December 31, 2012

Commitment (or why I'm going to run 3.1 miles in the freezing cold)

Tomorrow, I’m going to run the Commitment Day 5k at the same time as thousands of people across the country.

I’ve never been a runner. I’m the chubby kid who finished last in every gym class race, I’m the lady who pants and puffs on an inhaler if I have to run one block to catch my bus home.

I signed up because, through a surprising and wonderful turn of events, I found myself in the marketing campaign:

On January 1, 2011, I made a resolution to lose 100 pounds. I have kept and not kept my resolution. In the last two years, I have changed how I eat, I have incorporated exercise into my routine, and I have learned about health and fitness. I’ve seen some great results. I’ve also had some lost weekends (and a few lost weeks), and I am still 40 pounds overweight. I refuse to give up, but I’m also ready to stop talking about that 2-year-old resolution.

Tomorrow, I’m going to transform my resolution into a commitment, a commitment to prioritize my health and treat my body with kindness, forever.

What’s the difference between a commitment and a resolution?

When I first heard about Commitment Day, I thought it sounded like marketing-speak, a new name for a familiar idea. But as I bounced the words "resolution" and "commitment" in my head as I ran on the treadmill, I thought of some important differences.

A resolution is made of “resolve,” that clenched-fist determination which stands stiff and tall, until pieces of it begin to chip away and the whole thing crumbles.

A commitment is made of a different material that’s strong but flexible, like a tree that bends in the breeze. When we commit to marriage, we don’t promise to be perfect every day. We commit to being present, to giving a heartfelt effort, and – no matter how many times we mess up – to getting back up again and promising to be better tomorrow.

A resolution is a response to something negative, often a forced change in the face of failure or disappointment. “I resolve to get my spending under control.” “I resolve to stop eating junk food.” “I resolve to be nicer to people.”

A commitment comes from a place of respect, an attachment to something beyond oneself. Charities commit to helping the less fortunate. Soldiers commit to serving our country. People feel committed to causes and philosophies and long-term relationships.

Even the negative definitions of the word “commit” – as in, to commit a crime or to be committed to a mental hospital, still carry the weight of a serious promise.

It’s going to be cold in Minneapolis tomorrow. The projected high is 14 degrees, but 10 a.m. is likely to be colder. I haven’t factored in windchill.

But I’m going to be there. I’m going to be there because, the first night of training, back in November, I could barely run a 90-second interval. My chest hurt for days afterward. I thought, “Why would anyone do this voluntarily?” Last week, I ran two miles on cold, dark, snowy trails. I’m going to be there tomorrow because I can. I’m going to be there because it’s part of my commitment.

Happy New Year. Happy Commitment Day.

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