It was my kind of after party.

I got dressed while standing in the change room of the spa at the hotel where I had stayed the night before my Jerusalem run. I was recovering from the 10K which, combined with the hills and the heat of the day, had contributed to my overall malaise. I took my time knowing full well that I could afford myself the luxury of not rushing that day. I had just finished taking a hot shower, not even caring that I had used hand soap to wash my entire body from head to toe (including my hair) due to the lack of availability of anything else.

Those overwhelming feelings of self-fulfillment were still lingering, knowing that I had faced the Jerusalem run despite some of my own physical obstacles. I tediously pulled up my stretch Yoga pants thinking fleetingly about how grateful I was that I had brought slip-on loafers since, at that point, every extra movement seemed to me like a huge effort.

While absorbed in my own thoughts and occupations, a woman walked into the dressing room looking tired but content. I smiled at her, and as most Americans are usually quite friendly, she responded to my smile with a hello and a sincere “how are you”.

I asked her how she was doing and how her run was, already quite certain that she too was a runner judging by her attire and overall demeanor.

And that’s when she surprised me.

“It was great,” she said. “I just ran the full marathon. I’m going to shower and change and then go wake up my husband since he is still asleep in our hotel room suffering from his jet lag. And by the way, I hope you don’t mind if I just get undressed here in the open. It’s just more comfortable for me that way.”

I, of course, told her to do whatever she felt like doing since it really didn’t matter to me one way or the other. We continued on with our friendly chit chat until finally we got to the question that is inevitably asked between runners: “So, how old are you?”

I was completely unprepared for her answer (her age I will not share here out of privacy).

I continued talking, in a senseless kind of tongue-tied way, not wanting to show my complete disbelief.

But here she was, right in front of me, a woman who by most social standards would be considered middle aged (and then some), and yet totally relaxed with herself, content and comfortable with her body and exuding an overwhelming aura of confidence and satisfaction. It took only a few moments for it to set in that this woman was probably happier and more fulfilled than most of the people I had ever met in my life, present company included.

Because you see, what amazed me most about her personal body image was how she so obviously viewed her body not as something with which she needed to impress others, rather, her feelings of self-worth were based on her own personal, not social, type of calibration.

Her body told the story of her own success, her driving force, taking her where she wanted to go and making her feel exactly how she wanted to feel…regardless of jet lag, weather, age or anything else that would normally make most of us, on any given day, throw our hands up in defeat.

Everyone needs an inspirational encounter, a meme or a focal point just to help them keep running steadfastly along the path in life they have chosen to follow. From time to time, I am lucky enough to experience that interaction with someone who inspires or thrills me enough to give me that extra push I need to make it up that killer hill.

She is one of them and I am grateful to have met her. She reminded me of the fact that my body is my own, to cherish and to protect, and to never let anyone else pass judgment on or to set the terms of what is, or should be, considered beautiful or good.

I run therefore I am….

Because I am worth it.