I have two sisters. An older and a younger one. Smack dab in the middle I am. For the longest time, my older sister and I were super close (after 12 years of her hating my guts). I even lived with her for seven months of my life back in my 20s. We’re still close, but as I’ve gotten older, I do my own thing more and more and I hang out at her place less and less. We still talk every day, and we still have the same train of thought – something proven in the random texts we send one another throughout the day that somehow oddly say exactly what the other was thinking. It’s almost like we live far apart, even though we’re only a 10-minute drive away from one another. Such is life.
My younger sister and I? Not so much. Two completely different personalities. Clashing. Hard. I call it a difference in life experiences. To be honest, I’ve experienced a lot of crap, in a short amount of time. Things that most people will never experience in their lives. But that’s a different story for a different day. I matured very quickly, and I’m independent. My younger sister? Sheltered, by her own choice. Quiet. Unsocial…
When she said she was going to run her first 5-kilometer road race, ever, I was curious to see if she’d stick with it. She’s notorious for starting and never finishing anything. Typical trait of the “baby” of a family.
Being the always and forever athlete that I am, I never quit and I hate seeing people stop doing something. Especially over “I don’t want to do it alone.” I’ve done so many things in my life alone. I’ve traveled out to Foxboro for New England Revolution games all by myself. I’ve gone on trips by myself. I go to the gym solo. Work out solo. I ran a marathon solo. The life of an independent person.
It also means that when someone says “I don’t want to do it alone, so I’m not going to do it” (regardless of all of the training they put into it), I find myself completely baffled.
This time, I wasn’t going to let the person saying it, get away with backing out so quickly and easily.
When I asked my younger sister if she was still running the race she was training for, and she gave me that answer, I immediately hopped on the web and signed us both up. I’m not a regular runner, I’m a sprinter, thriving on HIIT workouts. But I run, and at any given time, regardless of how long it’s been since I’ve run 3 miles to race, I know I can lace up the shoes and go. I jog a little over 3 miles every day. Between that, my weight routine and the HIIT, I know I can hit the pavement and pound out an average 22-minute 5K.
The text I received from my sister in response to telling her I signed us both up, I wasn’t letting her quit this time, was priceless.
“I hate you so much right now, but thank you.”
My response back? Thank me after you finish the race.
On the day of the race, she said over and over again how she was going to have to walk some of it. She still couldn’t run a steady 3.1-miles yet despite all of the training she had done. As much as it was going to kill me, I was going to stick it out and stay with her. I put her into the middle of it, I was going to stay by her until she waded out to the edges. She is my sister after all, I couldn’t just leave her.
I told her that it didn’t matter, finishing the race was what mattered. Even if she was dead last (which, she would be, because in the end, I’d sprint across the finish line to finish line, second to last. Nothing wrong with a little sisterly competition, right?).
So she strapped on her Camel Back water backpack thing, and off we went. Curious to see how far I could push her, I started to pick up my pace a little. We started passing people, and the thought of not finishing last got to her. She kept her pace steady with mine (I didn’t push her too hard, I’m not that mean. I kept her around an 8:50/9:00-mile pace), and we began passing all of the 30+ minute 5k runners.
At the marker for mile one, she checked her running app on her phone and was shocked. She had run her fastest mile ever. Ever. At 9:17. After mile marker #2, she shaved a few more seconds off. Quickly was my sister learning that it’s a world of difference not only running with someone who is faster than you, but running competitively.
When we crossed the finish line and she saw her time was just over 27-minutes (probably my slowest 5k in about 5-years), she just looked at me and said “Okay, I guess I don’t hate you anymore.”
Always pushing someone to do something, even if it’s stick to the goals that they set for themselves, isn’t a good idea. It creates and harbors resentment. It makes that person more determined to not succeed, just to spite you. However, once in awhile, doing what you can to “gently” nudge them back on path towards their goal can help them stay on track and attain the goal they set for themselves, and once they’ve done that, set more goals and work better to achieve them.
In this situation, it worked. Not only did she run her first 5k race (and shock the crap out of herself by running the full 3.1-miles and being faster than she’d ever thought she’d be), but she just ran in her first 10k race, finishing faster than she thought she would do in that. One successful goal attainment led to another.
Gentle push. Light guidance. It works in the end.
(And yes, I did sprint the last .2-miles. I stuck with her until the end, I wasn’t going to let her beat or tie me. It’s a sibling thing.)