One popular American thing to do on the Fourth of July is to participate in a run. I’ve been doing this since I was little. I can remember lining up with dozens of others at a chalk drawn start line on a busy road, closed off for the race, almost always in the scorching heat, and feeling the excitement of being a part of something bigger than myself.
The Fourth of July race hasn’t changed much. Sure, the distance and location has varied for me over the years, but the run itself remains the same. Only, this time around, I caught myself feeling differently about it. I’ve been injured, running used to be easier and also, running has not been the main focus of my life in the last few years.
After the race, friends and family will ask, “How was your run?”
This is what has really changed.
Once it was “It was awesome. I’m so happy I started the day like that.”
Eventually, it became “It was okay. I placed 5th for my age group and I just know I could have been 3rd if only I held out a little longer.”
One year, I answered “I didn’t run. I’m not conditioned well enough.” I knew I could have run it but my pride stopped me from getting out there.
Finally, last year, when the question was asked, I simply answered “It was good.” And secretly inside I was disappointed in myself for not being better, faster or placing higher.
As the same tradition lays ahead, I know tomorrow morning, hundreds of runners, walkers, friends, family and community members will crowd the pavilion where the local race starts and finishes. I think back to the last few years of Fourth of July racing and cannot remember my place or performance.
I can, however, remember meeting my group of running friends and pushing each other through, racing each other for fun for the last 100 meters. I remember winning a gift certificate to a local burger joint as part of the raffle and laughing that the vegetarian in our group won that one. There were breakfasts at the local diner afterwards where we ate stacks of pancakes and planned our next get together.
Two years ago, I ran the race with my best friend–she was 7 months pregnant with twins. It was my first run with the three of them. And I remember how I felt last year, running again with my best friend, but also with the girls in their double stroller, smiling and enticing even bigger smiles from spectators.
But until I stopped to really think about the lasting memories I had from my runs, I was focusing on the wrong things. It’s important to take note of the things we say to ourselves and about ourselves to others. Negative self-talk can quickly take over what has the potential to be a really positive experience. The times when I have given in to my own negativity are the ones I don’t have much else to remember those experiences by. Choose to live more positively.