In early 2020, I signed up for the DC Wonder Woman 5K race. I have always been a solitary exerciser but after a hiatus of many years, it felt right to kickstart my running again by running 3.10 miles with a bunch of other runners and walkers, everyone coming together to get moving and achieve a goal, even if it was just to cross the finish line that day. Even better, we’d get to dress up in Wonder Woman-themed attire!
Sigh. Those idyllic pre-pandemic days seem so far away now.
I have always been a solitary exerciser, not just in my outdoor workouts but also in the gym. Yet I am the first person to appreciate the energy gained from being around other people with similar goals and commitments to fitness and exercise. This year, feeling like I needed to be a part of a bigger like-minded community, I registered for this race.
For as long as I can remember, Wonder Woman has been my favorite super hero. Not that I get very excited about fictional characters . . . but . . . those cool bracelets! That lasso! The invisible plane! She is so strong but deeply compassionate, standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. She is a role-model to so many, representing truth and justice. She rocks!
So, almost 20 years after my last official 5K, I found I had many reasons to participate. I chose to do a 5K to get back into running, something I had gotten away from years ago. I chose to do a 5K because with a race date and a finite amount of time to train, 3.10 miles felt very realistic but yet outside of my current comfort zone. I chose to do this 5K because I felt that whether I walked or ran or a combination of both, I would achieve a goal by crossing the finish line. Lastly, I chose this race, because . . . Wonder Woman, of course! And we got a really fun swag bag!
And then, for obvious reasons, the race was canceled. And suddenly it became my solitary goal and my solitary commitment to complete. No support, no structure, no like-minded participants, no volunteers cheering us on, no crossing the finish line, no energy of everyone in it together, boosting each of us and pushing us forward.
If I never completed it, no one would know. To make matters worse, my feet were not liking my running shoes and each successive training walk/run was causing more pain. I do not approve of myself or anyone running in shoes that aren’t providing proper foot support, but in the middle of a pandemic, you do what you can. Even though I had every reason to not run, I would have to live with myself if I didn’t complete it, knowing I chose not to live up to my own expectations.
I picked a day and a route and told myself that I would run until I couldn’t, and then walk the rest of it. I had no goals other than to finish. Then I surprised even myself when, despite my aching feet, I ran the full distance, completing it just 3 minutes and 35 seconds slower than my 5K time 19 years ago. My sense of accomplishment has stayed with me for weeks (even as my feet have recovered.)
No one was around, so it was just me and Wonder Woman crossing that imaginary finish line together.
We could all use some Wonder Woman energy these days, for if there is a finish line for what this country is currently experiencing, it is nowhere in sight. These are unprecedented and unsettled times. Change is in the air, and it doesn’t always come easily, even when necessary.
We need Wonder Woman’s compassion, sense of justice, truth and strength right now even as we don’t have her with us.
But we have ourselves and each other.
We’re all participating in this human race together. Let’s not forget that.
Coach Pritam Potts is a writer and strength coach. After 16+ years of training athletes and clients of all ages as co-owner of Edmonds-based Advanced Athlete LLC, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. She writes about health & fitness, grief & loss, love & life at www.advancedathlete.com.