In addition to seeking the obvious health benefits, I took up running in order to have something to be bad at. Not challenged by, or less-than-perfect at, but honest-to-goodness so-last-everyone-thinks-the-race-is-over bad at. I ran for a few shameless years in high school, but didn’t take it up again until after grad school when, with my first “real” job, I started to set up a life for myself.
I had spent most of my life up until then “doing school”, which was unfairly easy for me. I was singing well and still improving, and I knew that even if I didn’t ever become at A+ artist, I could have a life full of easy B+/A- singing. I was working in ministry, which I certainly hadn’t mastered, but I was growing into easily. It would have been very easy for me to go the rest of my life without having to do anything I was truly bad at. So I, overweight, unathletic, and preparing for another cold New England winter, decided I was going to train for a half-marathon.
Let me spare you the hellish details of my training, and my first race. Despite the pain, sickness and tears I did another halffy six-months after the first. Six years and eight half-marathons later I have taken nearly two minutes off of my mile and have lost twenty pounds. Yet in the self-selecting company of other runners I am still slow and clumsy, with an awkward gait.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This afternoon I sang an audition and walked away totally unsure of how I performed. I knew I hadn’t forgotten words or fallen over, I thought I’d put my B-flat in the right spot without making a weird face. Some [a] vowels felt too covered. I had been prepared. This is what I train for, but any confidence abandoned me when I was assaulted by post-performance uncertainty.
The question I was really asking myself was not “Did I sing well?” but “Did I impress anyone?” Did people like me? Did they think I had good technique? Of course these all fall under the umbrella of the question that plague us from gym class to the prom to job interviews: Am I good enough to get picked?
In the car on the way to rehearsal post-audition, I was shocked by a strong desire to turn the car around, go home, put on my New Balance and hit the streets. When I’m running, I don’t have to be good, better, best. No one is going to pick me for anything, because I am not good. People can laugh at my funny little run, and I find freedom in that laughter. I am free to just run, without the concerns of excellence weighing me down.