“Surround yourself with people that make you a better version of yourself” was the quote on the back of a guy’s t-shirt as we ran the Portland Half-Marathon last weekend.
I had started studying the t-shirts people were wearing for this momentous event in an effort to distract myself from the fact that I was attempting to run over 13 miles!
It was a fun little game – a social experiment of sorts. The t-shirt a person dons for a big race often says a fair bit about who they are – or so I postulated between breaths.
Many wear finisher shirts from prior marathons…maybe to remind themselves that they have what it takes to do this? Some groups wear brightly colored custom-made shirts with fun team names (Sole Sisters was one I enjoyed) or the name of a person they are memorializing by running the race.
Some run in ratty t-shirts worn through at the shoulders and under the armpits…most likely a “lucky t-shirt” that has logged more race miles than I could ever imagine. And still others wear shirts with inspirational quotes that are usually lost on me.
I was particularly struck by the quote on the back of this gentleman’s shirt and spent many miles thinking about all of the amazing people I am surrounded by that make me a better version of myself. I realized that many of these people probably have no idea what a difference they have made in terms of encouraging and inspiring me on this journey toward improved health.
Sometimes they’ve inspired me by through their words.
Things they’ve said in person, or messages they’ve sent me by email or on Facebook.
Or my teammate Nate, who cheered me on with such sincerity and gusto as I ran in the Cascade Lakes Relay race that he gave my feet wings!
Sometimes they’ve inspired me through their actions.
Like when my cousin Joe flew to Portland to run my first 5k with me.
Or when my co-worker Courtney gave me a little gift bag before my first 5k that included music mix CDs she’d made.
Or when my friend Alisa drove out into the middle of nowhere to cheer me on during my first half-marathon.
My brother-in-law Chris who gave me my first experience of adventure travel (hiking the islands of Greece) and continues to remind me that there is a great big world out there just waiting for me to discover it — because odds are he’s already been there.
My friend Ingrid who bikes through the city to work everyday with her kids – day or night, rain or shine.
Sometimes they’ve inspired me by not letting me off the hook.
When Sylvia, my Weight Watchers leader, gives some tough love – with a whole lot of humor and understanding – about being honest with yourself and not making excuses. While at the same time reminding you that you’re human and it’s okay to make mistakes.
Or, when my friend and neighbor Kristen showed up on my front porch to go jogging at 6:00 AM every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday…without fail, rain or shine.
Or when Glenn and I are out to eat and I suggest that we get the mac-n-cheese…“ya know, we could split it so it wouldn’t be so bad”…and then he orders a kale salad or broccoli instead.
Sometimes they’ve inspired me with words of encouragement.
Like when I was lamenting how I typically only ran for 3 mile (or less) and was never going to be able to do a half-marathon. My friend Michelle (who had recently finished her first full marathon) said “You ran 6 miles once, remember? And if you went just a bit further you’d be at 8 miles, which is almost 10, and at that point you could totally run a half-marathon.”
When things seem impossible I try to recall Michelle’s wisdom and remind myself to break things down into smaller more achievable steps.
Sometimes they’ve inspired me through their own actions.
For example, my friend Kim – the catalyst for my whole journey who continues to inspire me regularly by sharing her own story with the world – who ran 30-miles through Forest Park to celebrate her 30th birthday.
Like when Seaerra worked so hard to get into shape so she could join Glenn and me on a big hiking adventure in the Olympic National Park – and who is now pushing herself even further by setting a goal of running a 10k in the next year.
My parents, who have focused on improving their own health…and my sister-in-law who trained to run her first half-marathon with Glenn and me last weekend.
Gwen, who had just celebrated her 70th birthday, taught me a valuable lesson during a two-day nearly 25-mile hike on Mt. Hood this summer.
We were splayed out on the ground beside the trail eating lunch because there were no sitting logs to be found. The whole group was exhausted and still had a long way to go (~18 miles down, about 7 more to go). As we were getting ready to start hiking again she glanced around assessing the best way to get up off the ground. I reached down to offer her a hand up. She looked at my hand, looked back at the ground, and then looked back up at me and said “Thank you, but I need to be able to do this by myself.” I realized it was that sort of attitude – a deep self-determination to do what needed to be done, even if it was hard – that was the reason she was so full of life…the reason she was 70 years old and still seeking adventure and pushing herself to do amazing things.
And of course, Glenn inspires me each and every day.
He has been by my side every step of the way. He keeps me honest about my food choices – while at the same time getting a twinkle in his eye as we relish our indulgences (we’ve recently found the most amazing frozen yogurt shop!).
Glenn gets me to exercise when I’d rather sleep in or lounge about reading a not-so-good smut book. He pushes me to try things I’m sure I won’t enjoy – like jogging or joining a new gym. And he’s up for any of the crazy ideas I might come up with – like when I surprised him with a 3 day, 50-mile hike around Mt. Hood.
Glenn has loved me through thick and thin. Literally. And that means the world to me.
It means that getting healthy isn’t about how I look or what size clothing I wear. Glenn cherished me just as much when I was twice my size as he does today. This journey toward becoming a better version of myself is about ensuring that Glenn and I have a long, healthy and adventure-filled life together.
There are countless people in my life that encourage, support and inspire me on a daily basis. I’ve listed only but a few here.
If I could go back in time I would thank that guy for wearing that t-shirt on race day. It prompted me to take stock of all of the amazing people I am surrounded by that have made all the difference in the world.
I am truly blessed.