So my talented writer-filmmaker friend MT emailed me the other day. Her equally artistic husband Dave runs marathons, and when he came in from a training run, she said for like the billionth time, “I wish I could do that.” Except later that evening, inexplicably, she put on workout (yoga) clothes and shook the mud off her shoes over the garbage can and actually fired up the treadmill they’d had for a year. Dave showed her how to start from the side. Her account of the day is on her wonderful blog here.

I got this delightful email a week later:

So check me out. I have run three, count em, three times on the treadmill in the basement this week. two miles each time. Well, I say run. I’ve run and walked. My goal is to continue the alternating until I can run for two miles easily. if it takes a year or whatever. And I got new shoes two days ago, so the third and last run didn’t even hurt! wow, it’s nice to have shoes that fit right. Thanks, guru!

Well, it’s partly MT’s fault that I’m blogging, now that I think about it!

When I saw MT in Chicago this summer, she looked petite, fit, tan, and awesome, but she kept explaining to me how much trouble she was having working out. She was “only” doing thirty minutes of yoga and some sets of push-ups every day. I believe she claimed the dress she was wearing was hiding her real hips or something.

MT has also remarked that she enjoys reading my blogs to get “an athlete’s perspective”! This is interesting, because I’ve read that one of the main factors that keeps people exercising is when they begin to see themselves as an Athlete. Until then, whether it’s for health or vanity or any other seemingly-compelling reason, people are extremely vulnerable to falling off their programs. But then, sometimes, you hear those cool stories where exercise becomes much more — becomes tied to an identity that they felt was out of reach for them. They finish a half-marathon or triathlon for the first time with a feeling of wonderment: “I never thought I could do this!”

I’ve written before that I started out with a crazy goal of exercising for five years — not of resurrecting my competitive running days! But as I went along, something inside me woke up, and there was this buried dream I hadn’t let myself think about too much in a very long time: I still needed to find out what kind of athlete I could be. There are other buried dreams I’m discovering even as I go. A lot of self-help programs tell you to get all your big dreams out on paper and go after them with brute force, but that never works for me. I have to sneak up even on admitting them bit by bit.

I’m excited that MT has started run-walking on the treadmill, and enjoying it so much. I don’t know if she’s going to discover she’s an athlete, or find something else entirely. I can only admire and cheer for one more person for breaking down another tiny barrier for themselves, making another experiment toward a finer life.