Sometimes I suction on very small spandex pants, wear a sporty watch, and pretend to be an athlete. Such days are typically followed by weeks of absolute stillness, but that’s hardly important. For 45 minutes on a glorious Sunday morning, I am a mileage-dominating beast whose sweat reeks of victory. I couldn’t tell you if it is the bold Nike swoosh or early hour delirium that gives me such high-voltage confidence in myself, but I am consistently cocky as I head into the fitness room. I mount the treadmill, escalating speed and incline until I am walking tall. Warm Up? Dead and done because I killed it. The fiery determination smoldering in my eyes alarms the geriatric man completing short reps with 2-pound weights, but no apologies. I change this Game Face for no one.
I read somewhere that runners should adopt a chant (a rhythmic mantra, if you will) to keep a solid pace. The mental repetition of a few small syllables can keep one’s feet on time, never too spastic nor too lagging. Swift. Steady. Straight steps to the Winner’s Circle.
I have no doubt that in these official-looking pants I am the embodiment of all that is endurance and running, so I do as the runners do and get my mantra on.
And here is where we learn about Confidence. That most of the time it is false or very well should be. That sometimes in life we will be the poor, clueless song-crow trying out for American Idol. We will stare as J. Lo. waves her arms in the air for mercy, and we will be dumbfounded as to why she would not understand what true and remarkable talent we have, and we will feel so sure in our abilities that we will think J.Lo must be mistaken, she must be dancing along to this sweet song we’re singing, and we will JUST KEEP BELTING IT OUT LIKE THE POP STAR DIVA THAT WE ARE!
In those first moments of running my Professional Pace Chant of A Champion Runner:
“Get it, girl. Get it, girl. Get it, girl. Get it, girl.”
“Like a boss. Like a boss. Like a boss.”
After a few minutes my legs say “No”. Fear aches in the joints and my shins just want to feel safe again. They’d like to chill out with a bowl of ice cream and Friends re-runs. A subtle change, let’s call it Reality, seeps into my mantra and before I know it I am trying slowly reassuring my worried titty-baby body with the soothing hymns.
“Calm and strong. Calm and strong. Calm and… callllllm. Just calllllm.”
“Milkshake. Cupcake. Milkshake. Cupcake. Milkshake. Cupcake.”
Approximately 21 minutes into this once-promising run, even self-bribing with promises of delicious, post-jog treats has fallen short. Like so many man-dreamt tactics before, I realize the error of my ways and repent. The confident shell chips and cracks, gives way to humility. I am humbled (desperate). And here is where we learn about Faith, namely that we need more help than we would like to think.
I do not finish strong so much as I just barely, miserably tick off steps on this conveyor belt to Hell. I cross the finish line, spit-breathing and mumbling the chant of the broken-down. It sounds a bit like a beg, a lot like pleading.
“Help me, Lord. Help me, Lord. Help me, Lord. Sweet Jesus. Sweet Jesus. Sweet Jesus”.
I think my hip is stuck so I drag a crooked leg back home and answer a phone call from a friend. I reflect on the miracle that is finishing a run without dying. I am awed at the power of prayer, more powerful than cupcakes. An ice pack and an Advil. I give thanks for the catchy rap beats of Pitbull as his worship music distracted me for 3 whole minutes. Mr. Worldwide. Mr. 3-oh-5. Glory Be! I rejoice! I rejoice! And when said friend asks me what I’ve been up to this Sunday morning, I answer her with exactly the truth….
“Oh, just got back from church.”