Yesterday, I walked in a 5k. It was the third time I had walked in this particular 5k. It’s called “Run the Falls,” but anyone who knows me realizes that running isn’t in the game plan. As I walked it yesterday, there was plenty of time to think and those thoughts turned into a lesson learned. I knew I wanted to put the lesson into words, so here I am. But first…here’s my history with this walk.
The first year, back in 2017, I walked the course in over 55 minutes. I had started walking a mile or two here and there. My sister, Sherry, asked me if I wanted to walk it. “Sure,” I replied. Then, one day after a dental appointment, I thought I should do a trial 5k. As I walked, I texted my nephew who was a freshman at WKU to see how long a 5k was in miles. My trial run clocked me at a 23 minute per mile pace. I didn’t know if that was awful and just not good. Anyway, when I walked the event, I tried to set my sights on someone in front of me and to not stop walking until the end.
I had two goals that year:
1. Finish in less than an hour.
2. DON’T be last!
Then, I didn’t walk it for a few years because I had published my books. The weekend of this 5K is also the Madison Chautauqua which is an event that brings in craftsmen and various vendors. David Kummer, a local author, asked if I wanted to share a booth at the “Old Court Days” part of the event. Selling books kept me away from walking in 2018 and 2019.
Then, Covid takes over life as we know it. Last year, they did have the 5k, but they altered the route. I had started my “Turning 50-Time to Get Healthy” journey, so I had been walking more. My pace was around 20 minutes a mile generally, so my goal was to beat the 55ish minute time from my previous walk. I did. Barely. My time was somewhere between 54 & 55. Due to Covid, the water stations were taken away, so I carried a water bottle with me. You know..one of those 32 ounce ones that you’re supposed to refill once during the day to ensure you get your water intake. Never again. Carrying that thing was a nuisance. I’ve learned since then that walking an hour without water is feasible as long as fluids await you when you finish.
This past year, I’ve worked on stamina and pace as I walk. I have three different 3.11 mile routes that I walk whenever I want to test myself. One is in downtown Madison along Main Street which I walk in the early mornings. Another takes me from my house down to the Ohio River and back which provides hills for me to push myself. The final is an easier route in a neighborhood where several of my friends live. That one has no hills and little traffic. My pace has decreased to around 18, but it can be quicker when I push myself or when I walk with Sherry. You see, I’ve learned that having someone to keep your eyes on challenges you to “keep up” or to at least keep them in your vision.
So, yesterday, I walked the “Run the Falls” for my third time. Goals? Yep, of course.
1. Finish in under 54 minutes.
2. Don’t be last.
Then, I added two more….
3. Don’t fall & be under an hour [Fear Goal]
4. Finish in under 50 minutes [Wonder Woman Goal]
Why the extra goals? I’m glad you asked. After I was dressed for the race in my #Confident workout t-shirt, I heard the dreadful news. “Rain is moving through this morning, but then bright skies for the rest of your day.” I uttered a selfish prayer, “If You could get the rain through before 8 or pause it until later today, I’d be so grateful.” Why was #3 my fear goal? Last October, I was walking my route to the river and it had rained that morning. As I walked down Vernon Street towards the river, my shoes slipped on the wet muddy pavement, and I wiped out. Leggings tore, calves covered in mud, and upon returning home I found my skinned leg had been bleeding. It wasn’t fun. It’s caused me to be a bit paranoid of any wet pavement especially wet hills. I feared that wet pavement would win the day.
Now, the “Wonder Woman Goal” is something I set when I do my walks or try a new thing at the gym. At the gym, I tell myself when I can do a machine for a certain amount of time or do resistance machines or dumbbells at a particular weight that it’s my “WWG.” Likewise, when I go for my trial 5k walks, I’ll set goals for my miles as well as for the walk altogether. I did the same yesterday. I knew that a 16-17 minute mile was a pace I rarely maintained, so if I could do it for the event…it would be my WWG.
Now, to begin this walk, you first have to hike through a 0.1 mile trail in the midst of trees that had been covered with fallen leaves. Picture this…a 51-year-old overweight female with fear of falling on slick terrain having to walk it as it’s raining and seeing the wet leaves just taunting her…
“We’re gonna take you down, fat lady. We may be small, but we’re mighty,” their little mocking voices said in my head.
