Waiting at the red light, it took a few seconds before it dawned on me what the bumper sticker in front of me was – a joke about 13.1 and 26.2 bumper stickers. I usually love a good joke and a funny bumper sticker, but the 0.0 didn’t make me laugh.
There’s so much that goes into the accomplishment of crossing the finish line of a full or half marathon. Those 13.1 and 26.2 stickers don’t just represent the race itself, they also represent the effort that goes into training for it. They represent time missed with family and friends as they fit the grueling training schedule into an already busy life. They represent the long runs when they were injured, tired and/or discouraged as their bodies and minds were worn down from months of training. And finally, they represent the sense of accomplishment that comes from crossing the finish line.
I have two bumper stickers on my car. One is an organ donation sticker. I am passionate about organ donation because my husband’s life was saved by a lung transplant. The other is a 13.1 sticker I bought at the expo before the Nashville’s Women’s Half, which was my 11th half marathon. After my 9th half marathon, life got in the way and I wasn’t sure I’d ever have a chance to run another one. My girlfriends talked me into my 10th half marathon (last year’s Country Music downpour) on a whim, with almost no training. But I trained diligently for my 11th and I was proud of my finish time. Although it wasn’t PR material, it was back on track with my prior half marathon finish times. And I decided to celebrate that accomplishment by finally putting the 13.1 sticker on my bumper.
So, for me, that 13.1 sticker doesn’t represent one half marathon, it represents 11 of them, 10 years of training, and the accomplishment of my life finally getting back to normal, whatever “normal” is.
We all see a variety of bumper stickers and they typically stand for something the driver takes pride in, whether their political affiliation, religion, community, child’s school, or pet.
My problem with the 0.0 sticker is that it doesn’t represent something the driver takes pride in, it belittles someone else’s accomplishment.
Ridiculing others, whether you’re in grade school or you’re an adult, isn’t cool. If you run for any length of time, you encounter running haters. Running haters are those people who, when they find out you run, tell you for the millionth time that the only time they run is when someone’s chasing them. Like we’ve never heard that one before. I’d like to tell them that it’s like outrunning a bear – I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun them. And if they haven’t run before, I’m pretty certain I can. But I keep my mouth shut.
Our lives are much richer if we have things in our life that we’re passionate about, whatever that passion is:
There’s a famous line in the movie The Family Stone, “You have a freak flag. You just don’t fly it.”
We all have our own personal freak flags and as long as they don’t hurt us or anyone else, we can’t be our authentic selves if we don’t let them fly.
My authentic self is a runner. What is your authentic self?