Running my race

I ran my first half-marathon this weekend and I thought I was prepared. I thought I had trained hard enough to run farther than I ever had in my life. I thought I had the right clothing and the right music, the right attitude and the right conditioning. I thought I had it all figured out. And I did, until Mile 11.

The thing about running is that you can think about anything or nothing at all. You can mull over problems in your head or you can just think about the music playing in your ears and the sun shining and how lovely it is to be outside and be moving and enjoy the day. And my half-marathon experience started that way. I thought about how lucky I was to be there in that moment, how much I was enjoying the camaraderie of 8000 people all moving toward the finish line. I thought about how happy I felt and how grateful I was and how I could finally cross this accomplishment off my "bucket list". There was woman standing on the side of the road at Mile 8 with a sign that read "If it were easy, everyone would do it." I smiled at the woman, even took a picture of her sign, waved at her and continued on. I was feeling good. I was feeling sure and proud. I was feeling energized. And then I hit Mile 11.

At Mile 3 my right foot started bothering me and at Mile 6 my left ankle started to throb but I shrugged off the discomfort, counted down the miles as they passed, and continued on this journey. At Mile 11 the journey grew rough. I grew very weary very quickly. My legs felt like lead. My heart felt heavy as I remembered my childhood and the years I could not finish even one mile. I thought about my relationship with my father and my struggle with my weight. I thought about how heavy I felt physically, that if I was just 15 lbs lighter this race would not be so hard. I felt the emotions of guilt and sadness and self-doubt and self-castigation weighing down on me. I was dragging, I felt defeated.

And then I realized that I was still running. I looked to my left and my friend Joy was by my side as she had been the entire time. For more than 2 hours she ran with me, she gave up running her race to run mine with me. I thought about her sacrifice - giving up a day, giving up a race, giving up a possible personal best run- to join me on my journey. To race with me.

I thought about my daughters, how they were home safe with my friend Jessica. How Jessica gave up her Saturday night and Sunday day to spend with my kids so I could go out for over 3 hours and run. I thought about what she gave up for me, for our friendship. How she supported me by helping me take care of my daughters. She offered me a chance - a chance to race, a chance to run, a chance to finish a goal.

"If not for these friends, I would not be running", I thought. If not for these women who took me into their hearts, I would not be in this race at all. I would not be able to try. I would not be able to take another step on this journey. I slowed to a walk. I talked to Joy. I told her of my heartache, of my self-doubt, of my feelings of not being good enough. I told her that I was going to try to release those feelings and forgive my past and forgive all those who have thought my weight defined me. I realized that I don't see my family or friends for how much or how little they weigh. I don't see those I love for their hair color or their eye color or their education or their jobs. I don't see people for the color of their skin or the place they went to school or their spouse or lack thereof. I see my friends and I see my family for who they are in their eyes, in their souls, in their compassion and their kindness, in their strength and vulnerability, in their tenacity and in their grace. And I know they see me the same way.

I know that my friends, Joy and Jessica, were there for me in my time of need because they see me as I want to see myself. They see me as I want others to see me. I vowed at Mile 11 to continue to run, no matter how long it took. As Joy explained to me, I just needed to run my race. "Let others run their races, you just have to run yours." Wise words from a kind friend. I just needed to run my race. And really, in the end, that's all any of us need to do.

After all, this is the life.
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