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Shannon Brady

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Four miles were fine. Until I looked at the clock.

Portland Marathon 2010

Portland Marathon 2010

A quick glance at the giant retro clock on my hallway wall confirmed what I already knew – that my four-mile run, the first in four months, took one f***ing long time to complete. It’s why I didn’t wear a watch on this run. The whole point was to run without judgment. Without expectation. Without a ridiculous need to compete with my former, younger, obsessive self.

Don’t look, Shannon. Feel. 

But I looked anyway. Because that gnawing, irrational desire to maintain what I used to be able to do still lures me into the candy store of sweet top age group rankings, Yoga Journal cover-worthy poses, high-muscle-to-low-fat ratios and “isn’t she badass” assessments from others. It’s the ultimate comparison trap – to my former self, to others.

Now on the back side of my forties, I’m countering these nasty comparison tendencies with reminders to feel, not look. But it’s tough. In my twenties, my thirties, and even the first year or two of my forties, I looked. And liked what I saw:

  • A 1:35 half-marathon time
  • An old photo of me in some crazy variation of side plank with my leg behind head that made my Mom worry I was splitting myself in half
  • Scars on my hands, wrist, and shoulder earned through training and completing a 200-mile bike ride in 13 hours
  • A scale that never, ever, inched upwards of a specific weight (no I’m not telling), despite my tall, athletic frame

Things don’t look this way these days. But a fantastic yoga teacher about my age reminded us to quit looking today. And start feeling. Feel what’s happening in our joints, in our hearts, in our heads.

Fundamentally I know this. I do. As quickly as I mourn over the speedy miles I can no longer run, the crazy twist I’m unable to wrench my body into, or the lines on my forehead I’ve consciously chosen not to plump up through some pricey dermatologist wonder-drug, I bow in gratitude. For my health, family, genuine happiness and commitment to understand myself and others in a deeply authentic way.

Maybe by my fifties I’ll be able to comfortably ditch the scale, the digital watch, the attachment to a former Shannon that is growing beyond the obsession with numbers, rankings or pretty poses. But until then, I’ll lace up my shoes and run another four miles tomorrow. And flip that retro clock the bird upon my return.

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