You Can Be Who You Imagine Yourself to Be

It wasn’t that long ago that Suzanne Beaumont would only run in the dark. She was that self-conscious about being seen, huffing and puffing, struggling to get into shape.

Although Suzanne had run earlier in life, many years had passed since she’d last laced up her shoes. Her days were full up with a demanding career as a software engineer, her three children, and all the routine activities of life. Exercise had gone by the wayside.

A shock and a commitment.

That all changed when her father had a massive heart attack. As she watched him pull through, willing himself onto the treadmill, slowly gaining his health back, she found herself thinking, “If he can do it, so can I.”

She started out walking, progressed to jogging, and as her fitness level and confidence increased, so did her interest in further challenging herself. “I began asking, what’s something I’ve always wanted to do? I decided I wanted to run a marathon by the time I was fifty.'”

The challenge wasn’t only physical.

Suzanne considered signing up with Team in Training® (TNT). TNT provides marathon and other endurance event training for people willing to raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“The idea of training with a team appealed to me, so I went to one of their meetings. It was something I wanted to do, but I was terrified of the fundraising and the marathon. I didn’t sign up, but as I walked away I looked back. There was a gray-haired, grandmotherly-looking woman in an old-fashioned flowery shirt-waist dress turning in her form and registration fee. And I thought, if she thinks she can do it, why don’t I think I can?

The value of support.

Suzanne was still deliberating when she attended my workshop The Art of Balance: Creating Sustainable Change in Work and Life™. She shared with the group how much the fundraising intimidated her.

The women were eager to help. One said, “Send me your fundraising email, I’ll mail you a check” and others followed these women, none of whom she’d ever met before, did for her the same thing as the older woman in the flowery dress – helped her see what’s possible.

That was the nudge Suzanne needed. Then throughout her training, strangers, teammates, sports professionals, friends and family all helped her not only focus on what was possible, but also get ready to make it happen.

Winning before reaching the starting line.

Halfway through training for the marathon, Suzanne sent me this email:
“This whole training experience is … teaching me what it really means to stretch and do something that I may not understand that I can do. It is teaching me that even something as individual as running a foot race cannot be accomplished … without the help of a lot of different folks: coaches, nutrition specialist, physical therapist, friends and family urging me on, teammates to train with.”

“Training for the marathon is teaching me very much about living my day as I want to live my life.”

On October 22, 2006, at 49 years old, Suzanne ran the Nike Women’s Marathon in mega-hilly San Francisco.

You don’t have to run a marathon to change your life.

But the same factors that help a newbie runner cross that finish line can help you get unstuck and reach your goals.

  • Commitment. It’s hard to find a plan strong enough to overcome a lack of true commitment. Be sure you are clear on why making a change is important to you now.
  • Pacing. You wouldn’t try to run 26.2 miles your first time out. But so often we try to implement drastic change overnight. Start with manageable steps and build up over time.
  • Persistence. Change is exhilarating, scary, and messy and sometimes all three at exactly the same time. You’ll need to stay strong when your ingrained habits are singing their siren song, luring you to the path of least resistance.
  • Support. Support keeps you going when you feel stuck or discouraged. Sometimes you want warm and fuzzy emotional support, but other times you need tangible assistance of someone to hold you accountable.

Forever changed.

Suzanne has since run six marathons and countless half-marathons in the years since that first TNT meeting. Running has shaken up everything in her life.

She now regularly asks herself, “Why not?” about everything, and is breaking down barriers to things she’d previously avoided. She’s better able to handle whatever life throws her way. Best of all, she’s learned, “We can be who we imagine ourselves to be. So, we must be careful to allow ourselves to dream of the best, and then repeat it daily!”

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”
~ Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist


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