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Judging a Book…and Yourself…By it’s Cover

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I am training for a 10k and in preparation for that I joined a 10k running group at the Y. This in itself was a big step for me…running in a group? No thank you. Brings me back to my days almost 2 yrs. ago when I ran in my Mommy Boot Camp and was dusted by all the fit, hot moms. Not for me.

And yet…

I remembered that that boot camp was one of the things that inspired me to run…and that all those fit, hot moms were actually really nice and supportive.

10K is the farthest I have ever planned to run so far, and I knew that the accountability and support of the group would help me. And so, I joined.

And I’ve loved it. Yes, I still enjoy running alone. Probably prefer it. But it is nice to get those long runs in with a group. Now I’m still slow…(but faster than I was)….and while I can keep up with the group for a bit, I still end up near last. And that’s OK.

One of the girls in this group is known in my head not by her name, but simply as “the fast, athletic girl”. She boxes. Let me clarify. She boxes with a bunch of MEN, no girls in that class. She bikes. She turbo kicks. She runs. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen her NOT do anything athletic. I used to see her from a far at the Y -- she tries a different class at the Y each session. On our group runs she is always leading the way and most times she is so far ahead of me that I can’t even see her since she’s on the next block (or two).

One day after class she approached me and asked me if I ever wanted company on my runs during the week. At first I just looked at her (was she talking to me?) I sort of looked to my left and right with my eyes. Nope, no one else there. I said “Sure, yeah…”…wondering now how am I going to get out of THIS one?

She quickly wrote her name and number on a post-it note and told me to call her anytime. I did not give her my number (I was still standing there slack jawed).

I wanted to say “But no, you’re faster than me!” or “No thanks, I prefer running alone.” Or simply “Why are you asking ME?” (are you seeing where I’m going with this? I put myself as lower than her, simply because she’s thinner than me and faster….)

But I said none of those things. She had to know I was slower than her…right? She had to know what she was “getting into” by asking to run with ME, right?

A week goes by. I don’t call her or ask her to run with me….but that post-it note is burning a hole in my gym bag…haven’t I always wanted a running partner? Haven’t I looked at others running my route, or path, together thinking “Oh, that would be nice.”

This week I look at the weather and see that Wed through Fri. the forecast is rain, rain and also 90s and humid. No thank you. But last night would be a perfect night for a run….I look at the post-it note . I look at my phone. Dare I? Instead of calling I message her…secretly hoping maybe her phone doesn’t accept texts.

I immediately get a response back saying she would be thrilled to run with me and where should we meet. I suggest the local pond with a path around it and we set a time. 7 p.m.

Now I can tell you that I was nervous. As I dressed in my gear all I could think of was…what would we talk about? Would I even be able to talk? I normally can’t talk too much when running. Was I going to sweat too much?

I drank plenty of water all day and before meeting her, but when I stepped out of my car and saw her – you know the type – short running shorts, hair back in a ponytail, and looking casual while I, on the other hand, need 3 sports bras, need my Bondi band or my sweat will go in my eyes…I look a bit like a runner from the 80s in full running gear, minus the socks that go up to your knees. I do not look casual…not one bit. I look very serious and sometimes the juxtaposition of my slower pace to how I look (fierce) can be a little funny….even to me haha. So I felt a tiny bit ridiculous.

I put out the clause that she does not have to run with me, as I know I’m slower than her….I feel better somehow getting that out there. She said she hasn’t run for the past week, so she wanted to go slower. She said that she can't get motivated to run on her own, that's why she joined the running group. (I feel a pang of guilt for not calling her sooner).

Ok. Here we go.

Deep breath and we are off running. She starts talking, she is a chatty girl. My mouth is already dry and my palms are sweaty. This isn’t a first date or anything, but I am nervous! I can barely talk, my throat feels like chalk. I try to mutter some “um hums…” and “that’s nice.”

As we are a mile in my mouth recovers a bit and I’m able to talk more. It makes the run go by quicker. But at the 2 mile mark, I feel done already….yes, it was a breezy cooler night, but I am still really hot and looking at my watch I realize I am running closer to her pace, not my own. 10 min. per mile. In the heat I’m usually at least a 13 min. per mile pace. So I slow it down a bit and keep going. She stays by me. At this point I can’t talk at all. At the 3 mile mark she asks how far we’ve gone and I tell her. She says it feels like longer. I wonder if I should be a better conversationalist. So I try to talk some more.

She tells me that she is not athletic at all. I look at her. I manage to say “What?” She goes on to say that she is very clumsy and not athletic and that she pushes herself to try new classes at the Y so that she becomes more coordinated. She points out that she tripped on our run earlier (I barely noticed that). She said that boxing has helped her with coordination a bit, but that she’s just always been known as the “klutz”. I told her that she sure looked athletic to me. She laughed and said no.

This is where the run gets harder for me. I feel I’ve already hit my wall, but want to keep going. We’ve only been running 33 minutes. I should be able to run for at least 60 without hitting this wall. Darn it. But I try to get into my zone with her running next to me. Ok, that’s better.

