I ran my fourth half-marathon yesterday. I crossed the finish line and burst into tears. I have never, ever, in my life cried from running before. I have cried at the thought of running. Cried at the prospect of how much weight I was gaining from NOT running, but completing a run has never brought me to tears before.
Yesterday was different.
First Half-marathon: I ran-walked. I was happy I had done it, and vowed to never repeat that adventure.
Second Half-marathon: I pseudo-ran. I mean, really, when half of your miles are 13 minutes or longer, is it even running? However, I ran it and raised money in honor of my grandmother and her fight against Leukemia.
Third Half-marathon: I trained and ran like never before, but I did it for someone else. I taught my friend how to train for long-distance, and researched until my brain hurt. It was a good experience for me to learn so much about running, also I took it on as my own – I decided I would never let myself feel responsible for someone else’s performance again.
Fourth Half-marathon: I set a goal, changed it, and crushed my new goal. Twelve weeks before, I convinced three other people to do it with me, but only one other person followed-through.
My little sister was semi-interested in running, I dragged her into it, then she took off like a madwoman, and cross-trained like a beast. Somehow she thought could maybe do it, listened to my encouragement that she would be fine, nearly died during an awful training run, then crossed the finish line 7 minutes before me.
Somewhere in the those last 4 weeks of training, I remembered how to ignore everyone around me. I remembered how to breath, and focus, how to sprint for a pick-up, but not pant through five miles, how to slow down instead of stop – and remember, being able to run freely is a gift. Instead of being grossed out by that 17-minute-miler who probably hated me at my 10:30 mile pace, I waved to her and told her she could make these next 9 miles STRONG!
I wanted to amaze myself. Lately, when people ask me why I run, I respond, “Bragging rights.” I’ve never been a braggart, but it’s true – this year I decided to take true pride in every mile run, or skipped or stumbled, through. Because I can.
No one can take away the miles I pound out. No one can tell me I did it wrong. No one can begin to guess how jiggly my stomach felt at mile 7 and 11, because – No one, but NO ONE, can tell me 13.1 miles is EASY.
And somewhere around mile 11.5, when I realized I still felt STRONG, not worthless, I realized, most of my life is the same way. No one except the God that created me knows all the little pains and the invisible victories.
People poke fun at one another. And we judge. And we tell each other we should try harder. Yet, no one, but NO ONE can truly know how many steps it’s taken another to come this far (because every step is different), how many headaches someone has hidden, how many mantras or midnight prayers a stranger has spoken to be able to hold their head up today.
My sister ran a 2:20 Half-Marathon after giving birth to a baby girl 17 months before, and mostly hating running 5 months before.
I ran a 2:26:30 Half-Marathon after nearly giving up 4 weeks before.
And when I crossed the finish line I sobbed. Because, we didn’t give up.