This past Saturday my Mom and Sister, Kim, ran the 10K at Racefest, a charlotte area 10k and half-marathon that attracts hundreds of runners every year. After a day of naps on the couch and stretching out their tender legs we found ourselves at OTB (On the Border, for those of you who aren’t down with my restaurant lingo) with giant margaritas in front of us and the topic of running on our minds.
Last year I made the new years resolution to run a half-marathon, and a year ago to the day, I did just that. I ran 13.1 miles, crossed the finish line and made a big old check on my bucket list. The journey up to that finish line was far from easy and to my surprise, incredibly emotional.
When my sister ran her first half-marathon two years ago I was on hand to cheer and shout, hold up posters, and of course, take pictures. I snapped this one at the starting line right as the race began.
As I stood in the middle of the street becoming engulfed in runners I was overcome with emotion. We’re talking quivering lip, the tingle in your nose, kind of emotional. All I needed was a soundtrack to the moment and I would have been balling like a baby standing on that median. Runners have an energy that is undeniable. As I stood there in true paparazzi form I looked at the runners around me and tried my best to take in what I was seeing. Older people, younger people, people in and out of shape, groups of people and individuals. Runners are diverse, and I never knew how much so until I sat at a race finish line and saw people cross over the threshold.
The next year, when it was my turn to pin on my bib number and tie up my laces, I found myself fighting back the same emotions I had felt the year before. Athletic is a word that has never been used to describe me, ever. I cheered for one year in middle school and showed some love to tennis throughout college, but ultimately, I just wasn’t built for sports. It’s ok, I’ve accepted it. I set out to run a half-marathon to show myself that nothing in life is out of the question. It’s really easy to get caught up in the idea that it takes a certain type of person to accomplish things and just assume you’re not one of them. As I cheered my sister over her first finish line I thought, I’d love to do that… but I’m not a runner. Well people, I became one. I ran 4-5 days a week on the treadmill at my apartment’s gym (I was in college in the mountains, in the winter, outdoors running was NOT an option), I did Pilates just as many days, and completely changed my diet. This was easily the most difficult part. I have a sweet tooth that has a serious relationship with chocolate, that break-up was not easy. On top of all of this I was in the depths of my senior year of college, Clint was living across the country in Arizona, and the reality of my impending graduation knocked me off my feet at least twice a week.
When I lined up to run 13.1 miles (more than I’d ever run before in my training) I felt an overwhelming sense of disbelief. I couldn’t believe I was doing something I never thought I would do. I had yet to run a single mile, but my sense of self-pride was bursting out of me, and trying to do so in the form of tears. The runners energy I had seen the year before, I was living it. I felt the heart of every runner around me and could hear my own pounding through my chest. My sister ran the entire race right by my side and I’m sure that as we ran that first mile I must have looked over at her and said, I can’t believe I’m really doing this.
As the runners began to find their pace and my personal space bubble was restored I found myself running, mile after mile, after mile, after mile, after mile, after mile… you get the gist. While I had my iPod plugged in I can hardly think of a handful of songs I listened to. Part of this was because it rained on and off throughout the morning and the sound of rain is twice as good as any song in my iTunes library. Part of this was because I found peace in hearing the scuffle of sneakers on the road, the cheers of the police officers patrolling traffic routes, the sound of the paper cups getting tossed to the side after water stations. This was my first half-marathon and I was going to take in every single part of it. I also had my sister sending words of encouragement my way each time we found ourselves staring up another hill.
I had one particular defining moment during my race. My sister literally pushed me up a hill. We were probably in mile 11 or so and I was running up to the bottom of a hill that went on and on and on. The kill hill, as I’ll call it, was in the heart of a neighborhood. As my sister held her hand to my back, and not for one second let me relent from pushing up this hill, people were standing outside of their homes and cheering us on. They must have seen the struggle in my legs as I slowly but surely made my way. If I were to ever have a sports documentary (did you all know that I am an absolute sucker for those?) this would have been the scene where the music crescendos and the montage of my journey up to this moment plays out. It was that absolute moment where you see team work in its most genuine form. Running is an individual sport, but it’s the teamwork of it that makes the individual strong enough to compete alone.
When I saw the finish line in front of me I had that same moment of disbelief that I did at the start. Previously I couldn’t believe I was doing it, and then I couldn’t believe I had accomplished exactly what I set out to do.
Running a half-marathon certainly isn’t the most remarkable thing a person can do, even the name only makes it sound half as good. But something that is remarkable, is when you decide that you can do something, and you set out to make the changes necessary to make it a reality. It was me who hopped over snow piles to get the gym to run, it was me who made the conscious effort to be aware of what I eat, it was me who stood at the starting line and took those first few steps in the direction of my goal. Combining all of those things with the support that my sister provided me, seriously, I would still be standing at the bottom of kill hill if it weren’t for her, and I now am a proud member of the “I did it!” club.
When my Mom and Sister came home with their medals around their necks I felt a strange feeling. In addition to my excitement for them, I was envious. I wanted back in the club. I wanted that moment of crossing over the finish line, that sense of accomplishment that cannot be taken away or cheapened, that excitement of having really done it.
So I’m stating it right here, right now. And we all know blogs make things binding. This year, I will run another half-marathon. I will surprise myself with my dedication and strength. I will line up at the starting line and just keep running.