If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you will probably remember my previous post about jewelry maker Tina Steinberg. In that post I invited readers to submit a personal story on the theme “I am not afraid”, and promised to publish Tina’s favorite here. Well, Tina has picked her favorite from among a great number of moving stories. It was submitted by Becca Thornton of Orem, UT. In addition to having her story published her, Becca will also receive a necklace from Tina that is just like mine, with the motto “I am not afraid” engraved on it. Here’s Becca’s story.
Seven and a half years ago I was a lonely runner, and I was OK with that. I started out as a slightly overweight mother of three who wanted to get a better body and get in better shape. Running was the easy answer. It fit my life and my schedule and it only required a pair of decent shoes to get started so I decided to give it a go. First I ran one mile, then I ran two and after a while I built up to do five miles. Every time I went out I ran the same path on the same route just going a little farther every few weeks. I did this so that my husband would always know where I was just in case anything happened. My little out-and back-route became my routine my solace and my peace. I was content….at least for a little while.That changed when I went to support my dad as he ran a marathon with a friend who had been recently diagnosed with heart problems. They were slow and at the back of the pack and I was able to cheer them on in two different locations on the course. I didn’t realize then how much that experience would speak to my soul. As I watched these people–normal people–coming out of the canyon to the last three miles of the course, I kept being moved to tears. What they were doing and accomplishing was simply amazing and inspiring and I knew then and there without a shadow of a doubt that I needed to run a marathon. I set my goal that day to run the same race one year from that moment and I kept that goal in mind as I went out on my solitary give-mile route.As is the case with all marathons, I had to train and I had to deviate from my solitary and normal routine. Through the local running store, I heard of a running club that I decided to join to help me train for my marathon. I was so out of my league that it was laughable, but I made a commitment to myself that I would stick with them and bring up the rear and so that is what I did. I made it through that training cycle and in the process made a few great friends and although I was riddled with painful injuries, I was able to complete my marathon one year after I had set out to accomplish that goal.After that, life happened and I put running on hold while I had subsequently recovered from having baby number four. When she was one and a half I knew it was time to focus on running again, so I set my sights on marathon number two! I was excited but knew that I needed a different training plan than what the local running club could offer. Through a series of extremely fortunate events, I was able to join up with a group of seven women who were training for the same marathon. In the process, we also found something amazing. Friendship almost seems too trite a word to describe what we have, because it is so much more than that. We celebrate each other, we support each other and what started out as a training group has turned into a lifeline that each one of us would be lost without. Running is what brought us together and what makes us take the time out of our busy lives to stay together, but friendship is what has kept us running. We genuinely support one and other–we cheer for each other’s successes and we discuss our weaknesses. There is no ill will or guile, no gossip or backbiting, just pure unadulterated support. It is, quite simply, amazing.Recently, one of our dear friends was diagnosed with colon cancer. She is a thirty-six year-old mother of four. She had to have 1/3 of her colon and her right ovary removed. She has since been informed that the cancer has spread and she has to begin an aggressive six months of chemotherapy. To say we are heartbroken doesn’t begin to cover it. The tears and emotions have been freely flowing as we contemplate what this means for her life and for ours, and while there are a lot of uncertainties, there is one constant that will always remain: we will be right there running this race by her side. Our pace may be slow and our goals may change, but we will all be in it together. And when she crosses her finish line, we will all be there cheering her on like never before.Like I said, years ago, I started out as a lonely runner, running my same course every day. I was content. Then, I diverted from that path, lived a bit more life and gained the best friends I’ve ever had. Now I am complete. And no matter what the future brings or holds I know that I am not afraid, because I have a small but strong army of women standing by my side who have just now been born to take on the challenge of a lifetime.
You can see why Tina and I love this story. Here’s what Tina had to say about it:
We do what we do, what we love, for the greater good. Even if doing what we love is seemingly solitary, there is an underlying mission to affect others, hopefully inspire others and possibly bring people together.This is what I love about Becca’s story. We received hundreds of stories of trial and tribulation from people who are runners, teachers, moms, business owners and much more. It was inspiring to read about the journey that everyone takes as they endure the training to reach their personal best in the passions of their lives. Becca’s story pulls this all together in a way that illustrates community, friendship, support and love.We all know how it feels to start something that requires a commitment. It’s a difficult decision and oftentimes it requires us to renew our commitment every single day, especially when we feel alone. The goals we aim to achieve can get riddled with hurdles, fear, loneliness and random hardships that we can’t foresee, but if there is a true love for what you do, others will feel that and support you. You will also connect with others who are experiencing the same thing and as time passes, you’ll notice that your personal journey is a truly a community journey. Your personal commitment transforms to a commitment towards yourself and others who need your strength and inspiration…and you need theirs, too.We were born to move past fear. This is how we grow and our growth is what pushes others forward, too. We were born to tell the story of who we are with our whole heart, and to strengthen others in the process.
Have you seen the April issue of Competitor? That’s me on the cover. If you look closely, you’ll see I’m wearing a necklace. The oval-shaped piece hanging from the chain is actually a thumbprint of Colt. I bought it from a jewelry designer named Tina Steinberg, whose work I love.
After I bought the thumbprint necklace from Tina we developed an email friendship. Recently she sent me another necklace with an inscription on it. On the front it reads, “I am not afraid.” And on the back, “I was born to do this.”
I love it! Tina could not have picked a better message for me. It’s the kind of thing I say to myself all the time, although never in exactly these words, until I got the necklace. I believe that life should be about living your passions—doing what you were born to do. But chasing your dreams is hard. No matter who you are or what your passion is, trying to do something as well as you can possibly do it is challenging, and with challenges comes fear.
As a runner, I deal with fear almost daily. To prevent fear from defeating me, I have to fight back against it in my mind. Reminding myself that I am doing what I was born to do—that, win or lose, embracing the challenge is still worthwhile—is one way I do that.
Before each big race I choose a power word that I think about during the hard parts of the race to stay strong and fight back against fear. It’s always a word that resonates with where I am in my mind at that time. The word I’ve chosen for the Boston Marathon is “free”. I want to run this race free of both expectations and limitations. I will be thinking about freedom along the way from Hopkinton to downtown Boston. And I will also be thinking this: “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”
Okay, it’s time to get interactive! Tina Steinberg has graciously offered to send a free silicone bracelet with the same inscription to the first 25 readers of this blog who email her with a personal story that relates to this theme. We will pick out our favorite story to share right here. The author of that story will also receive a free necklace just like the one I have.
If you’re interested, send your story of any length to Tina at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say!