Soon we are at 4 miles and that’s when I slow it down even further and she starts to go ahead of me. That’s ok, I am relishing the time alone, too. I wanted to get 6 miles in, but would be happy with 5.5.

When we reach 5 miles I ask her if she wants to go for 6. She does. So we are off again, this time running together again.

We ended up running a total of 6.62 miles. That last half mile she sprinted ahead. So as I finished up she was waiting for me.

“You are amazing!” she said to me.

(Again, I wondered was she talking to ME?) “Oh, no. I’m slow.” I replied, kind of apologetically.

“NO, your endurance is amazing!” she said. She went on to say “I wanted to quit at Mile 2. But you were there pushing me on and it looked easy for you. If I hadn’t been running with you I would have given up for sure.”

I look at her, and realized that at Mile 2 I wanted to give up, too. That she was giving me strength also. That there is something about strength in numbers. But I was so out of breath I didn’t say any of those things. I think I muttered a “Thanks”.

On the way home I marveled at how different she really was vs. how I saw her, how I judged her, from the outside.

When you judge a book by its cover, you miss out. Back in boot camp if I never spoke to those girls because I was intimidated, because I felt “less than”, because I wasn’t as fast as them, or because you could see that I had more than the “baby fat” to lose…well I probably would have quit after Day 1. I wouldn’t have experienced that team camaraderie. I wouldn’t have experienced the kindness of that one particular girl who ran by my side when I couldn’t even run a block, and kept saying, “Just until that next stop sign”…then “Just up to the street”…and “Just focus on the building ahead”…”YOU CAN DO IT.”

If I never called Jackie (that’s her name it turns out, not “fast, athletic girl”) and took her up on the offer to run, I would have never a) run the farthest distance yet or b)I wouldn’t have realized that from the outside (and inside?) that I have strength, too. While she has quickness, I have endurance. I think we balance each other out quite nicely, and I look forward to more runs with her.

I will never forget that girl from boot camp…and I will never forget the lesson Jackie taught me -- to not judge a book by its cover, and to never underestimate yourself either.

...and I will never forget again that I am more than that little voice in my head tells me, too.

And amazing.


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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Awwww! This is such an AMAZING blog!! I'm so proud of you, and yes, inspired!!! I feel so often like you do. And I am guilty of judging books by their covers, when I shouldn't be judging at all! I'm so self conscious and worry what others might think... I'm proud of you, truly am!!! Thank you for writing this!
    2419 days ago
    That is awesome... and part of why I had to join a gym. I find myself working harder with others around me. I push myself harder, but still know my limitations, so it works out! Good for you - stepping out and taking that leap!

    2420 days ago
  • MARCH_
    Going out of our comfort zone takes so much courage! Thank you for letting us in on your journey.
    2423 days ago
  • PENNYE42
    That is great! And a reminder to the rest of us. Thank you.
    2425 days ago
    What a way cool adorable story! And BONUS! You are so ready for that 10K! ;)
    2425 days ago
    Wow...I really enjoyed this blog! Has anyone ever told you that you should write a book? You are a very good writer, among other things....like having endurance! emoticon

    Keep up the good work!
    2425 days ago
    You know, Kathy, that when I look at you I think about all those things that you thought about Jackie! Everyone is at different stages, and everyone wishes they were at better stages, but during our journeys we meet some amazing people who can really help to change the way we think about ourselves and our expectations. YOU inspire others, just as you have been inspired by others. Isn't it an awesome circle? emoticon emoticon
    2426 days ago
    That is awesome! I am definately guilty of judging a book by its cover, but makes you think twice!
    2426 days ago
    Wow! Thank you for sharing. And congrats on the run and the new friendship!
    2426 days ago
  • DARE2LIVE2011
    What can I say? This was a great story and so well-written. GREAT reminder! Good for you for taking the risk to join the group and to call "athletic girl"! Blessings as you continue to train! I'm inspired! emoticon
    2426 days ago
    Awesome! It reminds me that I avoid situations too. I suppose we are all just people and each one of us has our struggles. But some people sure don't look it - huh? Better yet, so few face their insecurities, like you did!!!!
    2426 days ago
  • AMBER281
    What a great blog and a wonderful lesson!!!
    Congrats finding your inner strength!!
    2427 days ago
  • BLOSSOM2344
    Nice story!
    2427 days ago
    2427 days ago
    Great blog and lesson Kathy! Thanks so much for sharing!

    2427 days ago
    Awesome blog!!!!!! I can relate 100% minus the running part LOL
    2427 days ago
    This is so so great! Thank you for sharing this story. SO glad that you messaged her and were able to experience this :)
    2427 days ago
    And a runner!!

    Another fabulous blog Kathy!! So inspirational!
    2427 days ago
    Good job nice blog it's funny I do that a lot too,judge a book by it's cover!

