6th of November, 2022, 8am.
I’m at the local park, getting ready to take part, with a few more hundred (mostly professional level) running enthusiasts, in the ‘Eurolife, Run the Park with Us’ run. My other half, who’s been training for a triathlon for the last month or so, went to find his coach and do a warm-up and I went for a wander, to check out the setting.
All I could focus on was the trained bodies, the muscles protruding around me and the pro gear most had. I even felt undedressed, if that’s ever possible.
‘What on earth am I doing here? Why did I decide to run the 10k? I don’t belong here.’
That’s what was on my mind ever since I switched from 5k to 10k. I had only run 10k twice before that day, and I felt I could probably do it, depending on the route, but I was worried I’d come last. That was my biggest worry actually until probably a few days before the run. I decided to embrace my worries and fears though, and go for it.
What’s the worst case scenario? What if I do come last? Why does that worry me that much?
It comes down to our innate tendency to avoid situations that might make us feel vulnerable, exposed, hurt, physically or mentally. So I knew I had to fight this urge.
I had recently rewatched Brene Brown’s infamous Ted Talk about vulnerability and her recent Netflix show ‘Call to Courage’ (I highly recommend both!) and I reminded myself that unless you push yourself to feel vulnerable, then you can’t really show courage and you can’t go far in life.
You need to make vulnerability part of your everyday life, get used to that uncomfortable feeling of showing your emotions, looking for a better job, asking for a better salary, being completely honest with your loved ones, letting people see your true self and above all, your feelings.
So I went for it. For a while I thought I was last, I couldn’t see anyone behind me, but I didn’t pay any attention. About half way through I bumped into an ex-colleague who kept cheering me on. That boosted my morale, as the route was not easy (but it was really beautiful, amongst trees and plants, and panoramic views). So many hills, up and down, and running on hills is not my favourite! Towards the end I thought I was lost as I couldn’t see any signs on where to go, but after probably the toughest hill of the route (they saved the best for last!) I finally heard the presenter at the finish line.
I almost burst into tears. My mum and my boyfriend were there, waiting for me, cheering me on. I did it! And apparently I didn’t come last, not that would have made any difference.
A few days later I decided to sign up for the Larnaka 10k route of the Marathon, which was two weeks later. If I could make it through the hills of the park, I can make it on a flat surface.
The 17th of November was an incredibly hot day (for November) and we ran at 10am. Needless to say I had a migraine for the rest of the day, but oh my, it was worth it.
I ran alongside professional athletes, blind runners from Israel, a woman running in memory of her son, young people, older people. I was in great company.
I wasn’t sure I’d make it, I never ran 10k in those temparatures, but running with others is motivating on its own. I can’t accurately describe that feeling. You have to experience it, to fully understand.
I almost cried when I high-fived a kid holding a sign, near the 7th kilometre, which was one of the toughest.
The route was beautiful, especially the second half. The last part of the run was by Saint Lazarus church and then alongside Foinikoudes beach, which was just gorgeous and it definitely helped me going.
I’ve now signed up for the 7.7 mile ‘Stelios Kyriakides’ run at Nicosia Marathon in a couple of weeks, which is around 12km. That will be the longest I’d ever run, so I just hope I can make it.
This push and dedication, powered by vulnerability, also helped me in my personal and professional life. In the last few weeks I felt more like myself, the closest I felt in years, and awakened my feisty spirit. I feel more inclined to speak up, and I believe more in myself and my abilities.
So, today’s message: embrace your vulnerability. It’s tough, and painful, because it inevitably means failing over and over again, but it also lets in love, light and above all, courage.