Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Slice of Life, March 12th -- "The Day I Did Something I Didn't Think I Could Do"

This is the story of my first half-marathon. It was one of the most memorable, special days of my life. It was wonderful in a million ways, but mostly because I never thought I'd be able to do it.

Let me back up. I've never been a runner. A few years ago, I was facing a particularly difficult challenge in my life. The idea of running hit me like a lightning bolt. It seemed brilliant, except for the fact that I was the one that could barely complete a mile for volleyball tryouts in 8th grade. I hated running! When I told my family I wanted to run my first 5k, my mom told me later that she would have been less surprised if I had told her I quit my job to become a brain surgeon. They supported me, but secretly thought I was insane.

A few months went on...I ran my first few blocks, then my first mile, followed by my first few 5ks. Then I started training with a few of my best friends for my next challenge: the half-marathon. While each milestone and success felt important, this was the big one. This was what I was working for.

I got up early on Saturdays and Sundays for my long training runs--up to 12 miles. During the week, I ran 3 or 4 nights a week. My times weren't great, but I was doing it!

Suddenly, the day was here. November 11th. I couldn't sleep the night before. I felt sick all morning. I was shaking. Here is a picture of me with my friends before the race:

It was in the single digits that morning...brrrr!!!
I had on my brave smile there, because the truth was, I didn't believe I'd ever finish.

I knew I'd trained hard and I knew I was ready, but doubt sunk in like a heavy blanket. When we started running, my emotions took over and I felt tears sting my eyes: tears of pride, fear, doubt, excitement, all mixed together in one single moment.

The race is mostly a blur. It took us over 2 hours to finish 13.1 miles. I remember at the 7 mile mark, feeling strong, and thinking, "Oh no, I've trained for this moment for so long, and it's going too fast! It's going to be over too soon!" I was having so much fun living my dream. Everything I had feared evaporated as we ran.

During the last mile, I felt the pain of the race start to wear on me, but I kept going. Over the last few hours, as we ran, my friends and I had stuck together but spread out a little, too. I found myself running beside an older gentleman who had run many races. He was someone who was okay with talking and okay with being silent. That was perfect for me, because I was trying to take in every moment of my last mile.

I finally turned to him as we got closer to the last bend and said, "You know, this is the first thing I've done, I think, that I really didn't believe I could do."

He looked at me, wisely quiet as I spoke my heart.

I continued, "I, I knew I had the skills to do that. My Masters Degree, I knew it would take time and effort, but never once thought I couldn't do it. Teaching, my job, I felt like it might be a challenge sometimes, but I would figure out a way to make a success of it..."

He continued to run beside me, listening.

"But this.....running a half-marathon. This was just a joke a few months ago."

He glanced at me quickly, then looked ahead again, still quiet.

"I trained, and I worked hard, and I talked about it, but....I never really believed I'd be here finishing 13.1 miles..." My voice trailed off.

Finally, he spoke, "That's beautiful."

It was my turn to look at him, tears and sweat burning my eyes.

"That's amazing, because here you are. You did it." His voice was quiet and calm.

We made eye contact again, both of us realizing what an incredible moment that was for me. I had done the impossible. No, it wasn't really impossible, but my mind had said it was impossible, and there's not much difference, is there?

He finished a few blocks ahead of me, the final sprint separating us. Guess who was at the finish line, though, to give me a big hug before he headed on to his own family?  You guessed it.

Here is the picture he took of me with my medal and my friends at the end of the race:

I was so proud. I don't think I've ever been more surprised at what I was able to do with just hard work and will power.

My next goal? That's right--a marathon! I was training about a year and a half ago for my first one in Chicago, when I injured my foot. I haven't run since then. I found out at Christmas this year that I need to have surgery on one of my feet before I can run again. When I'm ready to go, though, watch out! It may seem unconquerable, but here I come!

After all, I know better now. I don't listen to that voice of doubt in my own head, because it turns out I can prove it wrong.

And you better believe I plan to.


  1. Miss.Collins, This was a great story. And I know how you felt when you were getting ready at the 5k because I did a fun run I was a little scared at first but I got through it.

  2. So awesome to be able to accomplish such a feat. I admire the fact you set a goal and made that goal come true. You should be very proud indeed!

  3. That's a wonderful accomplishment! Something with my back that I could never do. Kudos to YOU for setting this goal for yourself and accomplishing it.

  4. Wow. You inspired me with this writing because even though you had to do all that hard work and get a surgery you keep on going. I wish I could write like you do, inspiring people with my writing. You are a great story teller so keep on writing and go run your race and try your hardest.

  5. You are an inspiration. I ran my first 5K in September and enjoyed it so much I said I wanted to run more. Unfortunately I am suffering from plantar fasciitis right now. If you can dream of a marathon after foot surgery, I guess I can dream to do another 5K. Thanks this upbeat post.

  6. Way to go! I haven't attempted a half marathon, but I felt very close to the same when I finished my first spring triathlon. I didn't think I could do it, but I did!

  7. As a non-runner with a similar experience, your post really spoke to me. Not only do I offer my congratulations for accomplishing your goal and showing yourself you could do it, but I am also seriously amazed by your conversation with this gentleman! Capturing that here is something you'll always cherish.

    I absolutely LOVE the line - "He looked at me, wisely quiet as I spoke my heart."

    Too often, we need to be wisely quiet!! And that he was there for a hug at the end - melt my heart!!

    Thanks so much for sharing!
    Amanda - ELA 101

  8. I love how every thing you post is so inspirational like this one! You did all that hard work for that and its amazing. It proves you can do anything if you try. Thank you so much for writing because i really enjoy them!

  9. Miss.Collins I really like your story it inspires me to set a goal and no matter the obstacle to reach it. :)

  10. Miss.Collins I really liked this story.

    P.S. you set your goals really high

  11. Congratulations Miss Collins! You and my mom can relate a lot! She has ran 3 half-marathons and wants to do a marathon! You have inspired me to do what i can't and never give up! -BH