A few years ago, I was running 40-50 miles a week, had several race bibs, and even placed first in my age division in a 5K (total fluke–there were literally only 2 other women in my age group); And yet I still didn’t consider myself a runner. I thought I was too slow. I thought I had poor form. I thought I didn’t train properly. I thought I didn’t run long enough distances. I didn’t have the right lingo or clothes and gear. “Oh no, I’m not a runner,” I’d say when asked, “I try to run but I’m not very good and I’m very slow.”
I would minimize a part of who I was. Until the moment when I woke to a beeping noise after a colonoscopy. The nurse asked, “Are you a runner?” I was groggy and had no idea where I was as I woke from sedation, so I just answered, “Yeah, I run. Why?”
She explained that my heart rate was lower than the threshold the machine is set at, so it beeps an alarm to notify the nusres as they monitor the patients. She reassured me I had nothing to worry about, as athletes’ resting heart rates tend to be lower than the general population. Then she assured me I said absolutely nothing embarrassing while sedated. I actually wasn’t worried about it until that very moment.
But wait, I had other concerns at that very moment! She said Athlete! Runner! This was measurable! My heart rate demonstrated I was a bona fide runner!! I was so proud, I was so happy. A stupid beep is what it took for me to believe I was a real runner, and that I wasn’t just playing one on TV. After that, I felt I had the right to self-identify as a runner.
Then my slew of injuries hit, and I couldn’t run for almost an entire year. Once at the doctor’s office, they told me I had a resting heart rate in the 90s. I walked away so depressed. I had lost my superhuman strength, my superpower was gone. I was a mere mortal again. I was no longer a runner. No matter that I was still physically the same size and still fairly healthy. I had already struggled with the void that not running left in my life. I was already forced to find other ways to relieve stress and meditate. Now, they took my heart rate away from me.
Fast forward to a slow return to running. I’m nowhere close to the speed and mileage I used to be at. But I’m so grateful to be out there at all. I had my annual physical. And my heart rate–wait for it, wait for it–is 54. I’ve regained my superpower!
I trained carefully for my unwise series of half marathons. I was hell-bent on completing these for no reason other than I could, and because I have the heart of a runner. These would be my F*ck You’s to the brain injury, to the arthritic knees, to the pinched nerve and dessicating discs in my lower back. (Plus there was a shiny pink medal to be had. I can be so easily distracted. And bought off.) I was prepared physically, finally! And then God showed me his wicked sense of humor. I got the flu days before the first race. Kicked my ass, that flu did. And this was Life’s lesson of resting and taking care of myself instead of powering through to work and all my other obligations. And I listened to this lesson, because I was not going to miss these races again. I was going to run them no matter what.
Because I know I have the heart of a runner. I am resilient, focused, strong, fierce, determined. And I believe in myself. I have the heart of a runner regardless of what my resting heart rate is. This is a superpower that cannot be taken away from me. Look in your heart–do you have the heart of a runner? Even if you don’t actually run –are you resilient, strong, fierce? If not, and you want to be, you can train your heart. Like you would train for a race, I promise you, you can train your heart to be resilient and strong, train yourself to believe in yourself. What superpower is in your heart?
So you know, my other superpower of Delusion was ripped from my grasp when I saw the photographs from the races. I could have sworn I have the stride and grace of a gazelle. Apparently I’m more like a grumpy honey badger. Well, this honey badger don’t care.