May 21, 2024   4:07pm

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Our “What’s Next?” advisor Cindy finds that sports are, indeed, a metaphor for life …

9353 was my bib number for my first-ever four-mile race, run recently in Central Park, New York*. I couldn’t have predicted what a huge impact running this race would have on me. It unlocked a well of positive energy which I’m now applying beyond the race to my life more broadly. Sports as metaphor for life may sound like a cliché, until it happens to you…

There were over 5800 runners in this race. We all crossed the starting line at different times. I was constantly being passed by or passing other runners. It was impossible to benchmark my performance to theirs, despite my strong urge to do so. Had they started after me and gained on me or vice versa? Were they more experienced than me or less? More talented or less? Better trained or less? On this Sunday, my measure of success was having my game plan and sticking to it. It was self-defined, without reliance on others. I started out easy and picked up my pace with each mile (my husband calls this running “negative splits”…who knew?). It felt so liberating to be in MY zone, executing MY plan, not concerned about what others were doing.

The day before the race, I was on the treadmill running at alternating speeds. Nicole, my trainer, would ask me “How do you feel right now?” “Do you feel like you can run one mile at this pace?” “Two miles at another pace?” I took her technique into the race with me. At regular intervals along the course, I got in touch with how my heart, body and mind were feeling. I trusted how I felt and took my cue from it. When I felt strong, I turned up my pace. When I felt I was laboring, I slowed down. With no race experience and no familiarity with the mile markers I was, frankly, nervous about how to pace myself. My best gauge proved to be myself.

Part adrenaline; part sticking to my plan; part vanity; I found a reserve of energy and turned it on the last ½ mile. It was a huge high to run past the crowd at the finish line feeling strong. In that moment, pulling energy from those watching was uncharacteristically and wonderfully not the same as relying on others’ judgment for self approval. It reminded me that as women and at midlife, it is really sweet not to let ‘em see you struggle at the end…

A year ago I was barely walking four miles. A few weeks ago I ran a personal best in a timed, competitive race. I feel an almost child-like sense of pride and accomplishment. This, in turn, fuels a desire to get stronger … to do more … to repeat this feeling.

I ran into my friend Susan after the race. It was also her first race, run as a family with her husband and two young adult kids — great runners in their own right, there to support their mom. (How cool is that?) I saw the same look of accomplishment in her eyes. It makes me want this for all of us.

We should all aspire to the “high” that comes with setting new goals, working toward and achieving them. It keeps us young. It keeps us bold.

* As I shared in my post “A Swift Kick in the …,” fitness has become a high priority for me the past 12 months. The Central Park race was my first step toward competing in a mini triathalon this summer.

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