I am full of the urgent sense that I have wasted a significant portion of my life by adhering slavishly to some self-perpetrated definition of WHO I AM.
Three pieces of data contribute to this conclusion, all fairly similar, all overriding my lifelong conviction that I am inherently “unsporty” to put it lightly. “Physically inept”. “Permanently unfit”. You get the idea.
Where did I get this idea from? This idea that I, a perfectly able-bodied and well-fed human, should somehow be unable to perform certain physical activities, such as jogging?
One cannot be certain, but I lay some blame at the door of school PE classes, where one is assigned an ability label from an early age and developed (or dragged along) accordingly. I spent almost my entire school career comfortably languishing in the bottom set for PE, until 1 awful year when I was 15, and was forced to join the top set due to timetabling challenges (the school’s timetable, not my times tables – these were sh*t hot at the time). I had developed an aversion to balls, hated sweating, and was terrible at throwing, catching, running … there was a general lack of coordination. This didn’t make me unhappy, in fact I was quite contented with my lot – after all, one couldn’t be good at everything, and I was just a non-sporty sort of person.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a rant, I have nothing bad to say about my education – I am more frustrated at MYSELF for consigning myself to a label. WHY? Why could I only be 1 type of person?
I now declare all such labelling to be utter bollocks.
Let us examine the evidence:
- I can climb a smooth metal pole with my hands and feet, and hang upside down by the back of 1 knee.
- I have learnt to throw and catch a frisbee.
- This may not sound impressive, but by God it is. Compared with my previous standards, it is astounding
- I ran 10km this year.
- I purchased trainers for myself, for the first time in my life.
- I trained, like some kind of sporty person, semi-regularly.
- I then ran the London 10K Race. Unbelievable.
- Until this year, I had only carried out 2 (short) jogs (under duress) since 2004 (which were horrific by the way).
- I called my parents the night before the race, and my mother begged me not to do it, for fear that I would fall down unconscious in exhaustion. Needless to say, I ignored her, and have lived to tell the tale.
When talking about running with a new colleague, who assured me that THEY could never run and that they were very different to me, I suddenly realised that THEY had labelled me as SPORTY in their head. I was different to them, because I was SPORTY. Through a few jogs in the park, I had re-written my identity.
That’s not all. I have registered to run another 10K next year, where I will aim to beat my previous time.
FURTHERMORE, I have signed up to my first Half-marathon.
Jesus. Maybe I’ll become a marathon runner and end up wiry thin with no toenails. An ultramarathon runner. A TRIATHLON ATHLETE (this would require more work – I currently cannot swim or cycle).
It’s like I placed blinkers on myself, and locked myself in an imaginary cage – and am now amazed to climb out and realise I am free. I feel like I can do anything, ANYTHING! All I need to do is just bloody do it.
My mantra for years has been “KNOW THYSELF” and this underpins my constant navel-gazing and self-analysis.
Now I question the wisdom of that command. Perhaps it should be revised to “GAIN A WORKABLE UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR CURRENT STATE AND HABITS, BEARING IN MIND IT HAS CHANGED FROM YOUR LAST STATUS CHECK, AND IS LIKELY TO CHANGE AGAIN IN UNFORESEEABLE WAYS, AND TAKE ACTION WHERE APPROPRIATE TO DIRECT CHANGES TO YOUR PREFERENCE.”
If I doubted before whether I can become awesome, I now do not. I will be as awesome as I allow myself to be.