Have you ever looked at an old picture of yourself from a time in your life where you thought you were fat, or had terrible skin, or some other physical malady that caused you constant embarrassment and thought, “Wow, what was I complaining about?! I was so skinny then/my skin was so perfect/my hair looked amazing!” I’ve done that a thousand times. Hindsight is 20/20, and things that seemed so terrible once seem not so bad now.
I feel that way about the athlete I used to be. During my “long run” this past weekend (7.5 miles, but it’s something!), I spent a lot of time thinking about what running and working out used to be like and feel like for me as compared to what it feels like now. When I first started doing a lot of marathons, I ran 5 or 6 days a week. I never ran for less than an hour at a time, because I deemed that a waste of time and showering energy. My mileage was anywhere from 40-70 miles per week and my standard weekday 10k felt easy. Of course, that didn’t happen overnight, but there was a time when it was definitely the case.
I remember when my friend Amanda and I first started running together backed when we worked together down in Charleston, SC. She was hoping to train for a marathon and I had just run my third marathon in Baltimore. She asked me how far I could go and I said, without a trace of pretension or irony, “I’m good for anywhere to 6 – 20 miles, whatever you feel like doing!” And I meant it. It didn’t matter how long she wanted to run that day – I was capable of doing it.
Still, I didn’t appreciate the athlete that I was in a lot of ways. I was constantly down on myself for being “slow” or taking occasional walk breaks. I felt bad that I couldn’t run through an aid station and drink without stopping (still can’t, by the way – HOW IS IT POSSIBLE?). I was surrounded by people, through the Marathon Maniacs and 50 States Marathon Club who regularly ran farther, faster, and a lot more marathons than me, so I felt like my accomplishments weren’t anything to write home about.
Perhaps those accomplishments still aren’t anything to write home or a blog about, but here we are. And today, I find myself in awe of both the athlete I was back then and the athlete I am now, even though they are two different people and yes, even though I sometimes get frustrated that running isn’t as easy as it used to be. See, the time, energy, love, and miles I put into running a few years ago were amazing. I can’t believe that I ever ran that much or that it ever felt even remotely easy. It would be really easy to beat myself up over how different it feels now, or how much less I run, or the fact that I don’t run marathons anymore. Or the fact that I ran a 1:50 half marathon a couple years ago and now I probably couldn’t hold that pace for a single mile.
And, as you’ve seen, sometimes I do beat myself up over those things. I am human, after all.
But on my run yesterday, as I trudged up one of the many massive hills in my neighborhood, I felt something that I had never noticed before aside from in the bloody aftermath of a marathon. I felt my hamstring. It felt strong and powerful. It felt like a fit person’s hamstring – like someone who does weight or strength training. No, I didn’t necessarily feel light and fast, but I did feel capable in a different way. I never noticed that in myself in my years of running before. My body is shaped differently now and it is more muscular, for sure. Let’s not split hairs – I weigh more, too, and clothes that I could have put on back then would laugh at me now. I can hold barre and yoga poses now that I never could have imagined a few years ago. I can hike for hours without getting tired and I no longer lean to one side when I’ve been running for a long time (#corestrength).
Recognizing that life happens and things can change, I’m trying to appreciate the athlete I am today rather than dwelling on the one I used to be. I don’t want to spend time beating myself up over something I should feel proud to accomplish. And I also know myself well enough to recognize that life changes fast, and a few years from now, I’ll probably find myself thinking something like “WOW, I was in such amazing shape back then! I wish I could do XYZ now.” It’s silly to spend my time dwelling on the past and wishing to be something I’m not right now, when what I am is pretty amazing in a totally different way.
Looking back on the past helps put the future in perspective. I have a feeling future Danielle has a lot to be proud of. You know what? Present Danielle does too.
Do you ever dwell on things you used to do/be?