Sherry Zak Morris and I hadn't seen one another in a long time. Over lunch we caught up. Given that she's a yoga expert for people over 50 years old…we got to talking about my health. After I shared my story, she asked me to write a blog so she could share it. This is what I told her…
I'm Going to be an Athlete!"
In 2005, at the age of 63, I shouted out loud, "I 'm going to be an athlete!" Of course, I had no idea what it was going to take to complete a 26.2 mile marathon-- just knew that it was something on my bucket list and now I was going to fulfill on it.
What I didn't take into consideration was the fact that I had not walked…let alone run…further than the mail box in the front of my house. I'd gone to the gym and speed walked on the tread mill…but I was not consistent at getting there every day. I was in good physical shape however carrying only 25 extra pounds. On a 5' person…that could seem like a lot of weight…but I carry it well. The truth was that I'd been trying to lose this weight for years and finally knew that I would surely drop the weight doing this marathon.
I signed up for a Marathon?
January of 2005, I signed up for the Team 'n Training Leukemia Foundation's "Rock n Roll" Marathon to be held that summer in San Diego, California. I would raise $1,700 for Leukemia, win a beautiful jacket. I quickly determined that I would not be in the running section…rather I signed up for speed walking. Over 23,000 people would be participating in this race of which 5,500 would be speed walkers.
Small teams around San Diego met every Saturday to train. Each week we would be assigned to walk 1 mile, then 3 miles building up each week to eventually 7, 10, 16 and finally 26.2 miles. In order to keep in shape, our coaches let us know how important it was to keep in shape during the week. So every morning during the week I rose at 5 a.m., put on my walking shoes and set out for a 3-8 mile walk up and down the hills in my town.
I made a commitment, but did I have to stick with it?
On our training day each Saturday, we would begin our speed walks. About 45 people were in my group. II was the very last person to come in at the end of our walks…the VERY LAST…each and every week…for our 5 months of training. I'm used to being on stage speaking and training. I'm in the front row with the leaders. Now I am in the back row….do you hear me…THE BACK ROW! Even people who were older and heavier than me were out in front. I walked …I cried…I screamed and wanted to quit…but I didn't. I made a commitment and had to stick it through no matter how painful.
The Day of the Race
Finally the day of the race was here. 23,000 people in running shorts we're at the starting line…us walkers were behind them. We were off…it was exciting. People were all around me…I was not last…not alone…well not for long.
Before I knew it, people blew past me. Finally there was just one other woman and me. Grace was in her 30's. I'd met her 5 months earlier during our Saturday practice sessions. She simply said, "I've not been feeling well and don't believe I can continue past 3 miles. I just wanted to show up today and do something."
"Oh Grace," I cried, "If I can help you clear your mind so that you are not in pain, will you continue to walk with me for the entire 26.2 miles…I really don't think I can make it without you."
Graced nodded that she would give it a try. So I cheered her up, gave her some good coaching tools so she could see that her body was healthy and…together…we speed walked the entire 26.2 miles. We were so much slower than the rest of the team. In fact, by the time we were half way through the race, the Rock n Roll bands, which were playing on the sidelines…were now boxing up their equipment. And the cheerleaders we're also packing up. I shouted…play some music! Cheer us on!!! One of the cheerleaders waved her pomp pomp's for a moment and smiled…it really worked! I was revitalized for the next mile at least.
The Ribbon at the end of a Race
Somehow I imagined that I would break through the big ribbon at the end of the race…it never occurred to me that thousands of people had passed the finish line long before. Eventually we arrived at the finish line…people were on the sidelines cheering. We were not last…there we other strays way way way behind us….imagine that! We had made it…and we did it TOGETHER!
I was awarded a heavy big medal attached to an orange ribbon which I put around my neck. A picture was taken of me so that I could send them to friends and family. But I NEVER ordered any of the pictures. The truth was, I NEVER EVER wanted to do this type of walk again….I was EXHAUSTED, IN PAIN, FINISHED FOREVER! Until…
What, a Triathalon?
…my friend Sue mentioned that she might train for a triathlon. After all, Erica, her client was the first paraplegic to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in a wheelchair this year and was now in training to swim, bike and race. She was working with a swim trainer. She couldn't swim by herself…so her trainer would have to be with her at every moment. 2 mile swim…2 mile bike ride…2 mile run???. So I began to think…if I could speed walk 26.2 miles, I could probably train for a triathlon.
Sharing this story with Sherry, she just looked at me, eyes tearing up…and whispered softly, "I want you to be in shape. I'm concerned about you doing a triathlon. Start slowly with gentle yoga. Build your body up and you will know that you are an athlete.
And that's when I smiled OUTLOUD! I am a TRI-ATHETE of MIND, BODY & SPIRIT. I have accomplished much in my life and through my work… teaching people the Art of Acknowledgment to love themselves and others unconditionally. I do not need to complete a triathlon to prove that I'm an athlete.
I called my friend Sue this morning to ask her what she was doing about the Triathlon. She told me that she was going to check out gentle yoga with one of her PR clients and asked me if I wanted to join her as she wasn't yet certain that she would to the triathlon. GENTLE…now that word sounded SWEET! "YES" I declared, "I will go with you."
68 years young…spiritual Tri-athlete wishing you grand slam home run FUN…first spirit, then mind and body. No matter what our age is, we are the athletes that the world needs most…wisdom, kindness makes us forever young.
Tags: Helice “Sparky” Bridges Fitness & Exercise Health & Wellness Inspiration