The Courage to Start

Most of us runners have had friends and family say, “Oh, I could never run.” They are too fat, too slow, too busy, too out of shape, too afraid, or so they say. However, we know those are just things we tell ourselves to justify our reasons for not doing something. We know, because we’ve been there.

All runners have to start somewhere. Some begin running later in life in attempt to lose weight or improve their health. Some started running as kids and ended up on track and cross country teams. Others took that first run with a friend not knowing how far they could or would go. Starts can happen intentionally or accidentally, and they can occur over and over.

I’ve been running since I was 12 years old, but not consistently. I’ve taken months-long breaks because of life, injury, and laziness, but eventually the urge to run returned. That first run (or really, runs) were not fun. I slogged through slow miles with my knees and sides aching. My fitness was certainly gone, and all the reasons I had avoided running for several weeks seemed justified in those beginning steps. But, I also knew that if I could come out the next day and the day after that then I would reconnect with the love of running. The euphoria and endorphins would again consume me, and I would be smitten.

And that did happen, every single time.

We all have goals that we want to accomplish — run a marathon, change careers, buy a house, write a book — and while the end results seem glorious, the path to get there is daunting. And, when you are looking up a mountain, it’s hard to find that bravery to take the first step.

But, we can’t get there if we refuse to start. The joy, the love, the glorious success will remain figments in our imagination unless we begin.

Yesterday, I went to see a new therapist. Just like running, I’ve been in and out of counseling since I was a teenager, and I was seeing a regular therapist up until last November when I lost my health insurance. In that time out of counseling, my mental health has taken a nose dive, and I’ve been in a pretty dark spot for a few months. As humans, we tend to linger in the negative. It’s an easier, comfortable spot for us, and as someone with depression and anxiety, it’s more familiar to me than joy and happiness. So, when I am there, it’s hard to get out.

Yet, that’s not how I want to live. I want to control my mental health, not the other way around, and to do that, I need help. Reclaiming my mental health isn’t a quick fix, but a long journey of processing thoughts and emotions and filtering the truth from the false. Starting back in therapy feels like training for a marathon without any specific end; it will be a long painful journey but I can’t find content unless I start.

The first appointment, like the first run after a long break, felt a bit awkward, almost as if I forgot how to do this. But then I warmed up, and by the end, I had re-found that high. Not all of my session will feel this good, I know that, but I am not in this for the quick high. I want the long-term benefits, and so I am willing to give it my all week after week.

We often think we can’t start until we are ready. We need more of this or that, or we should wait to begin after such and such. The truth is, now is as good of a time as any to start. You don’t need anything more than what you at this moment but rather just the courage. From there, you can figure out the rest.

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