Friday, May 21, 2004

Bay to Breakers 2004 - Breaking down the walls.

This year's Bay to Breakers was much like the previous two (and, I'm sure, the many before them) - up to 80,000 participants, some in costume, some wearing little more than running shoes, all walking, running, partying, playing music, socializing and raising money for a good cause. I wore my now-familiar jester outfit, complete with multicolored hat, happy face boxer shorts and multi-colored t-shirt.

This particular race was an important turning point in my lifelong and continuing struggle with my own self-doubts, those nagging, persistent voices in the back of my head telling me there is no way I can run several miles, there's no way I can do pull-ups, there's no way I can ever be the strong, athletic person I've always wanted to be.

I had always walked the course. It it 7.5 miles, afterall, with a HUGE uphill climb on the Hayes St. hill. No way I could ever run that. I've never been a runner. I can't run 7.5 miles. I can't run up the hill. I can't. I can't. I can't.

This is what I've always told myself, about a number of things. Sometimes, I was proven right. Other times (as in with my weight loss), I was proven wrong. Yet the self-doubts still persist, nagging in the back of my mind. What if I fail ? Well, I predicted it anyway. Or maybe I just won't try at all. It's safer that way.

The start of the race snaked through the South of Market area, at one point on Howard St. just before Third St. At that corner sits the San Francisco Fire Department Station #1. One that I was privileged enough to do a ride-along with earlier this year. As I passed the fire station, and saw all the firefighters and firefigher paramedics hanging about, I realized something.

If I want to get into the Fire Academy, I'm going to HAVE to be able to run. In fact, I'm going to have to step it up quite a bit to keep up with the likes of these strong, powerful, well-conditioned men and women.

F#($& it, I said to myself. I'm going to run.

So I started running.

And kept on running.

All the way to the Hayes St. hill. Ok, I didn't make it up that massive hill at an inconceivably steep grade. But I ran up half of it. Stopped to walk, then picked up the pace again.

I ran the entire varied-terrain 7.5 miles, with walking breaks, in just over two hours. I actually made it to the Footstock festival when all the photographers, news cameras, giveaways and events were still going on. In previous years, walking took over 3.5 hours, and all the fun stuff was gone by the time I reached the finish line.

I even got a "professional" style photo taken at the finish line with the onsite camera crews.

This event was the catalyst in breaking down the psychological barriers and crippling effects of self-doubt and fear of failure that have held me back for years and years of my life. From now on, it won't be "I can't". It will be "I'll try it out".

Sometime soon, it may be "Go for it, I'm going to kick some butt." I'm not there yet. Perhaps someday I will be.


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