved that I could button my pants.
From there, the only place to go was the Music City Half, Nashville’s premiere half marathon race for runners. I trained like a wild woman. I was possessed. The runner’s high came and went, and I kept chasing after it. I was plagued with injuries, but I wouldn’t stop.
The day of the big race came, and I was beyond stoked. I couldn’t wait to get out there and earn that 13.1 bumper sticker for my mom-mobile. I shot out of the gate like a gazelle, running the first six miles at record pace. Then, the left knee gave out, but I kept on running. Then, at nine miles, the right knee gave out. But still, I ran. My pace slowed to a jog and then to something that resembled Monty Python’s Ministry of Funny Walks, but I crossed the finish line at more than a saunter. Wasn’t pretty, but I did it. I got the medal and that bumper sticker.
In an incredibly frustrating side note, the very first place I drove with that “13.1” on my mom-mobile, I pulled up next to a vehicle proudly displaying a “26.2”. Exhibitionist.
So what is the point of all this?
Well, I learned some powerful lessons from crossing that finish line. I learned that we are made to do hard things, things that we may not be naturally inclined to do. If you’ve ever picked up a Bible, that shouldn’t be surprising. Those pages are filled with bear killers and lion chasers, giant slayers and ark builders. There were no arks at the time, by the way.
But I learned something else from crossing that finish line that might surprise you because it sure surprised me. I learned that we are made to do things that we don’t like, things that we may even despise at first. In our “if it feels good, do it culture,” this revelation is quite counter-cultural.
God has made us to do some things that, at first glance, seem impossible. And perhaps even miserable. And yet, if we accept the challenge, we might find that the thing we despise is our destiny.
That is what happened to me.
You see, I never wanted to be a mom. And now I homeschool five kids.
In my twenties, I saw women doing what I’m doing now, I sat across from them at lunch and listened to them talk about their mom-life and all their kids. And I thought, “Why would you want to do that? Why would you want to be a mom when you could be anything, when you could write books, or perform Shakespearian monologues in front of real people, or paint walls and watch them dry for thirty years.” I saw these women tending to the never-ending needs of little people and thought, “Not me. Huh-uh. That would make me miserable.”
But now, it is me.
And a little hand reaches for mine, and my heart skips a beat. The sweet, rhythmic breath of a sleepy soul tickles my neck, and my eyes mist over. I see inspiration conceived with a first word, then another, then complex thoughts and ideas as a purpose is formed, an eternal destiny born from my own. I slice through long days with love and laughter, like I was made to mother.
Yep, I’ve experienced the mother’s high. And I love it! I love what I once loathed.
Sure, there are plenty of pulled muscles and bum knees in this journey called motherhood, but I love this life I never wanted.
I met a woman at church one day who looked at my burgeoning belly, filled with Segars number five, and said, “You are living my worst nightmare.” I’m not making that up. She actually said that. To my face.
Funny thing is, I was living my worst nightmare and turns out, it was a very different dream than I had imagined.
Look, my life certainly isn’t for everyone, but, like me, maybe the life you want isn’t the life you were meant to live. Don’t rule something out because it seems impossible. Don’t rule something out because you aren’t naturally inclined. Don’t’ rule something out because, at first glance, you despise it.
Whatever you were meant to do in this life, there will be obstacles. Improbable, impossible, dread-filled obstacles. Have lunch with your Maker. Accept His challenge. Run the impossible race. Do it anyways! Even if you don’t want to at first.
You just might end up dearly loving that thing you dread. And like me, you might discover that it’s your destiny.
Catherine Segars is an award-winning actress and playwright — turned stay-at-home-mother—turned author, speaker and blogger. She is dedicated to helping other women see their worth in a season when they often feel less-than.
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