A joyful feeling

Today I couldn’t wait to get to the fitness class I teach, because one of my class members did her first 5K yesterday, as a walker.

D. attended my walking class over the summer. As I watched her form and speed improve, I posed a question to her: “Have you ever thought about doing some type of race as a walker?”

In a word? No.

But she was intrigued by the idea, and we chatted about it over the weeks that followed. I told her that I thought her speed was well within the parameters of walking a 5K, and that I was confident that she could do it.

As she turned the idea around in her mind, she asked me about the race process, both how to prepare and what to expect. Finally, she decided: Yes, this was a goal she’d like to aim for. Once she made the decision, her enthusiasm grew.

So I sent her a list with links to several local 5Ks. From there she chose one in a neighboring town, scheduled for yesterday. I thought about surprising her at the finish area, but she’d very politely turned down my offer to join her for the race if she wanted me to — I got the sense that she wanted to do this all on her own.

And I’m so proud to say that she did well, with a steady pace and a good finish time. It was written all over her face when she came into class tonight — she was beaming! — and I couldn’t wait to ask her about the experience. She thanked me for all the encouragement, but the truth is, I’m inspired by her experience. I think seeing first-timers complete a race is a bit of a high for me, too!

At the risk of embarrassing her (and saying as much), I shared her accomplishment with the rest of the class. They were quick to offer congratulations and ask her all about it.

And from what I can tell, I think a racer has been born: She definitely wants to do it again. She joked that the 3.1 miles seemed long enough, so the thought of 13.1 (a half marathon) seems crazy. I countered that 8Ks and 10-milers make great next goals, once she has another 5K or three under her belt.

One of the greatest feelings in all my life was when I completed my first race. The joy and pride have not diminished in nine years. And that’s part of why I’m so thrilled every time I see someone else experience that feeling — the feeling of setting a fitness goal, working toward it for weeks or months or longer, putting your training to use when push comes to shove, and achieving it. Knowing that it’s something you did solely on your own (with cheerleading support from family and friends, of course), through the efforts of your own body/heart/lungs/muscles … it’s a tremendous feeling.

So … congratulations to D., who can count me as cheerleader #1.

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