On Saturday, I’ll be joining more than 15,000 other runners, taking on the streets of Hartford during the EverSource Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon. For the sake of clarity, I’ll be running the half. This will be my second year running this race, yet it will feel both as special and as nerve-wracking as last year. This year I’ll be running as a member of the Aiello Inspiration Team, which you can learn more about here.
Since learning that I was chosen as a member of this team, I’ve danced between feeling flattered, humbled, touched… and like a fraud. Why me? After all, when you read the stories of the other team members, they are incredible. Folks have overcome insurmountable odds to now find themselves running as a form of therapy, self-care, a cause greater than themselves, or all the above. While I also run for all three, I cannot claim these miraculous feats.
I also cannot claim any particular athletic accomplishments. You won’t find me in the winners’ circle. You’ll find me in the back of the pack, among my “I think I can” peers. While in the past I’d find that discouraging, now seeing myself among the “I think I cans” brings me great comfort and joy. I wonder if that is enough to be inspiring. We are all captivated by the winners’ circle, though for most of us it is not within reach. The finisher’s medal, however, may just be more accessible than we believe, and so much of what determines that is whether we think we can.
My son thought he could run a 5k with me last November, and now has about a half dozen under his belt. My daughter thought she could hang in there doing upside-down flips from the swing set, and now she can do three in a row before coming inside each night. When I started running less than three years ago, I thought I could run one minute straight, now I’m taking on 13.1 miles.
Who epitomizes “inspirational” is less important than what it touches in us. I am inspired by the karate mom who can now walk three blocks without her walker for the first time in nearly a year. I’m inspired by the survivor of domestic violence, living in one room of a SafeHouse with her two children, scared with an uncertain future, who manages to put one foot in front of the other each morning. I’m inspired by my staff, who can hold stories of horrific abuse gently and with compassion, go home to play with their kids and tend to their own needs, and come back and do it again. I’m inspired by my daughter, who found her way through math fact families that once left her in tears, with grace and a smile a few months later. I am inspired by my wife, who continues to advocate for herself and her needs for her fractured leg after her concerns were left minimized and untreated.
Being inspirational, in the end, may not be all that much about the content of our stories. What inspires is the place we do it from: a quest for self-acceptance, and our willingness to believe ourselves “enough” to fight for. I am inspired each time I hear or see someone show “I am enough, as is, right now. I am worth this effort.”