However, as I journeyed this short trail, my friend Linda was walking with me. Her voice countered that this is probably the worst part of today’s trail and there was no rush, so I could take my time. Granted, the people walking behind me may not have agreed with my slow and scared pace, but in the end…we made it.
Linda & I started near the “14 minute” pace marker. Granted, I can’t fathom walking at that pace, but most walkers were in front of us, so I figured it was okay to dream a bit. The walk begins (if it was a gun start, I couldn’t hear it. But everyone was moving, so I knew it had started.), and my pace is okay. Of course, normally my “MapMyRun” app and my Apple Watch talk to each other to let me keep tabs on my pace, but I didn’t want to slow my start by messing with it, so I just pushed “start” on an outdoor walk.
Guess what? It told me how long I’d been walking. I could see how far I had walked. I could even see the elevation (as if I cared), but NOPE….there was no pace to see. Well, there went that plan on making sure I hit my target. Being the methodical person that I am, I had calculated that I needed to maintain a 17:15 pace to hit my goal. What would I do without my tracker?
It didn’t matter because the rain was falling. My #Confident shirt was now fully wet. My curls at times dripped water down my face. You know…wiping a wet eye with a wet hand does nothing to remove water rolling into them. I almost chuckled each time I tried to do it.
Then, the Voice of Fear started shouting, “This hill is wet. You’re going to go down AGAIN. You’ll rip your leggings. Your legs will be bleeding. PLUS you’ll be stuck on this road in Clifty Falls State Park where you won’t be able to avoid eyes for your journey home. You better slow down, Old Lady.”
I obeyed. I told Linda to keep going that I needed to slow down for fear of falling on the wet pavement. As I watched walker after walker pass me, I admit…I got choked up a bit. At this point, my own Voice of Reason countered the Voice of Fear. “Listen, Jodi, you bought NEW shoes for this very reason. You know the reason you wiped out was because your well-worn shoes had little tread left. These are new shoes. This pavement isn’t covered with leaves. There’s no muddy places for you. You are NOT going to let fear win so get going. If you do fall, you will get up and keep walking. You’ve worked too hard to let FEAR keep you from reaching your goal.”
My pace increased. Soon, I was passing some of those same walkers who had passed me. Then, all those things I had been doing the past year started jumping into my head.
“Okay, start your intervals. You do it all the time. Pick up your pace to that tree. No, I meant that next tree,” and I obeyed.
“Keep your eyes on the lady with the black leggings. Pick up your pace and try to pass her. Good, now see that tall guy with the bald head? He’s your next focal point. Don’t lose sight of him.”
Alas, the wet pavement returned. I had been successfully navigating to the “dryest” parts of the road, but another downhill arrived with no dry lane, so my pace slowed.
“Be safe, slow down, don’t fall,” Fear reminded.
“New shoes. You’ve got a goal. Don’t let the rain win,” my rational mind countered.
At the one mile mark, I hear the glorious information, “15:46.” What? Wait. Omigoodness! That little statement made a world of difference. My methodical mind calculated that my 2 mile goal would be 32 minutes.
I reached the “turn”. Most of the hills were behind now I faced the “long and winding road” to the pool which was the finish line. I didn’t think this portion would ever end. I hadn’t even reached the second mile yet, and my umph was slowing. There were three walkers in front of me, and I couldn’t find a passing lane. I saw a curve coming up, so the math teacher in me said, “If you start walking in a diagonal towards your left, then you’ll be in front of them as they follow the curve.” Yep. I obeyed, and it worked.
However, I still didn’t know my pace, but I saw my time was nearing 30. That’s when my nephew started walking with me. Well, he actually was in Bowling Green with his girlfriend and her family, but his voice was with me for the rest of the walk. Why? I’m glad you asked.
Last May, we participated in the Virtual MS Walk due to Covid, that stinkin’ virus. My sister Sherry had warned him that my pace wasn’t the same as previous MS Walks. Anyway, he and I started walking. We’d walk a regular/fast pace, but then we’d do intervals of fast & push-yourself. No problem for the first half of the walk. However, on the way back to their house, I was less focused on maintaining the push-yourself interval. He’d say, “You got this. You can do it. Just to the next pole.” [When you’re not in the city, the huge poles are the easiest way to monitor intervals.] By the time we finished, if I remember correctly, our time was around 51 or 52 minutes.
