I was standing at the start line with the other runners, making small talk with some lady I didn’t know as we waited for the timer’s gun to go off. I made a remark about wishing I had stopped smoking earlier, as I feared the effects of cigarettes would interfere with my ability to run the race.

“How long has it been since you smoked?”, she asked.

“Since around three o’clock yesterday afternoon….”, I replied.

I’ll never forget the surprised and alarmed look on her face as we all turned to start our run.

It was my first real “grownup” race. A 5K at the local park that my wife and I signed up for because we were looking for a change. Recently married, busy with our jobs, and spending entirely too much time sampling the offerings of the many neighborhood restaurants, we were putting on extra weight and feeling pretty sluggish. We’d started lacing up our running shoes and putting in some time together on the trails of Manassas Battlefield several times a week, and a race seemed like a logical next step.

Many things I forget about that race, but a few I remember clearly. I remember being shocked at just how long 3.1 miles truly was. I remember running until I ran out of steam, and then walking until I saw my wife catching up to me. Then I would trot off ahead of her. Did that multiple times throughout the race. I remember – very clearly – how much that pissed her off. I remember some eight-year-old kid sprinting the first half of the course and then veering off the road into the grass and barfing his guts out. I remember the blessed relief I felt when I crossed the finish line and could stop running.

I think about some of the races I’ve run since then, and how not ready I was to run that first one. Then I realize that it’s not about being ready. Not at all. It’s about the desire to run. Being so tired of what has been that you’re willing to brave a new challenge and just…simply…try.

Get out there and try…