I’m not much of a runner.
Sure, if the gym isn’t open, I might go for a jog around my neighborhood, but generally I try not to do anything requiring rhythm, hand-eye coordination, or athletic ability in public. Born the only un-athletic child to an exceptionally athletic family, I made my peace long ago with the fact that whatever genes allow my sister to run half marathons, my mom to have a black belt in karate, and my father to be a champion mountain biker, decidedly skipped me.
Last week found my Dad participating in his third and final Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race–a one hundred mile race at 10,000 feet elevation in the mountains of Colorado. Having not been able to attend his first two races, it was important to me to be present for his final “race across the sky.”
After a long day of meeting him at various check points to pass off fresh water bottles and protein bars, my brother and I made it to the finish line, eagerly anticipating his ride across the red carpet that would bring a close to his Leadville career.
The race organizers had mentioned the day before that it is tradition for children to run across the finish line with their parents, which explained the mob of kids anxiously standing on either side of the boulevard looking to catch a glimpse of their racer at the summit of the final hill.
I had a choice to make–potentially look stupid while running alongside my champion athlete father, or miss out on sharing an important moment with him in order to save face.
At 23 years old, most days I can pass as a semi-adult. I get up and go to work every morning, I pay my bills on time, and do my best to look like I know what I’m doing with my life. But while learning the rhythms and responsibilities of adulthood, I’ve noticed that I’ve also developed a fear of appearing stupid or weak that was almost entirely absent from my childhood.
Adulthood can callous us–you get your heartbroken, and decide you are never going to put yourself out there again. You never want to feel the shame that comes with loving someone that does not love you back, so you button up your heart, and tell yourself that it’s safer this way.
Someone laughs at your passion and makes you feel small, so you water it down, or give up on it entirely. You wonder if maybe they are right, maybe what you care about is stupid. Maybe you are stupid.
You try something new, you fail, and everyone knows it. From now on, you’ll stick with what you’re good at, to avoid the sensation of your cheeks turning red when the whispers in the room are about you.
I’ve felt this kind of mentality creeping into my heart over the last few years. But I know it hasn’t always been that way. There was time when I was so in love with every moment and person in my life that I couldn’t help but wildly embrace everything that came my way, with no thought to potential heartache, or the probability of embarrassment.
I want to be that girl again, or figure out what she looks like at 23 years old. I don’t want the fear of looking stupid to keep me on the sidelines of my own life.
So I stood there, peering over the heads of a sea of 7 year olds, hoping to catch a glimpse of my Dad in time to meet him the final stretch of road.
And when I saw his jersey summit the final hill and cruise through the crowd, I ran.
I ran and I cheered, grabbing his hand as he reached out towards me, just in time to cross the finish line.