Walking solo with Kelly Clarkson, Gabby Barrett, Carrie Underwood, and Lauren Daigle singing in my ears, I kept my eyes fixated on the tall bald guy. Then, the moment arrived, and I believe I heard this beautiful number uttered, “31:15”. Seriously? I was pumped. However, the umph from the time was countered with a 51-year-old-body that is more fit than a year ago but far from being in-shape.
Once again, Connor started saying, “Don’t stop now. If you keep it up, you could finish ahead of your goal. ”
The tired math teacher countered, “I could slow down a bit and hit my target.”
“You’re not slowing down. If I was walking with you, you wouldn’t slow down, so you’re not slowing down. Keep going. You got this,” his voice in my head urged.
The tall bald guy was pulling away. He must’ve been planning for an end boost of energy; I was planning on finishing without passing out. I kept going. Then, I saw the pool road ahead. I told myself to pump those arms. This made me chuckle as I remembered times I’d think walkers who pumped their arms were fanatics. “Does that mean I’ve become one of them?” Next thing I see was Sherry.
She was coming out to walk back to meet me. As she saw me approaching, she said something, but Kelly was too loud in my earbuds, so she repeated, “You’re going to kill your time. It just turned 48 minutes,” as I turned and saw the finish line ahead.
“Get a picture of the timer,” I shouted to Sherry as I pumped my arms faster and tried to be Wonder Woman. She didn’t have her phone on her, but she said others took the pic. “Um, not of me…of the timer,” I replied. I was assured that the clock made the photo.
As the man with scissors started to reach for my shoe, Sherry announced, “She’ll be back, but she needs to keep walking.” Yep, last year, as they cut the tag from my shoe, the sudden stop mixed with body heat and lack of fluids caused me to become lightheaded, so we had a plan to avoid it from happening this year.
I was so pumped. I did it! I kept my pace under 17 minutes. No, I didn’t place in my age group (Sherry did! She was 3rd in our age group), but I won the race. You see, I wasn’t racing against any of those other walkers. I was racing against myself.
I tell my students all the time not to compare their scores or skills with the others. They should be focusing on their scores improving from their previous scores. Their skills should be increasing from their skills the previous week/month/lesson. The man (or woman) in the mirror is your only competition.
Oh. The lesson of the day. There’s always a lesson to learn, and this lesson is focused on voices.
- Don’t let the Voice of Fear have too much power in your life.
When we live our lives with fear looming, we miss the joy and excitement that the day brings.
- Don’t listen to the Internal Negative Voice.
A lot of times we talk more nicely to others than we do ourselves. Since leaving adolescence, I think I’m the only one who refers to me as a ‘fat lady.’ Perhaps those outside voices who called my that as a teenager created that monster or perhaps it’s the world’s perspective of what beauty looks like, but be nice to yourself. You were made in the image of a Holy God, and I have no doubt He’s not pleased with me when I refer to His creation in derogatory terms.
- Listen to the Rational Voice, to a point.
Being rational is good. Being realistic is good. However, there are times to dream big dreams and set big goals. Don’t be so focused on logic that you lose the excitement of the “what ifs.”
- Listen to the Friendly Voice if it’s sincere.
Linda’s advice was loving and insightful. It reminded me that even though the beginning trail wasn’t so great that better roads are ahead. The same is true of life. Sometimes your journey is rocky. Sometimes storms will come. Yet, we must realize that they’re temporary and we can look forward to easier paths and the brighter skies.
- Find your Barnabas Voice.
Barnabas was Paul’s missionary partner for a while. His name means Son of Encouragement. Many are that to me, but Connor is certainly that when it comes to my journey to becoming healthy. When I’m on the Hip Abduction and Hip Adduction machines, his voice keeps me from going below 100#. In the walk, his voice kept me from letting tired legs rule the final half of the journey.
- Listen to the Voice of Encouragement and Protection.
Sherry’s “You’re gonna kill it” statement arrived just at the right time. I knew as I turned that final corner that I was almost finished and that I was almost ready to taste the victory of reaching my goal. Then, her words at the finish line protected me from becoming lightheaded and enduring that experience again.
- Enjoy the Voices of Celebration
Who took one of the pics of my crossing the line at 48:42? One of my “third graders” from my early years as a teacher. She posted it on FB which led to other affirmations. To be honest, I cried at one point yesterday afternoon as I read the exhortations from friends.
- Find the Voice of Truth
In the end, it’s all for His glory. Whether I hit the regular goal, the Wonder Woman goal, or missed the mark completely, it would be for His glory.