Re-define My Impossible

February 2, 2012

track and field at Einstein Jr. High
Last Friday night I ran my first 5K.

There is so much wrapped up in that short statement, the gist of which is: I did the impossible!

im•pos•si•ble |im′päsəbəl|
not able to occur, exist, or be done

When I registered for this run on October 27, 2011, there was NO WAY I could run five kilometers. NO WAY. While I had been a long-distance runner in high school and while I always loved running, it had been decades since I had run—I mean, anything running more than a little burst to catch the WALK light at a crosswalk.

Left to my own devices I would have never, ever embarked on a 5K. But in an unusual course of events my nineteen-year-old niece, Olivia, became my catalyst and coach, and I set off to do the impossible.

Under Olivia’s wings, I latched onto a podcast training program, one of the “Couch to 5K” plans. My first “workouts” consisted of intervals of running and walking—60 seconds of running, 90 seconds of walking, repeated for 15 minutes.

You got that part? Only SIXTY SECONDS of running—and “running” being a gait slightly faster than a walk, a slow jog really. And these first runs completely taxed my abilities. Huff. Puff. Ow.

But my Couch-to-5K plan assured me, Download these audio podcasts, follow the plan and you’ll be running 5km in just nine weeks, and Olivia said, You can do it, and, godammit, in high school I did do it (albeit 38 years ago!),

and so, I believed.

After all, the run would be part of the Disney Tinkerbell weekend, so some belief in the impossible actually seemed appropriate, if not requisite.

I do not remember the last time I consciously embarked on the impossible.

This quest became part of nurturing a new me. Each time I completed a podcast workout, I WON; I had done something that the week or the day before had been impossible. Certainly the possibility was within, but until I grabbed it, it remained impossible—and each effort took some of the impossible out of my next foray.

Sure, this is old news. I mean, we read these stories all the time, right. But for the first time in a long time—and coming at a time when I really needed such a boost—I was succeeding in tangible, measurable ways.

And this success fortified my soul, my heart, and this fortification is what I have needed so that I can heal and move on with my life.

Since my divorce two years ago my spirit hasn’t been good. I have struggled to believe in myself, I have struggled fruitlessly to envision a new future for myself. The process of training for the 5K—with its dozens of victories and the real strength that I gained—has been restorative, in completely unexpected ways and realms.

I have finally been able to freely let go of remnants and uncomfortable souvenirs of my past life. I have dropped the burdens of perceived failures. I have shaken off the haunting shadows of my marriage. I am (finally and with fortitude) moving on.

The NHS Couch-to-5K plan ramps up the workouts weekly, and by Week 6 I was running for 25 consecutive minutes. It wasn’t pretty, and it felt like hell. But it also felt like the most amazing thing I have ever accomplished.

About four weeks before the 5K I had a chance to run with Olivia and we used her fancy synchronized watch gadget to clock my speed for the first time since I began training. I was elated with the results—25 minutes at an 11-minute-mile pace. I now knew—through and through—that I could run the entire 5K.

bracelet saying Redefine the Impossible

I had done it. The inspirational mantra on the bracelet I had taken to wearing had come true. I had Re-defined My Impossible. What had begun as a bit of a folly was now very real.

The actual run was still weeks and weeks away. I aimed to continue training and to better my pace. I had been training in adverse conditions—snow and ice and temperatures as low as 8° F.  Now I was about to spend three weeks in the Caribbean, at the other end of the weather spectrum.

In my first workouts in the freezing air I had been physically and mentally challenged to push myself and complete each day’s goals. Only two days of training were postponed, days when I judged it best to preserve my resources and fight off a cold (or worse). But in the sun and humidity of the Caribbean I was repeatedly overwhelmed and taken ill; I was only once able to complete my slated workout.

I was concerned. But I defaulted to taking care of my body, and frequently let myself rest after only 17 minutes or so of running. (Admittedly, it was difficult to fret too much when I was running beside the beautiful and warm Caribbean sea.)

school of fish in the Caribbean USVI

I held onto the knowledge that I had already demonstrated that I was able to run the 5K. But I fretted that I was letting myself down, that I was succumbing to my mind’s weaknesses. These doubts were very, very disconcerting.

I had embarked on this 5K in some secrecy. I was worried that I could not come close to making it. I was even more worried that my fibromyalgia would flair and knock me on my butt. I was afraid to challenge my body to the extent the 5K would demand—and afraid to discover that it would be the fibro that was the winner, and not I.

But I had prevailed, I was now at a point where I had “won” and I had more to win. This was an interesting juncture, and a point at which it would be relatively easy to quit. The workouts continued to make me ill, and I could not see a way around that. I was certain I was losing ground. And I had already demonstrated that I was able to do what I had set out to do, so why go further?

There was still the actual 5K to run. And there was still Olivia cheering me on and waiting to run it with me. It didn’t really matter now which was my motivation—doing this for her, or doing it for me.

Except for a few days during Christmas break, for all of my training period Olivia and I were geographically separated by thousands of miles. I had been sharing my progress via text messages and Internet posts, and she had been cheering me on with her replies. At the end of January I finally flew into Los Angeles and we prepped for the run, ultimately queuing up on Main Street, Disneyland, California about 10 pm, Friday, January 27th.

This was it, the time for a new full commitment. My workouts had been curtailed, and I didn’t know how much I had in me. But I set a goal pace of a 10 minute mile and I sought to hold that pace for the entire five kilometers (~3.1 miles).

This pace seemed “impossible” but I had the strength of knowing that I had already done the impossible, so what’s just a little more impossible??

This was certainly the most cool/awesome/rad/kick-a*s-feeling state-of-being that I had been in in ages.

Olivia and I were both overflowing with anticipation; life was marvelous and fun and literally lying before our feet. And once again the 5K itself didn’t matter—it was just the moment. The moment. Each nano moment, bursting with every effort which had brought us there. Each step, each mile, each plunge into the impossible.

So, there I was, deep in experiencing “the moment”. I had a 5K before me, I had the impossible behind me, and I had a bubble of success to carry me through.

A cannon-fired cloud of colorful confetti kicked-off our 5K.

I ran.

30 minutes and eighteen seconds later—surrounded by other ecstatic runners—I crossed the finish line! I won; I did the impossible! Again, and more.

two fast chicks done with the Neverland 5K


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

elizabeth February 2, 2012 at 7:10 pm


Olivia Jacobs February 2, 2012 at 7:48 pm

I am so so proud of you!

This post is gorgeous and definitely worth the wait! I am so grateful that I got to be a part of your experience. Your determination has inspired me to reach for more of my own “impossible.”

Love you forever and I can’t wait to be your training buddy again. Let’s create some more possibles!

Fran February 2, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Good job!! Congrats on your hard work and achievement.

big little brother February 3, 2012 at 9:06 am

proud elated joyful something I couldn’t do love Steven

Leila February 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Ah, thanks Elizabeth.

Leila February 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Oh, Olivia. You were my catalyst and my champion. Yay for us! xo

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