75. Just One More Step, Darling

75. Just One More Step, Darling

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Just One More Step, Darling

The first step binds one to the second.

~French Proverb

If someone had told me in June 2013 that I would take part in a marathon event, I would have laughed. Yet there I was on October 6, 2013 with a medal around my neck.

Okay, it was the 4.2K race and I walked it more than I ran it, but I still did it.

Did I mention that I weigh around 300 pounds? I also have asthma, but it’s not that much of a problem because I take good medication. Also, I haven’t mentioned that I live with four anxiety disorders. One of which, my social anxiety disorder, makes me deadly afraid of people’s judgment. Yeah, I know.

But somewhere in the middle of August I decided that registering for the 4.2K event of our local marathon would be a great motivator to get in shape. So I registered and started walking religiously.

I told only a few people — my family and some other people I trusted.

My training went well until the middle of September, when my work situation started deteriorating and left me too exhausted to do much once I left the office. I also had volunteer commitments for another local event. So the frequency of my walks decreased and that was not good.

I was able to keep my anxiety in check until it was time to get my race number. I kept wondering what the other participants and the volunteers would think. I didn’t have the usual runner’s profile.

I got my number without problems or comments, but I did skip the humiliation of the T-shirt table. It’s very nice of them to provide a keepsake for everyone, but considering there were no shirts that would remotely fit me, I turned my back on the table and quickly left. That started me doubting myself again. What the heck was I doing? I had no right going there. The 4.2 is the “popular event,” with families and young children participating. But I was willing to bet a hundred bucks that not many obese people had registered.

I had nightmares for most of the night before the race, which is NOT the best way to start a race day. When I got up, for a brief moment I considered not going. But I didn’t want to disappoint myself or my family. Then I considered giving up again when I realized I had forgotten to wash my best pair of running pants. But Walmart, which sells them, opens at 8 a.m. My race wasn’t until 10 a.m., and it was barely 9 a.m.

I had another fit of despair when I checked the weather. The sun was shining, but it was barely 32 degrees. But then I realized that with the appropriate clothing, I would be just fine.

No matter how hard I tried, there was no valid reason for me to give up. So, I drove to Walmart, bought a pair of pants and a running shirt, and headed to the starting line.

I quickly found that people didn’t really care about me; they were too focused on their own experience. It appeased me a bit, but not completely. Once I ended up at the end of the pack, those real athletes would surely wonder what I was doing there.

But it was much too late to turn back. So I started walking, my earphones playing loud music to drown out the possible hurtful comments.

Pretty quickly my calf started hurting. I must not have stretched enough, but I pushed on. My nerves and my bad night also took a toll, and as I looked at people passing me, I panicked. I didn’t want to be last. Then I took a deep breath, and told myself it wasn’t a race.

Well, okay, it WAS a race. But since I had no chance of finishing first, the only thing that mattered was finishing. The only person I was racing was myself.

Just then something happened. As I relaxed, I started noticing that the people passing me on their way to the finish line were encouraging me!

All along the way there were “real” runners giving me a nod, a wink, a thumbs up, a “good job, don’t give up.” I didn’t care why they were doing it. Was it pity? Was it (dare I say) a bit of admiration for the courage it had taken me to be there? Or (more likely) plain old good sportsmanship? It’s not important, because it made me feel like I belonged.

As I walked I kept repeating to myself, “Just one more step, darling.” That had been my motto in 2007 when I started battling my anxiety disorders and the severe depression they caused. That motto is how I try to lead my life now. When things get overwhelming or when life doesn’t happen the way I would like, that’s what I tell myself: Just one more step, darling — because every step takes you closer to your goal.

So I pushed on, one step at a time, and eventually I saw the big tent at the finish line. I tried going a little faster, but I was tired and hungry.

As the finish line got closer, more and more people lined the path clapping and cheering on the runners. I never thought I would be so grateful to see all these people.

Finally, the finish line was only a few meters away. I started running. That’s how I crossed the finish line, running with the last bit of energy I had.

The moment I crossed the line, I heard someone calling my name. I would know that voice anywhere — my sister, who was there with my father, both beaming at me. I wasn’t alone anymore.

Then I heard my name over the speakers, as they announced all the participants as we came in, and I felt incredible pride. One last high five to one of the local radio personalities who served as the announcer and it was over.

I had done it. I had the courage to register. I had the courage to show up and participate with everyone else. I did it with my head held high.

With a time of fifty-five minutes, I was neither the slowest nor the fastest. But it’s not important; I was faster than if I hadn’t gotten up from my couch.

I have already decided that next year I’ll be RUNNING that same 4.2K.

~Genevieve Gosselin

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