About one week ago, I completed a feat that made me feel like I can do anything. My first (and last) half marathon! I’m still recovering. My fingers are just now regaining strength to type about it. It was an awesome experience, but not one that I’ll repeat. People have asked me if it was fun. And I have to answer honestly. No, it was not fun. It was hard. It was grueling at times. It was physically painful. None of which I equate with F-U-N.
I began this adventure wanting to push myself. I doubted I could do it. So I began, in my mind, believing that I would walk it. Thirteen miles turns out to be a really long walk. I suckered a couple of friends from work to do it with me, and we began our training. None of us were runners. Our training began slowly, running 30 seconds, and then walking until we recovered for up to 20 minutes. As the days passed, our running increased. For five months we trained, gradually increasing our miles. We trained in wind that pushed against us and told us we couldn’t do it. We trained in snow and in frigid temperatures that numbed our fingers and toes. We bundled ourselves and perservered through long Sunday afternoons.
A couple of months into it my knees began hurting me, so I backed off my running and increased walking. I looked forward to the day of the half marathon, not to accomplish, but to get it over with. To check it off my list. I couldn’t quit, although there were times I wanted to throw up my hands and lie on the couch, eat chips and watch The Biggest Loser instead. We had endured too much to quit. I prayed for endurance, I prayed for healing, I prayed for perserverance, I prayed for Rapture. Our group of runners posted scriptures on our running page for motivation or inspiration. So while I was running, I would quote scripture knowing that I can do all things through Christ.
The day the marathon was upon us, I was as nervous as a little girl. I had to talk to myself and tell myself that I’ve been running for 34 years. It wasn’t anything new.
The people of Oklahoma City were the best part of the race for me. Not the runners, but the people who made it all happen. The volunteers were there at 3 in the morning preparing for us. They cheered us on all the way, passed out water and orange slices, told us thank you for running in memory of the OKC bombing, and cleaned up streets of trash and paper cups. There were dancers on the sides of the street, bands, people in costume all asking us ‘How are you feeling’. I wrote before about those bright neon green shirts that dared people to question our current state of being. It turns out I managed to make it through the entire race without flipping anyone off. One lady who was cheering on the side of the road and encouraging us at about mile 3 spoke into her microphone and said,”You people in the green shirts are everywhere. You’re like a bunch of ants!”
Seeing the finish line was both exciting and relieving. When I laid eyes on that banner, I began to kick it into second gear. I’m sure I wasn’t running fast, but it felt like I was flying. It was a great feeling to cross the finish line knowing that I had done it. I had completed it. It was finished and I would never have to run again in my life. I placed 5,863rd. Eighty one percent of the racers finished ahead of me. But I accomplished my first goal of simply finishing, and my second goal of finishing in under three hours. Barely.
Most people were being handed their medal, but this lady, Polly Nichols, a survivor of the OKC bombing, took the time to put mine around my neck, like I was a true winner. I told her thank you and teared up when she replied that she was honored to do it. It was a tender moment for me.
And then I limped home and burned my running shoes.
Metaphorically speaking of course.