Found Myself Running: Greater than the Sum of my Parts…

Making My Dream a Reality

It is not likely that many who happen to pass Corral L at the starting line of the Chicago Marathon on October 13, 2013, will even notice the older, overweight woman with a look of terror in her eyes who will be shifting nervously from foot to foot.

She will probably be forcing a smile as she looks around and tries to figure out what she is doing here and how she got to this place.  She will not be thinking of the miles ahead, the pain that everyone says will come, the fatigue that she felt in the training runs that sometimes made her want to lie down on the side of the road.  She won’t be thinking about the nutrition she has carefully packed in her various pockets and belts–gels for energy, water reinforced with electrolytes for hydration, salt tablets, ibuprofen, etc., etc., etc.  She won’t be thinking of any of that because her prevalent thought will be–

“Can this really be happening? Today? NOW?”

Even though she will go to the start line as a 61 year old woman with aspirations of completing a 26.2 mile distance, she will really be the collection of different people, each a different stage of her life, all gathered in one body.  And the finisher will be so much more than the sum of these parts.

Most people won’t see in her the small, shy child of a teenage mother.  The nervous girl who was already the oldest of five siblings when she was eight years old and her mother was still in her early twenties.  They won’t see the fear, instilled in her by her mother’s feelings of inadequacy, that follows her around and warns her always to “Be careful, be careful”.

Most people won’t see in her the awkward teenager without social skills who is not sure how to fit into a world she only sees at school.  They won’t understand how this teenager could have lived such a sheltered life that she never went to restaurants, parties, school dances because she was not brave enough to venture out into a world that she did not know and was too afraid to seek  They won’t see how she worried, even as a small child, because she did not trust the world that loomed beyond all she knew.

Most people won’t notice the part of her that is the new high-school graduate who somewhere found the strength to leave home and venture into a world that was new to her family–college. They won’t know she went to a college dorm alone because she was entering a realm that no one she knew could help her with  because they were intimidated by it, too!  She was the first in her family to go to college and they were just as fearful and confused for her as she was for herself.

Most people won’t see her as the mother of three babies who was isolated with her fears and doubts because she felt responsible for these little lives .  She was overwhelmed and ill-equipped to handle the responsibility.  She wasn’t sure what she needed to know or where to go for help.

Those who happen to notice the lady at the starting line won’t see that she was once a young woman not yet thirty who noticed  that a neighbor was wearing a race shirt while he did yard work.  In an effort to strike up a friendly conversation, she asked about the shirt and he told her about “running”.  They chatted a bit about how one learns to “run” by jogging a bit, walking a bit and repeating until you could run longer and walk less.  His explanation made it seem so simple that she got up the very next morning and ran from one mailbox to the next, then walked the distance of three mailboxes…over and over until she could run continuously 1/2 mile (as measured by the odometer in her car).   And then one day she ran A MILE and she wrote, in big block letters on a paper she hung on her wall–TODAY THE MILE, TOMORROW THE MARATHON.  And people who knew her laughed because this was not the woman they knew.  And their laughter made her afraid–that they might be right.  Maybe she really could NOT do this–maybe.

No one will know that this starting line is a dream that was 32 years in the making.  All they will see is  an older, overweight woman with a look of fear in her eyes.  But if they look closer and if they bother to talk to her and hear her story, they will see that the fear is not a bad thing.  The fear that brought this baby, this girl, this teenager, this mother, and this grandmother to the starting line is a good thing.  They will learn, if they probe, that in each stage of her life the fear has propelled her to seek, to search, to find the things she needed to survive and usually conquer the challenges she has faced.

The fear is and always has been the thing that drives this woman.   And on this day, October 13, 2013, the fear, as well as her history of success in conquering this fear, will carry all these parts of her 26.2 miles to the finish line, to the death of one more fear.

And a new woman will appear…

and this new woman will join the others in the body and together they will move on…

not finished and perfect by any means but a woman who is still afraid and nervous but has another success to draw on in the future.

And she will be ready for the next challenge.

I know all this because this woman will be me.


Read Carolyn’s follow up to this article about her experience at the Chicago Marathon HERE.


carolynCarolyn Guhman is a 61 year old, retired insurance agent who is a mother of five and grandmother of six. She lives in suburban New Orleans, LA with her husband, Rick. When health issues forced her into early retirement and severe depression in 2008, she decided it was time to grab the reins of her own life. After a couple of years of trying to figure out where things went wrong and how to set them right,she laced up her shoes, filled out some race registrations, discovered a whole community of helpful people and finally found herself–running. Follow Carolyn on Facebook at Meemaw the Marathoner.


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