Our meeting had just begun with Jeanine aka “J9”, one of our Regional Directors, quoting Henry Ford…”Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right!” Then Becca, our Sr. Leadership Trainer moved us on to a segment called “Ice Breaker”. Forty of us in total, all complete strangers were asked to stand up, walk around the room, meet at least 3 people in a 10-minute period and ask one simple question…What was the bravest thing you have ever done?
I was honored to be selected to attend this “Link to Leadership” program with my company. It’s a six month program designed to shape the future leaders of the organization. Nominated by my boss, I along with 39 others were selected from a pool of well over 400 applicants. We will participate in various classes, meet interesting people and complete projects over the next six months starting with this 3-day visit to our Division office in Atlanta.
The ice breaker turned out to be quite inspirational. I met the rescuer from fire, bungee jumper, the daughter/caretaker of a cancer patient, army vet, online dater who moved across continents for love, and many more. One woman, Rachel, identified running a half-marathon as the bravest thing she ever did. All these folks shared their brave and wonderful stories.
Rachel, a Government Affairs Specialist from Atlanta wasn’t the only half-marathoner in the room. Susan, the Sales Executive from Kentucky also has completed the 13.1 mile feat. The common interest led to easy conversation with these two wonderful women. They both challenged themselves to do something once thought unimaginable and for one to label it as the bravest thing she’d ever done was quite eye-opening for me.
Rachel’s running journey began 10 years ago when co-workers invited her out for a run. Never running before, she accepted the challenge and has not looked back. She continues to set new goals including running further distances. When asked about her thoughts on running, Rachel replied, “no matter how far we run 5K, 10K, Half or Full Marathons, it’s an accomplishment because we challenged ourselves to step of our norm and try something new and push ourselves to not only finish but finish strong. I have found in the running community that there is some much unsolicited support, before, during and after your runs, there are always other runners there to help cheer you on and provide some much need encouragement when you really need.” She recently completed the Disney Half Marathon in January.
Susan, battling diabetes, started running just over a year ago to get in shape and lower her sugar. It worked as her A1C (measure of a person’s blood sugar level over a 2-3 month period) has dropped significantly. Susan says, “I would encourage anyone with diabetes to give running a try, you do not have to be speedy because by no means am I …just get out there and get going.” She’s currently running 3-4 times during the week plus a long run each weekend.
In August, 2015 Susan targeted the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon this coming April 1st as her first ever, but a friend convinced her not to wait that long. Last November, she crossed the finish line at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. The accomplishment earned her an awesome medal and the satisfaction of saying she achieved her first 13.1.
My schedule wouldn’t allow me to find a group to run with in Atlanta but I did solicit recommendations on where to run. I posted in a Facebook group called Atlanta Running Community letting them know my dates to visit and area in which I was staying. Sure enough there was a trail across from my hotel.
My only chance to get on the trail would come on Tuesday after our first day of meetings. There would be a short window after dinner and before darkness set in. Out the hotel and up the street I went to an entry point to the West Palisades Trail, part of a network of 3 trails in that area along the Chattahoochee River. The 3.6 mile paved trail along wildlife-rich wooded areas with streams, waterfalls, and of course The Hooch, was as scenic as they come.
On my run, not only did I take in the beautiful scenery but found myself thinking about my conversations with Susan and Rachel. I thought about the feelings I had when I finished my first race, my first half marathon, and my first marathon. The adrenaline rush and sense of accomplishment was like nothing else. These ladies got a taste of that too, standing on cloud nine and experiencing those same emotions.
With more experience I think it’s easy to lose sight of how difficult running was when I first started and even today for that matter. The sweat, pain, and commitment to prepare for something only a very small percentage of the population can accomplish is truly brave and inspirational. Susan, when told I run full marathons, seemed quite impressed and made the comment, “I just do half marathons” in a tone to make it as if it were less impressive. I quickly responded that what she has accomplished is rare and something for which she should be incredibly proud. That accomplishment is hers to keep and should never be diminished.
I reminded myself similar to Rachel, that when we make the decision to go for that first ever run, sign up for that half marathon or do anything that is outside of our comfort zone, we are doing something brave. The rewards for completing these brave feats are the sense of self-satisfaction and accomplishment of achieving the unimaginable for which we worked so hard.
I’m so grateful I met Susan and Rachel. I thank them for reminding me just how lucky I am to be a runner and that nothing should ever be taken for granted. It all started with the ice breaker!!! Try it sometime…you’ll meet some pretty amazing people. As it pertains to Ford’s quote…Rachel & Susan thought they could, and they were right!
Rachel just finished a 10k this past weekend and is looking forward to the Atlanta Hawks Fast Break 5k on April 1st. Susan is still running The Bluegrass Half on April 1st and then the Derby Festival Half on April 30th (hey I’ll be there too!). By completing both she will get a 3rd medal. She sure does love the “bling”, doesn’t she? With regard to all the runs Susan says, “I sign up for runs to keep me focused. if I didn’t have a run coming up then I would probably start slacking off so I just stay signed up for something even if it is a bunch of 5k’s.”
Way to stay motivated! Good Luck Ladies!
I can’t wait to share my next Atlanta piece about a truly amazing woman and her story of survival.