You only get to do something for the first time once. A lot of those firsts come when we are really young – like our first breath of air when we are born. Or the first time you roll over, crawl, walk, and say a word when you are a baby. These are somewhat involuntary ‘firsts’, as you develop as a human, and later there are all kinds of firsts that are simply part of the process of growing up – first time you brush your teeth on your own, tie your shoe laces, ride a bike.
But the firsts don’t ever have to end when you are an adult, and they can become pretty cool moments to re learn the way you processed the world with such expansive freedom and lack of expectation as a young kid, before self-consciousness and anxiety took over. Choosing to do something you’ve never done before, as an adult, is a significant act of courage. You need to open up to failure, imperfection and simply getting out of your own way and expectations so you can just have a great time and use the event as a catalyst for learning.
I am not talking about chasing grand adventure or challenge of epic proportions, like running the Grand Canyon, or rowing across the Pacific, but the everyday mindfulness of noticing and loving the moment of trying something new. Doing something for the first time, especially as an adult, makes you feel brave and alive and is a moment to cherish.
Because you only get to do that new thing once!
I’ll never run a footrace for the first time ever again. I did that when I was 10 and so it’s done. I might run a certain type of race for the first time – like when I signed up for Finlayson Arm 28k and really had no idea how that would go, but I had enough of an idea of training and racing that I did train pretty well and knew what to do on race morning, and knew how to mentally and emotionally tackle endurance running. So I focussed on what I knew what to do, and embraced the uncertainty of the rest of it.
When I meet people who are running in an event for the first, I feel so happy for them, for this is a special moment in their lives. And I while I try to offer lots of guidance and support and help with logistics, only they can experience the event, on their own terms and however they choose to do so. And I hope they choose to do it wide eyed, with a sense of wonder and a little bit of humour.
Last year, I entered a deadlifting competition at the Forge, a local gym. I had started deadlifting in March, and the competition was in September, so I had only been training for five months. When I signed up I did that thing they always show in movies. I registered on-line and when I got to the page with the green box to hit send, I paused for a moment, my finger poised above the keyboard. I hesitated, not with fear, but to appreciate that this was a first time thing for me.
On the day of the competition, every single thing was new. I had never been in any type of strength competition and I was pretty stoked by the adventure of it all. I had never even set foot in the Forge before! I was learning moment to moment, observing what the other competitors were doing, listening to the judges talk, trying to figure out when to warm up for my lifts, feeling so darn ‘new’. I felt acutely aware of being ‘the runner’, being 51, feeling a bit on the small and not so strong side of the field. Then I realized that I had to lift in front of an audience because it was a fundraiser. In the competition, in which I had three lifts, I made a lot of mistakes. I hadn’t trained enough for my technique to be flawless under pressure, and I failed at a max lift I had achieved several times in training. I learned a lot. On my second try at 205 pounds, I couldn't even budge that thing off the floor, and I just laughed out loud at myself. It was an amazing day and I’ll never have that experience again, of being new, a rookie, of not really knowing what to expect.
So, if you have signed up for something and it’s your first time doing such a thing? I am full of joy for you. Don’t be scared: be amazed, curious, lighthearted and proud of yourself. You only get to do this for the first time once. Open yourself to the experience, be yourself, laugh at yourself and have a great time doing this thing for the first time. It’s not a dress rehearsal.
Run For Joy
Writing about the art of moving well and the lived experience of a life in sport.