About a year ago, I ran for the first time in many, many years. I just happened to be kids-free for the night so, instead of heading downstairs to my elliptical machine, I headed outside. I thought I was just going for a quick run around the neighborhood…but, that night was actually the beginning of a much longer journey. I just didn’t know it yet. I enjoyed the run. It was nice to be outside doing something different. I had no idea how far I’d gone or how fast. I ran in silence as I didn’t even own an iPod. I wore a regular cotton t-shirt and $40 running shoes that had seen better days.
I would love to say that it instantly became my passion, but it was more of a gradual love affair that started as a flirtation. Soon enough, though, I had invested in new shoes (hot pink, in case you were wondering) and some proper running clothes (hello, new world of shopping). When I found myself plodding through the cold temperatures and dark evening runs of Canadian winter – runs that often include surprise slushy soakers and sometimes result in frozen eyelashes – I realized that something great was happening each time I went out. It didn’t seem to matter if it was a longer run or a shorter one, a faster run or a slower one. I was losing myself in the run…and finding myself there too. It was just me and the road, and there was a beauty to that very simple equation.
I was what you would call a “fitness runner” then – getting my sweat on to keep my butt size in check. I was active and healthy, sure. But did I have any long term fitness goals? Not really. I’d already won the battle of the bulge (hallelujah, amen). I was maintaining my body weight and showing my kids that exercise is important. Both of these goals are great on their own but, for me, they weren’t aspirational anymore. Then one day, I somehow stumbled upon this thing called Disney’s Princess Half-Marathon…and suddenly, I had a goal. It was huge. It was scary. It was even a little crazy.
My family loves all things Disney so the idea of running for Princess status in a destination race was beyond appealing. Before I could commit to it, I had to do some battle within myself, as the loudest voice in my head (you know, that bossy and negative one?) kept telling me that I would never be able to run 13.1 miles (that’s 21 km!) let alone do so in a race setting. Let’s be honest, I would have considered participating in competitive sporting events in high school a form of cruel and unusual punishment. If I couldn’t do it then, when I was young and in my prime, who did I think I was now, in my mid 30s after having 2 kids, to be contemplating something like this? However, there was a quieter voice in there too – saying, why not? Saying, imagine how it would feel to do it. Saying, just try. Saying, I think you can.
These two voices are with me on every single run. The bossy one is nattering at me to “slow down, it’s too hot, it’s too cold, you’re tired, you’re thirsty, you can’t make it that far, you know you want to stop.” But with time, I have learned not to listen to that one anymore. I now trust the other voice reminding me that my legs still feel strong, that my body can do this, that I have already come farther than I thought I could. That voice is the one I listened to when I recruited a friend to join me in the race to the Castle, to get our feet wet with some local races, to build my endurance on my long runs, to increase my speed on the shorter ones…basically, to run like a princess.
Running to the Castle in pink shoes is about more than just a race. It’s about proving something to myself. It’s about setting a goal and achieving it. It’s about being feminine and athletic, not having to choose between the two. It’s about showing my daughters that strong is beautiful. It’s about my sole sister and all of the amazing women who are training with me, on their own journeys to this finish line. It’s about realizing the childhood dream of becoming a princess by making my own dreams come true as an adult. It’s about having faith and trust in myself… and still believing in pixie dust too.
I am now officially registered for Disney’s Princess Half-Marathon in 2013, with the resort reservations made and plane tickets booked. An idea that seemed impossible when I first heard about it is now becoming a reality, because I chose to make it one. I know I can do it because I am listening to the voice inside who is not afraid to try. And you know what? That other voice is starting to quiet down these days too.