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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mountain Lesson #2 – Breaking Through Self-imposed Barriers is Fun!

(as featured on MORE.com - the official website of MORE magazine) On Sunday, August 9, 2009, at 9am mountain standard time, I, Jill Allison Bryan, (former non-athlete, former non-runner, former person least likely to engage in any contest relying on physical ability and coordination), ran my first ever 5K race.  Not only my first 5K ever, but on a course which meandered through the mountains of Breckenridge, Colorado at an elevation of  some10,000 feet, with a vertical ascent of over 850 feet on the trail! (an added challenge for a flatlander from Dallas, Texas) My fantastic creativity coach, Jill Badonsky, used to encourage me to toot my own horn now and again and this feels like a most appropriate moment, so…TOOT!!  TOOT!!

Actually, I’m writing about this personal triumph not so much to sing my own praises, as to share with you the notion that breaking through personally imposed barriers can be an absolutely fan-freakin’-tastic experience!  We all have certain labels we’ve taken on or been saddled with by family members, friends, enemies or evil P.E. teachers.  As a child I believed I could write stories, play piano, sing and act, but I also believed that I couldn’t run well, wasn’t athletic and probably never would be.

As an adult, I slowly began to realize that I did have a few athletic abilities after all.  I could play a fair game of tennis.  I actually enjoyed weight training.  I even learned to windsurf when I lived and worked on a sailboat in the Caribbean.  But only recently, in the past two or three years, have I tried running (something that only real athletes do)…on the treadmill at first, and then, only one or two minutes at a time…but running none-the-less.  I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed the way it made me feel.  When I took my runs outside, I was even more amazed.  I found that not only could I run further and faster than I ever dreamed, I love the mind/body/spirit experience.  I love the meditative feeling of moving my body in my own rhythm, at my own pace, being in nature, and letting my thoughts flow freely.  I love the fact that at 44 years old, I am healthy enough to engage in this new energizing physical practice.  (another Mid-Life Oasis ™ lesson – it’s never too late to begin!)

Though I’ve been running a few times a week for several months now, there’s a difference between running for an hour through my neighborhood, and participating in an actual race.  Although I’ve registered to run a half-marathon in January of 2010 at Disney World (the location makes it seem more feasible and fun somehow) I still had yet to run in an “official” race until this past Sunday. 

I registered on a whim after watching my daughter (who is almost ten) break through a barrier herself.  She was climbing an indoor rock-wall, trepidatious at first…inching up a few footholds, then coming back down.  Finally, after several false starts, she maneuvered her way to the very top of the climbing wall and rang the bell.  She was elated - so proud of herself and rightly so. 

Perhaps it was serendipity that a sign-up sheet for the Breck 150 Father Dyer Mail Run 5K sat right next to the climbing wall.  I felt a sudden surge of possibility and a little bit of “oh, what the hell” - paid my $25 and registered.  (There was also that nice, shiny new SIGG aluminum water bottle that came in the goodie bag – but I like to think that was only a small motivational factor.) 

The weather the day of the race was gorgeous and sunny.  I knew in theory that I could run the 3.1 miles since I had been running almost everyday on trails around town, so my goals were simply to finish and to have fun.  The latter was seriously challenged during the first ten minutes of the race which was extremely vertical.  But after I found my rhythm (run the flat bits, hike the climbs, breathe…breathe…breathe!) and a couple of nice pacing mates, I really enjoyed myself.  I kept thinking  “Wow!  You’re really doing this!” And “Hey, this is pretty fun.”  And occasionally, “Was that a 12 year old who just past me?”

The final ten minutes of the course was downhill and then flat out.  The adrenaline kicked in and I finished at a pretty good clip with the two lovely women I had run with for most of the race.  Once I past the finish line and handed in my ID stub for my time, I felt slightly nauseous and a bit emotional for a few minutes…then pure elation!  I did it!  I rang that bell!  I ran right through a lifelong self-imposed barrier and into the world of “real” athletes. 

If I can do it – so can you!  You can get up and sing at karaoke night!  You can take a dance class – even something dramatic like the tango or salsa or hip-hop!  You can bake a soufflé!  You can do whatever it is that you want to do!  Why wait another day?  Treat yourself to the giddy elation of breaking through a self-imposed barrier now.  Your oasis awaits you!