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 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 mean...college...really, 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.