Starting to Run, One Baby Step at a Time

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I am not a runner, but I started running the other day.

More accurately, I did some running within 22 minutes. I ran for a portion of four laps around the track.

I didn’t know I was going to start running that day. I had never sought out the act of running. My bursts into a run had always been limited to a sense of duty. Running to chase my kids in games or sports they stipulated. Running to rescue my kids when they were hurt or seconds away from a dangerous situation. Running to beat the rain. Running to retrieve something I had left behind. 

That day, however, I chose to run for myself. It wasn’t much, but it was enough.

In graduate school, I read a piece called “Forty-One False Starts” by Janet Malcolm. She was writing a profile about a painter, but it was a metacognitive exploration of how artists, herself included, work through a process.

My writing professor chose the piece to help us, a room full of prospective English teachers, get started on our semester-long project. A project that would force us to break out of our comfort zones and experiment with not only numerous writing genres but also various mediums of art. And wait for it; the project had to be centered around a topic we’d shied away from. Something that we should be running toward

I remember how petrified I was. I was 22 years old. In all my years of schooling, I’d always done well, but I was never pushed to do something so experimental, so vulnerable.

I remember looking around the long table and seeing some people like me, their faces marbled with panic; others dove into writing, their pens seemingly dancing across the paper.

Several minutes later, the writing professor revealed that we were capable enough to produce amazing work as he had done this project with his past middle school students! He had faith in us. He wanted us to have faith in ourselves.

Starting something is often the most challenging part. Starting something that we perceive as hard, scary, or unenjoyable is even more challenging.

As parents, we applaud every baby step our child takes. We value every start. We comprehend how much of a shock to the system a start may be to a child learning to navigate the world.

Sleeping through the night starts with a stretch of a few hours.
Becoming a better eater starts with a taste of new food.
Learning to read starts with a single word.
Saying goodbye to diapers starts with that first time on the potty.

We cheer wildly. We are so proud of their start. We have no concept of how they will continue to engage with the process.

As adults, it’s harder for us to start something. It’s a different shock to our system to try to break our minds and bodies out of their habits. We dismiss the power of baby steps because we are too aware of how difficult the overall process will be.

I started running the other day. During each lap, I ran a bit longer before shifting to a jog. My youngest daughter, sitting on the sidelines, cheered wildly.

A start is a start. Any way that we start is an act of faith. We can begin something hard or scary, or unenjoyable.

Three days later, I ran again. I added a lap. All three of my kids and my husband were on the track, each doing something they enjoyed. As I rounded each lap, they waved or cheered. 

I enjoy the sensation of running. Had I not started, I would never have known.

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Maria F. is a high school English teacher who naturally finds herself reflecting upon the routine and randomness that accompany each day as a working mommy. She relies upon humor and some sort of chocolate or frozen treat as survival tactics. She and her husband live in East Norwalk with their three kids, Abbie (2012), Charlie (2014), and Phoebe (2018). You can find Maria F. driving in her beloved dream car, a minivan, listening to audiobooks during her commute, or playing DJ and climate controller when she’s shuttling her kids around town. Forever a sorority girl and Ohio State Buckeye, she will (almost) always choose socializing over chilling on the couch.

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