I'm not going to spoil the movie; but the character Olive--- who's an 8 year-old girl-- is one I identify with, particularly in the field of athletics. Let me explain....
Olive wants to be a beauty queen; she wants to win the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Or, she really only wants to compete, to do the dance routine her grandfather taught her and to receive praise for doing so. Her father, a motivational speaker, puts the idea into her head that anything but winning is unacceptable. And so, little Olive wants to win. The trouble? The would of beauty pageants, like the world of any specific pursuit, is one rife with its own oddities. It's a world of spray-on tans and airbrushed makeup-- foreign things to a "normal" little girl.
|Me, running the Tahoe Marathon in 2007.|
I sometimes feel this way when I participate in larger, athletic events, such as a major marathon. There, I am corralled with people who look the part of the role we are supposed to play as runners. They have the aerodynamic sunglasses, the tight singlets, the short-shorts that show the lean legs that make them run faster than the wind. I always (still) think: I don't belong here.
I believed this so strongly my senior year in high school, I quit running despite my love of the sport. I didn't run in college, either, because I thought I was too fat to even try. It wasn't until 2007 when I was in my first grad program that I started to run again because I missed it so much. I signed up for a marathon on a whim and trained myself from a book that had been gathering dust on my shelf.
There were many road blocks in my way to achieving my dream of running a 26.2 mile race, just as Olive has many (literal) road blocks on her way to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. But we both arrived-- amazingly-- and this is why I love that film so much: Olive "competes" as only Olive can. It's an incredible-- and unforgettable-- scene of absolute courage in the face of adversity. So too, back in 2007, I toed the line of my first marathon race, as myself, ready to do whatever I would do in the unknown distance ahead.
I didn't "look" like a runner: I wasn't rail-thin or (I believed) particularly fast. But I was there. Most importantly, I was there as MYSELF, as only I could be.
And you know, I not only completed that race, but I won it. I was ahead of the elite women by about ten minutes, finishing with a time that was forty minutes faster than I thought I could run. It was the race that changed my life, showing me that the pursuit of a dream is a worthy endeavor.... And more importantly, the worst reason not to try is because you think you don't "look" the part.
I still don't think I "look" like a runner, but that is the last thing that stops me from doing this sport I love. Instead, I focus on my breath and the flicker of shadow and light that crosses my path. The sound of my footfalls, a lovely cadence. And the sense of satisfaction I gain from having covered my miles; they are the miles that have made this life a celebration, each and every moment.