My daughter is eight, and she is still learning to ride her bicycle. She’s always had developmental issues with her balance, from a young age. I think this has affected her confidence in terms of feeling stable and secure atop a bicycle. She is generally wary of doing anything that makes her feel wobbly, but she wants to ride so badly. Her friend A. had his training wheels removed about a year ago, and she has felt the sting of this since. She was happy for him–I know she was. But I also know that inside her body lives a little competitive sprite, who sometimes surfaces for air.
So I took her to the greenway trail last week, after dinner. It was hot, but she was determined. We tried some different strategies, and were at the receiving end of lots of friendly advice from mostly grandfatherly men who were out on their after-dinner constitutionals. I held onto her while she pedaled, so she could feel what it was like to make those wheels go around on her own. Then she tried a kind of foot scraping Flinstone-esque technique of her own–one that her friend A. helped her with the last time she played at his house. Every now and then her face would crumple with frustration, or she’d scrape a shin, or the bike would collapse from under her suddenly, and she’d land thud on the ground.
“You can do it!” I told her, over and over again. “Tell yourself you can do it!”
Before long she developed her own mantra. Gritting her teeth, sweating under her helmet, she hunched over her handlebars while her feet scrabbled along the pavement. “I can do anything. I can anything. I can do anything!” she said over and over again.
“I can do anything!”
And then she did it! She pedaled by herself for a few feet, and ended up going headfirst into some bushes, but there was no mistaking that she had done it. She had ridden a two-wheeler.
“I did it! I CAN do anything!” she said, so happy and proud.
Yesterday morning I ran five miles, starting out on the same greenway trail where my daughter rode her bike for the first time. I’m trying to train for an 8K I’m running at the end of August. I’ve done a 5K, and the longest I’d run until yesterday had been 4.1 miles. I wanted to push myself, and see whether or not I could actually run five miles. When I first started running, months ago, I was amazed at myself when I managed one mile. Running was hard. Much harder than the lap swimming I had been doing.
And running five miles was hard. On the way back, into the last mile, I felt my spirit (and my legs) flagging. It was hot, my knees were beginning to ache, and the end seemed a long, long, way away. Would it matter if I stopped? Couldn’t I just try the five mile run another day?
Then I remembered my daughter, and her tenacious spirit on the bicycle the other day.
“I can do anything!” I told myself. Then, over and over again in time to each stride:I can do anything. I can do anything. I can do anything.
And it worked. I finished the five miles, sweaty and aching, but with that after-run glow of satisfaction that makes running so addictive.
I can do anything.