If you had ever told the 18 year old me that after turning 50 two years ago I would ride 180 miles on a bike, run a half marathon, do the Warrior Dash, Tough Mountain Challenge, run the 10 mile relay leg of the Mt. Desert Marathon and enjoy them all, I would have said you’re nuts. Exercise was something I only did when forced. People that ran were crazy. I never did team sports and was always last to be picked in gym. I was short and constantly struggled with my weight. Athletic was never a word used to describe me.
After turning 50 and reaching my goal weight at Weight Watchers, I signed up to do the Trek Across Maine, a 3 day, 180 mile bike ride from Bethel to Belfast. I went solo. I saw teams around me, checking their watches, riding in tandem. You could feel the anticipation in the air. I got caught up in the “time “for the day instead of enjoying the experience. I set my stopwatch upon descending the access road from Sunday River Ski Resort. I wondered how long it would take me to get to Farmington. The June day was picture perfect--sunny, blue sky, lush green fields. After getting to the main road I pulled my bike off course to get a quick picture, checking my watch to make sure it wouldn’t hurt my time. Another woman stopped and asked me to take a photo of her. She was riding solo as well and making a scrapbook for her sister to entice her into joining her on the Trek next year. She told me she would probably be the last bike in at the finish with the slowest daily time, but she didn’t care and was going to savor every minute of this experience. As I was trying to make my way back into the pack of bikers whizzing past me, I asked myself “Who are you trying to beat?” At that moment, I realized it wasn’t about the finish, it was about the journey. It was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
For the next 3 days I was always the last one at the rest stops, had some of the most delicious food (peanut butter, banana, and trail mix sandwiches!), had some in- depth conversations with fellow cyclists who were enjoying the ride, and was in awe of the beauty of Western Maine. I took pictures of everything---the people at the rest stops, gorgeous scenery, even the dog who rode in a basket on his owner’s bike who I wasn’t going to let beat me to the finish. At a rest stop where I was one of the last bikers, a guy was dumping mounds of ice on the ground from the tubs that had held the bottled water. I asked him if it was alright if my sore posterior could sit in it. He laughed and said “Sure! Nobody has ever asked that!” A couple other stragglers followed my lead and we took pictures of each other sitting in the cubes. Letting go and just living in the moment can be the best gift you can give yourself.
A few things I have learned from all of all my physical pursuits are these--don’t doubt yourself, you’re stronger than you think, nothing is impossible, and just have fun! People have said to me “You’re too old.” “You’re not built for running.” “Why do you want to do this?” Ignore it all. Find friends* who will support and join you in your adventures. You may find yourself doing things you never dreamed you would do. Like me just signing up with a bunch of other crazy people to run the 2013 Sugarloaf Marathon May 19th.
(*Kudos to the ladies of Mainely Running for their support and Christine for helping me realize my inner athlete.)
Kathy, we are so proud of you and we can't wait to watch you crossing that finish line at Sugarloaf this spring!!
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