More Than a 5K

>> Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Running early in the morning gives me this whole new world of introspective thinking. It's dark, quiet, lonely and basically the perfect atmosphere for contemplation. I never set out to ruminate on any specific topic. It happens organically. Or perhaps is a trick my mind plays to make my body forget how much it hates working before dawn.

My most recent 5K was a proud moment for me. It was the first race I ran as a 30-year-old. In a new age group. Somehow this fact felt very significant to me as I pounded out those 3.1 miles. Overwhelmingly so. I am older, yes, but with regard to running, there's nothing I'd associate with being old or aging.

I felt strong, solid, and fast.
I PRed for the first time in over 6 years.
I'd love to do it all over again because I know I can get faster.
But it goes so much deeper than times and age group awards.

If you asked me 10 years ago, I would have guaranteed you that I'd be slower after having a baby. I mean, it was just an inevitable fact of life. Priorities shift and focus changes and running was to keep me skinny mostly anyway. I've never been much of a competitor, but by the time I was 30, I'd just be happy if I was still keeping fit in some way.

Except that now, running is so much more than exercise to me. I don't know when it happened exactly. It's just who I am. I'm much more dimensional, but the runner part of "Ashley" is a huge chunk that gives me confidence, growth, self understanding, patience, happiness, belonging, and -- yes -- some crazy muscular legs.

When I was 11 or 12, I'd gawk at YM and Seventeen magazines, imagining how cool + pretty high school girls felt like the ones on those glossy pages. When I turned 17, I felt no more grown up, really, than I had the year or two before. Yeah, I'd kissed a boy and started wearing makeup. Those girls in the magazines still seemed older somehow, more worldly, more knowing than I could ever be.

Basically, throughout the years, I've kept waiting for something to happen to me. For my job to somehow take over my identity and make me feel like a real person. For the place where I live to make me feel important or smart or some other adjective besides dull + boring. For it -- my life -- to make sense in some instant of clarity. 

As some of you pointed out, it seems our 30s are the time for switching the game around. It's all about empowerment. Taking charge. A refusal to wait and see if I'll somehow feel different the next time I'm "supposed" to, at the next big milestone. The 30s are about finding the meaning of life from within.

I'm done waiting. I'm already who I am meant to be and -- if I think hard -- who I want to be. Everything else is up to the work I put in it. The drive and passion and dedication I give to myself and those around me. Crossing the finish line with a new time to boast about is one thing. But carrying that feeling, that tenacity throughout everything I do is another.

That's why I run.

PS: If you'd like a more play-by-play 5K report, check out my recap on Walk, Jog, Run. It was the first time I raced with my GPS watch!

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