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You Don’t Have To Be Perfect To Be Good Enough

Trail where I often trained in high school; still a favorite place.

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I still see the former young girl of my youth. I was a walk-on for the college cross-country team; it wasn’t glamorous and there wasn’t a scholarship with my name on it. I just called up the coach, asked if I could join the team and he agreed to meet with me.

I was 17 years old and as a college freshman, I went in wide eyed and in awe of being on my own for the first time. Cross country was a wonderful safety net for me and I quickly made friends and a fun life for myself in a beautiful town. As the fall season got underway, I realized that the girls I was running with were fast—and they were good. I felt in my heart I was an okay runner (good in high school, but to me this was big time) and I was keeping up, but I had aspirations for becoming better and faster. I distinctly remember the day my coach asked me to meet with him in his office for a chat. He told me I needed to lose some weight—perhaps start watching a bit more of what I was eating. To say I was devastated in an understatement. As the only African American girl on my team (which I honestly never gave a second thought about), I started to see the subtle differences; my butt was bigger, I was a little curvier. I started thinking maybe if I could “improve” upon that, maybe then I would run faster, make it to the fun trips to year end championships—that I would be good enough.

I went on to run in the NCAA Championships with my team freshman year and then got injured during my sophomore year. I had been cutting down a great deal on my food intake over the summer, and although it hadn’t become an issue, it most likely contributed to my injury. I began the battle of fighting to get better, trying to hold on to being a college runner—feeling like I was good enough.

The only place I ended up was in a black hole of trying to dig my way out of injury, disappointment and slight depression.

I did not go on to run my junior year. I was mentally exhausted, sad and couldn’t bear to see my friends bopping along on beautiful trails and bonding as a team. All I felt was what ifs; What if I could have prevented the injury? What if I was thinner? What if…

I started partying. I was always the good girl, the girl who stayed at home, studied, played the flute and loved to run. But now I started partying, drinking more than I should, eating pretty crappy and crying inside when I thought about my teammates. Wait, this is not the way it was supposed to happen, this is not my map. I’m not good enough.

Now here I am, 44 years old, married and a mother of three. Most people would say (gasp) “I’m old.” I crack up when women in their early- to mid-thirties call themselves old. Here’s the deal: If you keep saying you’re old, or you’re too slow, or whatever it is, then it plants itself in your heart and blocks out a lot of really great things. Guess what? I feel better and stronger than I ever have in my life. I don’t have it all figured out and I am still learning, but I eat what I want, my butt is how God made it, and I know I’m a good runner. I know I work hard every single day to be a good mom, wife and runner.

Sometimes those demons still haunt me and I have to push them away at the end of a race, when I get so tired and I start to give up. The thing is, I know that if I set the goals that mean a lot to me, work my butt off (no pun intended) and execute, I will achieve them.

I’m not perfect, but I know I am good enough.

Nat Runs Far

Nat Runs Far

Natalie Mitchell is NatRunsFar. Natalie is mom to three young kiddos and wife to her best friend. She is a seven-time marathoner, four-time Boston qualifier and five-time triathlete. Natalie enjoys taking her readers on a journey of running, inspiration, motherhood, chasing dreams and how to balance it all with a smile. When she isn't running, you'll find her playing with her kids on the beach, hiking, baking or reading. Natalie and her family also love to travel and you can find pictures of their outdoor adventures at NatRunsFar.com and social media. She is an ambassador for Procompression and Stonyfield. Follow her daily musings on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @NatRunsFar.