I conquered a fear this past week. It was a fear that has been following me around for years: the fear of running.
I know that may seem really silly. And maybe it wasn’t so much that I was afraid of actually running as it was that I was afraid that if I decided to start, I would have to suddenly be competitive and on the same level as my amazing mom (who is constantly training for and competing in marathons) and my sisters-in-law (gorgeous, amazing athletes who qualify and compete in the Boston marathon yearly).
Running, for me, has always been a pain. My mom used to tell me, “Once you start, the good exercise endorphins will kick in and you'll feel great!” Lie. In fact, the more I ran, the angrier I became.
But here’s the thing: I had never run more than four miles. Ever.
So naturally, I decided this summer I’d sign up for a half marathon. I watched my husband train and complete his first half a few years ago, and something about that medal hanging around his neck inspired me. (Or maybe it was the way my stomach hung over my pants.) Either way, I wanted to give that fear (and fat) a run for its life, so I began slowly training. I just kept telling myself, “I already signed up and paid. There’s no backing out. I’m doing it.”
So far, the runs have been pretty easy: two miles, three miles, four miles. Then a few days ago, I was up for the five-miler. And I was scared.
What if I can’t do it? If I can’t do five there’s no way I can do 13.1! And what if I injure myself? What if I get attacked by a dog — or worse — while I’m out running? What if I realize I’m not very good? And even though I don’t care about my time, I care about my time.
I decided to call my little sister and see if she wanted to run with me. She agreed, and together we set off into the night to run five miles.
And you know what? We did it! We actually ran five miles. No walking, no stopping, no being attacked.
It was such an amazing feeling, coming up to the five-mile mark and actually feeling good. (I guess those little runners endorphins don’t kick in until mile four, which explains my unreasonable anger up until that point.) I was ridiculously proud of us for doing something I’d never, ever done before.
I started to think about everything I’ve been too afraid to try in my life. What if I just did it? What if I just laced up my shoes and started putting one foot in front of the other and didn’t look back? Everything in life starts with a thought. Positive thoughts bring positive results. What other fears couldn’t “get to me at all” (side note: Anyone else have the song “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen” playing in their heads for five straight months?) if I just decided to do what I really wanted to do?
A few days later, my husband rented “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” a fantastic show about a man who lives so much in his head that he never does anything or goes anywhere. He just lives in his daydreams and is constantly being distracted by his imagination.
Then one day, he sets off on an adventure that changes his life and is better than any scenario he could have played out in his mind.
One of my favorite quotes from the movie was when Walter was high atop a mountain with his photographer friend, waiting to capture a picture of the elusive snow leopard.
Finally, the leopard emerges from the cliffs, and Walter looks expectantly over at his friend, who is just sitting there staring at the cat.
“Aren’t you going to take the picture?” Walter asks.
“Sometimes, I just like to stay in the moment,” his friend replies, looking up from the lens, “without the distraction of the camera.”
Being in the moment without all the “distractions” of life can be challenging. But I think the challenges we face will make us stronger when we choose to lift up our heads and live our lives bravely, confidently and every day. All it takes is facing our fears, pulling our hair back and saying, “I’m doing it.”
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.