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Every child has major milestones in their first few years of life: first time sleeping in their crib; first real smile; first tooth; first time they roll over; first word. Yet nothing really captivates and excites the way that a child’s progress towards walking does. You watch anxiously, cheering him on as he makes his first crawling-like movements. You smile and shake your head with wonder as he is soon speeding around the house, giving you a run for your money. Then, just as you think you are catching up, you take a look and there he is: tentatively taking a few steps while supported by the nearest piece of furniture. Each and every day you urge him on, hoping to catch that moment where he takes his first real steps.
Then, one day, it happens. Without warning, he steps away from the furniture and ambles awkwardly towards your outstretched arms. Whether he makes it the entire way, or stumbles and falls, he shares with you an amazing and heart warming smile, knowing he just accomplished something amazing (and if he’s like my son, he claps for himself as well). Over the next few days and weeks, he will take more and more steps, sometimes falling, sometimes suffering bumps and bruises. Each attempt becomes more successful than the last, and before you know it he is walking from room to room like he has been walking his entire life. It is scary and wonderful all at the same time.
Our journey from couch jockey to runner follows a similar path. We awaken one day with our head buried in a drool covered pillow, a rerun of The Big Bang Theory on the in background, and Cheetos scattered on the floor. We decide then that a sedentary lifestyle is no longer working for us. We are tired of our expanding waist lines, our struggle to walk up a flight of stairs, and our never-ending lack of energy. We realize that it is time to make a change, to become better than who we are, to get out there and conquer the world and make it our own.
Our first few runs are nothing more than a crawl. We shuffle along, winded, trying to remain optimistic but often times wanting nothing more than to quit. Wouldn’t it be nice to be back inside our climate controlled homes watching American Idol? But no, we remember why we are out here and dig deep into our reserves to make it through the run. Whether it was a just around the block or around the neighborhood, we count it as a victory and use it to push us towards future progress.
Each run becomes a little easier. Our steps become more sure as we find our natural stride. We find a rhythm with our breathing, making it possible to actually give a friendly greeting to passing runners (or that neighbor who looks at you like you’re crazy for running in the snow). The block that we ran last time becomes two, and then three, and then before realizing it we’ve run our first mile. We clap, we cheer, we want to shout it from the roof tops, “I ran a mile!” Something grows inside us at that point, a curiosity, a hunger, a belief that we can do more go further than we ever thought possible.
And so we do. Whether we go onto a 5K or a marathon and beyond, we lean on that inner strength that we’ve built over all those past miles. We remember that whether we’re running a 5 minute mile or a 15 minute mile, we’re still moving mountains compared to the people we used to be. Every run is a victory, and to the victor go the spoils. So the next time you see a new runner taking their first steps, just smile knowing the glory that awaits them just around the corner.