Has Age Changed How You See Yourself?

3 years ago

You know the phrase “it’s like riding a bike,” which implies that once you learn how to ride a bike, you’ll never forget. Well, it isn’t true.

I was that kid who learned to ride a bike one summer and had to relearn the next. I was also the kid who took forever learning to roller skate and the kid who got a "D" in jump roping in fifth-grade gym class. To be fair, my gym teacher was a complete bitch who scarred me for life, but that’s a post for another time.

Credit Image: puuikibeach on Flickr

One of my nicknames growing up was “Grace,” and that’s not because I was a ballerina. In high school, I tried track and gymnastics because my friends were participating, but my performance was borderline humiliating. Gym class was always a torture chamber.

I simply wasn’t athletic, and in my mind I never could be.

After college, I realized I needed to get in shape or forever retain my beer-and-taco booty, so I headed to the gym, took kickboxing classes and even threw in some running. I got in shape, but still never felt athletic.

When my husband, an avid cyclist, and I started dating, I bought a bike and even did a full century ride (100 miles) at one point—my husband pushed me up hills as needed. Yet, I never considered myself a cyclist.

Even though I’ve run for 15 years now, I’ve never classified myself as a runner. My longest distance ever was an 8K, and I injured my ankle in the last five minutes. I rarely ran more than twice per week. I’ve never completed a 5K in less than 30 minutes.

When I started training for a half-marathon two months ago, I simply wanted a physical goal to work toward. I assumed my body would change, but I didn’t expect the training to change my mindset, too.

All of my life, I’ve considered myself an uncoordinated, clumsy person with very little athletic prowess. That changed last weekend when I ran my longest distance ever: 7 miles. During that run I also surpassed the milestone of running 100 miles this year and according to my online tracking program, I broke every one of my personal records for speed and distance. I’m still slow by most runners’ standards, but in my world, I kicked ass.

Most shocking (and exciting) was that for the first time ever, I beat my husband. I have never been faster or stronger than him at anything, but numbers don’t lie. My pace was faster than his.

Sure, I beat him because I’ve been training and he has not due to his 5+ hour commute every day. I fully expect the universe to right itself again once he starts a new job in April, which will give him time to train.

But for that one day, I was faster than an athlete. I ran longer and faster than I ever have, and that knowledge shook me to the core. It was like turning on a light switch and seeing myself clearly for the first time.

Today when I returned from my cold, damp run, I looked in the mirror. The 10-year-old who nearly failed jump roping class was gone. In her place stood a runner—a real runner.

It’s taken 40 years for me to see her. Perhaps she has always been there, and my lifelong misperception of myself was simply too skewed to see her. Now that I’ve found her, I have no intention of letting her out of my sights.

How has your perception of yourself changed with age?

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