Many years ago, I told my youngest that he was brave. In his little boy mind, he didn’t understand so I explained that being brave means that you do something that you don’t want to do.
Yesterday, those words flew back to me when my friend, Wendy, posted that I was brave to stop running. I had thought my decision was tough, hard, smart and even courageous, but not once did I think of it as being brave. I know this seems odd when bravery and courage are synonyms, but “brave” is just that much more of a powerful word.
I thought back to that conversation I had with my youngest: being brave means doing something that you don’t want to do. I spent the past three months determined to start yesterday’s race and, in the past six weeks, I rebuilt my strength and endurance to start and finish. I was excited but also cautious that Tammy the Hamstring could make a reappearance. Sure enough, she did – and at the twelfth hour – but she also settled down enough to make me believe that I could run 26.2 miles.
Yesterday, I was on my guard as I started the marathon and, barely ten minutes in, I stepped aside. I got on the sidewalk and I held myself together while I worked my way back to the hotel. Feeling like a failure, I didn’t want any attention but, ironically, I was upset that not one of the hundreds of spectators I saw asked if I was okay. I wanted to cry, but I had to be brave.
Wendy’s words helped me to realize that bravery was a huge part of this journey. I did what I had to do, not what I wanted to do. I am 55 and want to be running and racing competitively for many more. As I reflect on the past few months and set goals for the future, I know that there are going to be other tough decisions to make and I am prepared to face them.