    2427 days ago
  • TEMPEST272002
    Fantastic blog Kathy. I'm glad you took a chance, made a new friend & gained some pretty big insights. Your story reminded me of how I felt when I went snowshoeing with the "super-fit" neighbour. Congrats on the long run too. That's just amazing. It's incredible to follow your journey over this past year or so. You have become so fit & your eyes are all sparkly. The profile pic you're using now is my favourite one yet.
    2427 days ago
    What a lovely, inspirational, truthful story. You are just amazing, Kathy, and I love you!
    2427 days ago
    Great blog! We all need to remember not to judge other by first impressions. And not to judge ourselves so harshly.
    2427 days ago
    Kathy your blogs always make me tear up lol, your emotion just shines through. I am so proud of you for getting out of your comfort zone and calling her!!!! AND you ran farther than 10k!!! You ROCK!!!!
    MOVE SUCKA MOVE!!!!!!!!!!
    2427 days ago
    Wow. That is amazing - and such an inspirational blog. I'm still trying to figure out how to run with Nikhil. My best runs are still all on my own because I control all of my own pacing - but I do have to say, running with a partner has pushed me past my comfort zone and made me go further when I just wanted to quit. Good for you! She sounds awesome.
    2427 days ago
    Wow, this made . Thad made meme tear up; not fake only in words tears but actually tears and it hit my heart. Your words are so true. Thank you for sharing :o)
    2427 days ago
    Great blog! And a great lesson to keep in mind. I find myself not making friends in my exercise classes because I think that the other women are more athletic and better coordinated than I am. I'm going to try to be less hard on myself and hopefully make some friends in the process. Bravo!
    2427 days ago
    Love this blog, and I'm so happy that you've found a running partner who both compliments and pushes you! That's why I love running with the fella more than alone. He keeps me going, especially during the early part of the run when I just want to quit, and I keep him going later on, when I find my stride and he starts faltering.

    Great lesson to learn and to share here!!
    2427 days ago
    teary eyed here too. That was very inspirational. What a wonderful gift from God for you and for all of us. Beautiful lesson to know that we don't need to listen to the lies...and to remember that we are all unique and have no reason to feel lower than anyone.
    2427 days ago
    what a great story. things like that really help you put things in perspective. So great you found such a great running duo too. Great for both of you.
    2427 days ago
    Wonderful blog, and so true--we should never judge a book or ourselves by the cover. Thanks for the reminder; WAY TO GO!
    2427 days ago
    All I can say is....WOW. It's hard to make friends as we get older, and although we can connect easily on Spark you had the blessings of meeting an actual person-that saw something in you to help each other out!!!! What a great opportunity for you to connect with someone and push each other to achieve. Lucky! :)
    So glad you put yourself out there and connected!
    2427 days ago
    That is a great story. It is a message that everyone needs to remember. I am always feeling like everyone is better than me, that I am nothing. Bur God didn't make me that way. I am special. We all are.
    Thanks so much for sharing your story.
    2427 days ago
    You are such a really wonderful person! FIrst of all- you had me laughing at how you describe how you are dressed vs. her- the picture was clear in my head! I just love that you put yourself out there- again and again- and you seem to find a win every time! I just think you are amazing- and I am sure Jackie was attracted to that part of you- the really cool, want to know that girl- thing that makes all of us love you so much! You have so much positive energy- and I think Jackie was right in asking you to let her bask in it!

    Way to be!!
    2427 days ago
    Wow, so great!!
    2427 days ago
    WOW! I am setting here...(feeling like a bit of a mushy baby) tearing up reading this! I have just been realizing this myself with the people in the gym! How after so many months of going, and finally talking to a few of them...some of them look like "muscle heads" and just plain gym rats....but they are all conquering something while there! They didn't get that way by chance!

    I hope to find a running partner as well soon...someone that will push me to get out of the gym and onto the streets! I think you have inspired me to see if there are any classes in a local gym that does night runs, or even weekend runs....

    Thank you for sharing your story! (I just recently had "crazy fast running girl" come and talk to me at the gym...and found out she thinks I am doing great, and she has bad knees!) Who knew!
    2427 days ago
    2427 days ago
    Wow I love this blog. I wish I had a partner for runs or workouts but I never put myself out there to meet people at the gym etc. This has really opened my eyes AND it was delightful to read :)
    2427 days ago
    This is so amazing! You need to write a book....about your transformation! storeis like this! Shoot, just combine your blogs! It would sell! I LOVE YOU! And I'm so vrey very very proud of you!
    2427 days ago
    I actually got teary-eyed reading this blog. You described everything so vividly and I can SO RELATE to how you felt. The difference is, I don't think I would ever have had the guts to call her. What a great blog...I will try to remember it the next time I feel intimidated by the skinnier, faster girls.

    Thank you!
    2427 days ago
    Awesome blog - you wrote that up really, really well. I could see it happening as you described it.

    Great message, I am so glad you have found a buddy and learned a growing lesson.

    Really awesome. Thanks for posting this!
    2427 days ago
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