She’s inside of me. I know it. I feel her whispering to come out when I see the people in the park in front of our house. She was even louder this weekend as the Torréon marathon took place. We stood on the corner as we walked back to our house and cheered. Turned out, the taxi couldn’t really make it through the race route–and I was pretty happy about that.
Si, se puede! I heard a girl on the sidelines yell, Vamos! “You can do it!” “Let’s go!” I joined in with the onlookers–clapping and quietly saying, “Good job!” Eventually, I gained my courage and began yelling earnestly in Spanish. I gave high fives to the runners who held out their hands to me, and I cheered especially for the runners who looked like they wanted to quit.
A marathon here isn’t quite the same as the races I’ve participated in and observed in the States. One of the best things about running a race is how you feel as strangers tell you how strong you are. I remember quite vividly going to my siblings’ cross country and track competitions as a child. They were both quite good, but my brother often would win. I remember being so proud of him–and now I am even more proud because of a lesson that he taught me.
After the race was over for him as a competitor, it was far from over for him as a runner. While other racers would collapse with their team or families–or perhaps jog a little to cool down–my brother would began walking back towards the course. With each runner who came along, he would have words of encouragement. “Just a little bit further!” he would say, “You only have about 100 yards!” Sometimes, he would even jog the last bit with them again, helping them across the line.
I’ve been on the receiving end of his encouragement to keep one foot in front of the other, so I know how valuable those simple words are. When I lived with him and his little family for a short 5 months, he began his campaign to turn me into a runner. I had no idea, or I may have protested more. It started with just a tiny jog/walk. While I had been active playing soccer and jogging during high school, the previous couple years couldn’t be described the same. I remember that first day like it was yesterday: It wasn’t even a half a mile–and I couldn’t do it. I was winded. I was out of shape. I was exhausted. I was embarrassed. Joe never said a word about any of that.
Instead, he timed us. And out we went again the next day. This time, the goal was just to go a little further. Time wasn’t the issue. And the next day–the same. He bought me a little notebook that week, and we began a journal together. In the front, he drew a graph, “I am just going to go up to six miles,” he said, “but we probably won’t get there. It’s just goes that far.” I readily agreed, appreciating his consideration. He encouraged me to write how I felt after each run, the time of day, how long the run was, where the run was, etc.
The following months he would (almost daily) ask, “You want to go run?” When I would groan or make excuses, he would say, “Well, you can stay here–but I am going to go run if you want to come too.” I couldn’t refuse him! He cajoled me into running the same way my mom could guilt me into doing household chores. They would both tell you that wasn’t their intention, but maybe that’s why it works!
Little by little, our runs became longer. But never easier–not really. Because my brother is a runner–but he has the heart of a teacher. He could sense when I needed a real break. He could sense when I needed a challenge. And never was there a run without words of encouragement. He added speed drills (on hills), and cross-country trails (through grassy neighborhoods). He taught me how to hold my body while running down hills to avoid stitches, he helped me concentrate on my breathing, and occasionally, we would sing cadences on a particularly difficult hill (dubbed Killer Hill).
By the end of the summer together, we ran six miles (sneaky, sneaky) in under 10 minutes a mile. This was amazing. That first 1/2 mile took me over 15 minutes (18 if my memory serves me correctly). We ran–and never did I use music. I had my brother to help me along…
My brother turned me into a runner.
I wish I could say that I kept up his training. Because every time I think of running–I know it’s going to be like that first week in Omaha. Horrible. Awful. Discouraging. But, because of those months with my brother, I know that it will get better. I will get faster. And I can do it.
Sometimes I think of how much I hate it–I mean, really! I don’t want to go run–that’s why I am thinking of 15 other things to do! Then, the jog is over, and I feel accomplished. And I hear my brother’s voice in my ear the whole time, “You can do it, Nino! Just jog to that light pole. Now, everything you got all the way home! It’s all downhill–let your body carry you there!”
She’s in there. And she’s coming out soon. No, not my baby, but that runner that has been a lazy bum for the last two years. Sigh.