5 things I learned running my first race


Two weeks ago, I ran my first 5K race. Before the race, I was fully prepared to write a post called "I just finished my first race, but here's why I'll never be a runner." Even though I could run 3.1 miles on the treadmill and around the track at the gym, as of race day I hadn't run three consecutive miles outside.

As a result, I was majorly panicking. The night before the race as I picked up my race packet, I said to Hubby, "I can always change my mind and do the the 5k walk instead."

"No, you won't," he insisted. "How do you even know you can't do it if you don't try? If you don't try, you're sure to fail."

That night, I made plans for my friend to pick me up, decided what I would wear, chose my old shoes over my brand-new ones, and loaded my iPod with 40 minutes of funky, happy music. I tried not to think about the crowd (crowds give me anxiety), my shins (shin splints), or the fact that on previous practice runs, I gave up when the going got hard (ie: hills).

Once at the race location the next morning, I was nervous. Surprisingly, it was nervous excitement! My friend, who was running the 10K, started ahead of me; and I was kind of glad that I had just myself to concentrate on. Even standing in the crowd with all the runners jockeying for a spot close to the front didn't bother me.

And then the gun went off. Over a bridge and around a corner. I noticed people already walking, which surprised me. Around another corner and . . . a hill. I thought surely this would be where I would give up.

On my my iPod came one of my favorite Prince songs. No, not THAT Prince, The Fresh Prince. Boom, Shake the Room. Hey, it got me up that hill. I thought about stopping a dozen times, but my legs kept going. Even as I grabbed water, I kept running. It had to be around two and a half miles that I stopped and stretched my calves, but continued on because I saw that same bridge I started on.

Crossing that finish line felt amazing. And my time shocked me: 30:53. I was clocking almost a 13 minute mile before the race.

On Sunday, my friend ran a half marathon. As I looked at her pictures and the pictures and Facebook posts of others who ran the race, I felt jealous. But not the kind of jealousy I'd previously felt when I saw runners. Before I would think, I could never do that. Now I think, maybe I can do that. 

I'm even looking forward to my next race. :)

I'm so glad my friend asked me to run it. Without her - even though it was something I've always wanted to do - I don't think I would have done it. And I definitely learned a few things along the way.

1. If you don't try, you have already failed. I spent so much time avoiding races afraid that I would fail. The failure was in not even trying in the first place. If you try something you've always wanted to try, count it a success.

2. You just have to tell yourself that you can do the hard things. When I was training, I would walk at every hill. I thought surely the hills would be my undoing. But I told myself I could do it, and I did. I've done harder things. My Hubby is right: it's all just a mind game.

3. It's okay to walk. Walking is not failing. Walking is not weakness. Everyone walks in life. Everyone has to realize what their limits are and care for themselves. You're still in the race, after all.

4. The crowd will carry you along. Truly, I didn't care that people were passing me. I was passing other people, too. The energy was keeping me going. I needed it, and my time showed it. There was another time I needed the crowd because I didn't believe in myself, and they kept me going then, too.

5. It's addictive.  I scoffed at people who told me this. I will never be a runner, I said. Once I do this I'm done with races, I told myself. Now? I'm looking for another 5K and thinking of friends I can ask to run with me. I'm even considering a 10K. (Don't talk to me yet about marathons. I still can't wrap my mind around running for 2+ hours.)

So here it is, the words I never thought I would say, the post I never thought I would write. Who knows, maybe I'll tick off some more of the goals on my bucket list - now that I know I can.


I'll let my child with autism dance with sticks

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My friend talked me into running a 5K. I've always wanted to run a 5K. I can run three miles. I used to be a pretty good soccer player and ran all the time during games. 

Honestly, though? I hate running. Like, I feel like it's the most boring thing I can think of doing and I'd rather be doing many other things. But, everyone does it. It's the thing to do. Running clubs and Mud Runs and Turkey Trots and all kinds of other races. Yep, I really should be a runner. 

The other day at the gym, I was running around the track attempting to get my three miles completed. As I was huffing along, I saw that a class was going on in the aerobics studio. The ladies in the class were doing some dancey routine and tapping sticks. It looked like fun, and I wanted to be dancing with sticks rather than running.  

But I kept  running around and around. Maybe if I had different shoes or maybe if I had a better playlist on my iPod I would enjoy it more. Maybe if I just thought like the Little Engine: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. Maybe I will learn to love it and the high will come like it's supposed to. 

But all I can think about is going to that class with the dancing and the sticks. Why do I want to make myself fit something that's not for me when I would rather just dance with sticks? Maybe I wasn't meant for running; only dancing with sticks. 

It makes me think about Slim. It makes me think about how all his life, we've tried to make him run alongside everyone else: Be quiet. Stop pacing. Stand still. Don't talk to yourself. Talk about something other than Star Wars for a change. Act appropriately. Use proper social distance when talking to someone. 

You know what? Maybe he wasn't meant to run either. Maybe, grabbing sticks and dancing to the beat - or to his own beat - is what makes him the most happy. He is the happiest when he is in his own world, talking to himself, pacing, thinking about Star Wars. 

There's nothing wrong with that. Some people love that about him. True, some don't, but I see those people as the people who are running just because they think they should be. They think there is a certain way to approach the world that must be correct because that's how everyone else is doing it. 

Maybe, if we would stop running, grab some sticks, and listen to the music, we could learn to appreciate another way of doing things.

Yes, every young person needs to learn how to assimilate into society - that's just the way it is. But we celebrate and encourage the special things about typically developing kids, That will make you more marketable. Yet we try to completely change what is special and unique about kids with Autism (Is this 'expected or unexpected' behavior?).

Some companies are realizing that people with Autism are a huge asset to their businesses. They celebrate and value what makes them unique and extraordinary. Those who are able to work are finding more options available to them. 

But those whose Autism is more severe are finding a serious lack of services available to them once they reach adulthood. Even though Autism was identified almost a century ago, we have made very little progress in helping adults live, work, and thrive with Autism. 

Some parents of autistic children believe that we don't need more autism awareness - we need more acceptance and action. I can understand that. Every time September rolls around, I feel the same way about promoting Children's Cancer Awareness. 

But I do think we need to continue promoting Autism awareness. You can read here about why I think so. The more we learn about something, the more we can figure out how to accept it, how to find answers and solutions, and how to live with, love, and appreciate those with Autism. 

Slim's teachers and I will still continue to guide him in skills and strategies that will help him to see his way in the world (can't every child benefit from that?), but we're also seeing less of his behaviors as "wrong" (read about that here) and more about being the delightfully unique person he is. 

We're over expecting him to run all the time, and we're more frequently just watching him dance with those sticks. And it's getting easier to join him. :)

Let's connect on Facebook and chat. 

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