On Sunday, April 19, the sun spilled over the cracked clouds like yolk as 7,403 women scurried into their corrals for the annual MORE/FITNESS/SHAPE Women's Half Marathon. The energy and strong sense of community became apparent within seconds of stepping into Central Park at dawn. A pack of women from the TODAY show stood arm in arm sporting matching orange tank tops that read, "Run for TODAY." A mother and daughter giggled as they posed for a selfie while standing in line for the restroom. Another woman smiled, politely explaining the race bib protocol to me as we counted down the minutes until 8 a.m.
As I waited in my designated corral, I paced back and forth with my headphones tucked into my ears and my "Power to the She" playlist on shuffle. Every time self-doubt began to fog my head, I replaced it with empowering thoughts about strength and perseverance. "You can do anything 13 times" I reassured myself, channeling wisdom from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I recalled the pep talk I wrote in my journal the night before as well as one of my favorite quotes by Henry Ford: "The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can't are both right."
I would be lying to say I didn't doubt myself every day I trained over the past 12 weeks. I wasn't a runner. Sure, I was pretty fast at court-length sprints during high school basketball practice and I would run on the treadmill at the gym to stay in shape but the thought of running long distances -- repeating the same motion for hours at a time -- seemed tedious and grueling.
Two nights before a race I signed up for last year, I thought it would be a good idea to run a 10K on the treadmill immediately after eating dinner and found myself with my head bent over the toilet 6.2 miles later. I pulled out of the race at the 5K mark because I feared that I couldn't run 6.2 miles in what I deemed a respectable amount of time. I was disappointed in my readiness to throw in the towel as soon as I felt challenged and unprepared. What I had was an attitude problem and if I wanted to condition myself to run long distances, I needed an attitude makeover.
"I didn't know you were into running," my grandpa said over the phone as I recovered on the couch a few hours after the race. "I didn't either," I replied, laughing. Others expressed similar surprise that the "gym girl" had now turned into a runner and asked what inspired me to sign up for a half marathon. I never quite found an answer that I was satisfied with until now. So, what inspired me to run? Fear. Fear inspired me to run. I could no longer bare the feeling of regret that lingered over my head after I had given up during the 10K last year and, perhaps even more so, I was afraid that I was falling too comfortably into the arms of routine after having settled into my new life in Manhattan. Three months ago I found running, and on April 19 I finally outran fear.